The Italy Under-21s in Serie B

On Wednesday, plans to register an Italy Under-21 side in Serie B were revealed by Demetrio Albertini. The aim is to increase the playing time given to youngsters and avoid any danger of them simply being left to stagnate on the bench at their clubs. While the specifics of how the plan would be put into practise remain vague, the idea has already gained some powerful support. Both Roberto Baggio and Arrigo Sacchi are believed to be in full support of the idea, while Azzurri Coach Cesare Prandelli reportedly described it as: “a wonderful idea.”
A major question that must be raised sooner rather than later is how players would be acquired to play an entire season for such an outfit. A possible solution would be for the side to only ever sign players on loan from their parent clubs. While this may seem farfetched, half of the Azzurrini squad that faced England last month are currently out on loan, mostly to clubs in Serie B. The only difference would be that players such as Roberto Soriano, on loan from Sampdoria at Empoli, and Marco D’Alessandro, playing at Livorno on loan from Roma, would be playing together every week under the guidance of Ciro Ferrara and his coaching staff.
Such continuity would allow for the building of greater understanding between future internationals and, whilst not all Under-21 players graduate to earn full international honours, the majority of current internationals were capped at youth level. Of the most recent Italy squad, only five players did not represent Italy at youth level at some point. The benefit of players forming an understanding on the pitch by playing together regularly has been demonstrated time and again, most recently for the Azzurri by the strong performances of Juventus colleagues Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. The central defensive pair has formed a good understanding in their time together at Juventus and Cesare Prandelli is reaping the rewards with the Nazionale.
However, one should not discount the important experience that current Under-21 players such as Soriano will gain from going on loan at Serie B clubs. Rather than playing with other players of the same age and experience, they get the opportunity to learn from seasoned professionals who have been around the game for years. Soriano, for example, will doubtless learn a great deal from playing alongside the likes of Davide Moro in the Empoli midfield and this experience could prove vital.
There will naturally be opposition to the plan. Clubs in Serie B often rely on loan signings to strengthen their squads without overstretching their budgets and they would almost certainly find it hard to compete with an Italy Under-21 side to sign talented youngsters.
Of course, there are a great many questions that remain to be answered before any progress can be made. Albertini must now take his idea and refine it in an attempt to iron out as many possible bumps in the road as he can. Only when this process is complete can any real judgement be cast on what is, for now, an nice idea but nothing more.

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