A Nod to the Future: The Fresh Faces From Italy’s Friendlies

Italy

As well all painfully know, there is no Italy squad travelling to the World Cup in Russia. However, there is a small silver lining in what seems like one of those huge, never-ending, grey clouds. The silver lining does, in fact, have a blue hint to it as Luigi Di Biago’s Italy squad called up for the latest batch of international friendlies had a few new names on the list. With any hope of glory this summer gone in a snap of Swedish fingers, at least we can look ahead to seeing some potential future stars begin their international careers.

Federico Chiesa

Son of Enrico Chiesa, young Federico is slowly beginning to build a reputation as Fiorentina’s most influential young player. At home on either flank, Chiesa’s manager, Stefano Pioli, has flirted with the idea in recent weeks of playing the 20-year-old more centrally as a second striker.

Having scored five goals so far this season, a potential position change could be a masterstroke for a player who isn’t blisteringly quick, or a prolific goalscorer yet. But, what Chiesa has in abundance is technical qualities.

At five-foot-nine, the youngster is the definition of a ‘nippy little player’. Already a superb dribbler with the ball, he cuts inside often to create chances or draw fouls. His ability to use either foot will also do wonders for him in the national side. With Lorenzo Insigne solidifying his place at left-wing for the Azzurri, Chiesa will benefit from being comfortable playing anywhere across the midfield, especially as Antonio Candreva ages deeper into his thirties.

Having already made ten appearances for the U-21 side, scoring three goals, Chiesa is a familiar part of the national team setup. His first senior call-up came at the perfect time, with the youngster growing in form and influence with every game. He is also the only one of the three newcomers to feature in both friendlies, starting against Argentina and as a substitute against England.

Patrick Cutrone

Italy have long been calling for a striker to lead the line since the days of Alessandro del Piero and Christian Vieri. Some have promised so much and delivered little, a la Mario Balotelli (post-postman). Even the current duo of Simone Zaza and Ciro Immobile, who have hit new heights in their domestic seasons, have struggled to translate that into a prolific national team record.

Now, it’s a leap to say Patrick Cutrone is the answer to the problem, especially given Immobile has over three times the amount of league goals as Cutrone this season. But, what the AC Milan forward has on his side, is time. At just 20 years old, Immobile was in the Juventus reserves, still a few years away from making a top-flight appearance. At the same age, Cutrone has earned his first call up to the senior team and debut, having scored 15 goals in all competitions for the rossoneri this season.

A ‘true number 9’ according to the Italian media, Cutrone has at times been compared to Inzaghi in that, he is not lightning quick nor bullishly strong. But, like the old Inzaghi saying goes, “the goal comes to him”. With four goals in five games for the U-21 Azzurri, now is the perfect time for the young striker to prove his worth in the senior squad. He featured last week towards the latter end of the 2-0 loss to Argentina, coming on for Ciro Immobile.

May it also be said that we here at ByFarTheGreatestTeam, predicted that Cutrone would get his national team call up very soon and as a result, claim any future international success he has. You’re welcome Patrick.

Bryan Cristante

Cristante has already made one appearance for the Azzurri, with his debut coming back in October last year. However, he only featured as a second-half substitute in a draw with Macedonia.

Since then, Cristante’s reputation has grown massively as he continues to perform for Atalanta. With 11 goals already this season, his record is impressive considering his position as a central midfielder. Breaking the mould of box-to-box midfielders being physically strong or fast, Cristante instead relies on his technical abilities.

Coming through the AC Milan youth system, he struggled to break into a poor Milan team at their worst. He decided to make the leap to Portugal and join Benfica. It would turn out to be a wise decision, having appeared in the Europa League two years in a row, including this season on loan at Atalanta.

Cristante is a type of goal-scoring midfielder rarely deployed in the national side. Now 23, his growth in the last couple of seasons has been extraordinary, not only dictating, but winning games with his mix of strong tackling and clinical finishing. With no assists so far this season, he tends to win back and recycle possession, then ghosting into the final third and arriving at just the right time to finish, rather than playing the final ball.

Unlike our first two players, Cristante’s growth has been so recent that he has only featured twice for the U-21 side. With some obvious areas of improvement, it will be interesting to see where Cristante features in Di Biagio’s system, and whether his goal record will kick-start his international career. For this latest round of friendlies, Cristante came on as a 72nd minute sub for Marco Verratti against Argentina.