The Oriundi – Do Motta, Ledesma and Amauri benefit the Azzurri?

Eyebrows were raised when Mauro Camoranesi, the Juventus winger of Argentinean descent, won his first cap for the Italian national team in 2003. Supporters and even some of his own team-mates expressed their dissatisfaction at the fact that a player deemed not good enough for Argentina could swap his nationality and play for Italy, thereby keeping a genuine Italian out of the team.
Wherever you stand on the moral argument about players representing nations that they were not born in, Italy supporters ought to remember Camoranesi’s time in the Azzurri shirt as a success. He was no flash in the pan – a seven year international career yielded 55 caps and, of course, a place in the World Cup winning squad. The point is, although an Italian-born player missed out whenever Camoranesi played, there can be no argument that his inclusion made Italy a better team.
The latest crop of Oriundi (a term for South Americans who represent European nations on the basis of their ancestry) that have been welcomed into Cesare Prandelli’s Azzurri set-up will almost certainly not attain Camoranesi’s level of success. Last night against Germany, Thiago Motta became the third player of South American heritage that Prandelli has picked for his team in his short reign in charge, and the disillusion met with his selection is justified in some ways.
Motta, from Brazil, was an important cog in Inter’s engine last season as they won the Treble. His combative ball-winning midfield play alerted Prandelli, who was aware that the player had dual nationality. Remarkably, Motta had previously played twice for his home country in the 2003 CONCACAF Gold Cup, but that team was later deemed to be an under-23 side so the appearances never counted. He never officially played for Brazil, and eight years later he is now an Italian international.
However, aged 29, the issue is what Motta and the other Oriundi will actually bring to the national team. The Inter man, as good as he may be, is not clearly the single best midfielder in the country and therefore his inclusion in the national side is a necessity. He is not like Camoranesi in 2003, whose ability was crying out for a call-up.
If Motta has been selected for his creative skills, Italy already possess the ever-present Andrea Pirlo as well as Riccardo Montolivo and Alberto Aquilani. The latter two are younger than Motta and more gifted. He may well have been picked as a destroyer, but in that case Prandelli already has Daniele De Rossi and could also pick Angelo Palombo or Antonio Nocerino.
Now if Prandelli thinks Motta is superior to these players, then his inclusion cannot be argued with. But, realistically, he is not of an age where he will contribute to the next World Cup, and may even struggle to make Euro 2012. Motta is a fine player, but in the long-term will have less to contribute than those who were overlooked against Germany in his favour.
Cristian Ledesma of Lazio was the previous Oriundi to have represented Prandelli’s Italy. His switch of allegiance (he is Argentinean) was less of a surprise than Motta’s at the time of his first cap last November. Ledesma and Lazio’s form in Serie A was impressive at the time so Prandelli risked a backlash by using him in a friendly against Romania.
Like Motta on Wednesday night, Ledesma’s debut was very underwhelming and he was unable to prove his superiority over the born-and-bred Italians whose place he took. For this week’s friendly, Ledesma was unavailable but would have been unlikely to have retained his place. Unless he can force his way back in past the likes of Aquilani and Montolivo, Ledesma’s international career may end with one cap. Prandelli may look back at that and wonder why bothered to cause such a stir.
The Italy coach’s first match in charge was a friendly against the Ivory Coast in which Brazilian striker Amauri was handed a debut. Aged 30, he had never been capped by his home country and the form he showed at Palermo saw many ask for him to switch nationalities. But his time at Juve has been somewhat indifferent, and he gave a performance to match in his one and only cap for Italy so far.
Amauri has now been loaned to Parma after Juve completely lost faith in him, and in hindsight his call-up was a waste. That time on the pitch could have given further experience to Marco Borriello or Giampaolo Pazzini, two strikers who are guaranteed a longer and more fruitful international career than Amauri. He is another who could well end up with just one cap, and again Prandelli must question his logic.
The debate on whether it is morally correct for Prandelli to select the Oriundi will rage on for a long time yet. It may never be answered. But in order to rock the boat, which their inclusion undoubtedly does, the Brazilians and Argentineans who want to play for Italy should be good enough to justify the controversy with what they contribute to the nation’s team.

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