There are several explanations for why this may be so. Juventus past and present coach Massimiliano Allegri argues that youth football in Italy is effectively too tactical: coaches are so concerned about their jobs that they hide their players’ personal shortcomings with tactics.
“Instead of letting kids learn to defend face-to-face, they give them cover,” Allegri said. “They double up. But that means the child doesn’t learn. So when they have to play face-to-face, they don’t know how.” That is why, in his mind, “Italy no longer makes champions.”
The country’s under-21 coach Paolo Nicolato argues that Italy’s football culture is intolerant of errors, which he calls “a necessary step in development”. It suffers from a “poor relationship with the future,” he says. “We’re very focused on the present.”
This claim is substantiated by facts. Last season, the Italians had only one of the 50 youngest teams in Europe’s top 20 leagues: AC Milan. Only three Italian sides appeared in the top 100. More importantly, last season only five percent of all minutes played by Serie A teams were awarded to domestic, academy-compliant players. Italian football remains a culture that has great distrust of youth.
“It’s a strange championship,” said Maurizio Costanzi, head of youth development for one of the few teams to buck the trend: Atalanta. He has spent four decades working with young players in Italy, and has seen a definite, undeniable change in both the quality and quantity of emerging prospects.
He wonders whether this may be related, in part, to the demise of street soccer, or to the rise in athleticism in the sport to squeeze the types of players – playmakers and schemers – who have long been part of the Italian sport. have a characteristic. But he is sure that those who do it are not given a chance to succeed quickly or reliably.