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Calls for fewer foreigners in Italian football

Former Juventus striker Fabio Quagliarella has joined calls for a foreign player cap in Italy's Serie A, days after national team coach Antonio Conte complained of seeing his selection choices limited.

Calls for fewer foreigners in Italian football
Fabio Quagliarella said a lot of foreign players in Serie A are "superfluous". Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

"Foreign players are great for Serie A if they add something extra, but a lot of them are superfluous," Quagliarella said in an interview with Gazzetta dello Sport's weekly magazine Sportweek.

"There are players in Lega Pro [Italy's third division] that are better. Everyone knows it, but no one does anything."

Quagliarella, who is now enjoying a career revival at Torino after three consecutive scudetto-winning seasons under Conte at Juventus, often played second fiddle to the likes of Carlos Tevez and Fernando Llorente.

But the 31-year-old has not been alone in calling for a cap on Serie A's foreign legion.

Conte, who succeeded Cesare Prandelli following Italy's first-round exit from last summer's World Cup, said last week he would like to "see more Italians playing" while under-21 team coach Gianluigi di Biagio also pointed a finger at clubs for failing to give youth players a chance.

In an attempt to nurture more homegrown talent following Italy's first-round exit from the 2010 World Cup, clubs are allowed to sign only two non-EU players during each season.

However clubs often find ways around using non-EU players, notably circumventing restrictions by "borrowing" quotas from other clubs that have no or fewer foreigners, or naturalizing players who can prove Italian family ties. 

A recent Inter v Napoli encounter was notable because only two Italians – Inter defender Andrea Ranocchia and Napoli forward Lorenzo Insigne – started the league clash at the San Siro, which finished 2-2.

"Internazionale", the club's official name, was formed on the premise that foreign players would be particularly welcome at the club. Currently, there are ten South Americans among 23 foreigners on the books at Inter, who have space for only nine Italians including Argentinian-born Pablo Daniel Osvaldo.

Federico Bonazzoli is Inter's only Italian-born striker but despite glowing predictions the 17-year-old sits on the substitutes bench in the shadow of Argentinian pair Mauro Icardi and Rodrigo Palacio.

But Inter, Italy's last Champions League winners, in 2010, are not alone in looking to foreign shores.

From Atalanta to Udinese, 310 foreigners make up more than half of the 613 players currently registered by the league's 20 clubs this season.

Northerners Udinese top-score with 26 non-Italians for the current season while Sardinians Cagliari have only eight foreigners in their squad of 27.

Among those expected to challenge for league and Cup honours this season, Fiorentina, with 27 foreigners, sit ahead of Lazio (23), Inter (23), Roma (20), Napoli (19) and defending league champions Juventus (12).

Although the official figures are skewed by the actual starting formations, injuries and the inclusion of youth team players, the comparative lack of Italian talent is becoming conspicuous to Conte.

Asked his thoughts on the current state of Serie A, Conte told Sky Sport on Sunday: "I would like to see a few more Italians playing. I would prefer having more choice and more solutions available to me when it comes to picking players."

The phenomenon is not unique to Italy. England's cash-rich Premier League is awash with foreign stars – a recent report by the England Commission said that 64 percent of the players who started in the first six Premier League games of this season were non-English, which was down from 68 percent in 2013-14.

But it is having a trickle-down effect in Italy's under-21 squad and could, therefore, affect Italy's future prospects.

Unlike under-21 teammates Alessio Romagnoli (Sampdoria) and Domenico Berardi (Sassuolo), who have both earned praise for strong performances in Italy's top flight, Bonazzoli has played only 21 minutes in one Serie A appearance so far, at the end of last season.

This has been in spite of Inter president Erick Thohir underlining his desire to see the Nerazzurri rely more on their youth team players than costly, foreign talent.

Under-21 coach Di Biagio told La Repubblica newspaper last week: "I think clubs in Serie A lack courage, they want success too quickly.

"You have to educate the younger players and be patient with them. We also have to let them make mistakes. Instead, in Italy when you make a mistake you go back to the bench for ten games."
   Di Biagio, who has qualified his side for next summer's European
Championships with players, added: "I can't ask clubs to play the youngsters
more, all I can do is adapt."

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FOOTBALL

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players’ ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome

Italy’s national football team reportedly insisted on taking an open-top bus tour through Rome to show off their European Championship trophy to crowds of fans - despite city authorities forbidding it amid concern about the spread of coronavirus.

Euro 2020: Concern about virus spread after Italy players' ‘unauthorised’ victory parade through Rome
Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The team’s bus parade through the city on Monday night following their Euro 2020 triumph “was not authorised”, according to Matteo Piantedosi the head of Rome’s prefettura (the public safety authority).

Thousands of fans packed the streets of central Rome to see the team celebrate their cup win after beating England on penalties in the final.

READ ALSO: ‘Football came home’: Italy celebrates Euro 2020 victory over England

Piantedosi told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Wednesday: “We had denied permission to celebrate Italy’s victory in the European Championships on the open bus, but the pact was not respected.”

Piantedosi, who is Rome’s top public security official, said police had “no choice” but to let the parade go ahead after players Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci insisted on it.

Photo: Vincenzo Pinto/AFP

A meeting had been held on Friday with the Italian football federation (FIGC) to discuss plans for the celebrations if Italy won, said Piantedosi.

“I had agreed the line with Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese and Chief of Police Lamberto Giannini,” he said.

“It was clearly explained that [the parade] was not possible. We said we could not authorize it.”

Piantedosi said the Italian football federation (FIGC) initially agreed to hold a “controlled” ceremony in Rome’s central Piazza del Popolo instead of the parade.

After players insisted on the bus tour on Monday however, Piantedosi said, authorities reluctantly let them go ahead due to fears of sparking public disorder.

“At that point we had no choice but to acknowledge the situation and handle it in the best way we could,” he said.

READ ALSO: Covid cases on the rise in Europe once again as WHO warns of Euro 2020 risk

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

In a statement on Wednesday, the FIGC said it had acted responsibly but decided not to disappoint fans who had come to celebrate with the team.

Footage of large crowds thronging the bus carrying the ‘Azzurri’ and the European Championship trophy through the capital however fuelled concerns about new outbreaks of coronavirus, after Italy’s infection rate began to rise again last week.

The World Health Organization warned earlier this month that crowds and gatherings connected to football matches will fuel a new rise in cases across Europe this summer.

READ ALSO: Delta variant in Italy will be ‘prevalent within 10 days’: health official

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza also voiced concerns on Monday about the consequences of people gathering to watch sporting events.

He said the European football championship win was “a great joy after terrible months,” but “even in these moments of national pride we can’t forget that our ‘game’ to defeat Covid is not yet won.”

There are currently minimal health restrictions in place across Italy, however masks are supposed to be worn in crowded public places, including outdoors.

“Footage shows that police were virtually the only ones [in the crowd] wearing masks,” said Piantedosi.

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