For years Juve fans have proudly referred to the Italian national team as “ItalJuve” due to the large number of Juve players playing for club and country. And rival club fans have sarcastically called it the same thing, implying a bias toward the club and it’s players, especially under former Juve coach Antonio Conte. But the tide has changed significantly. For at least the second international break running, Milan have had the most players called up for Italy, with six. So will this team be called ItalMilan?
|Italy's future is now|
There are several significant reasons for this shift in Milan’s presence in the Azzurri. The first is that Juventus have fewer Italians starting for them now than they have in some time. And of those Italians who get playing time, many are aging and/or oft-injured. Whether you like to blame Allegri for those injuries or the fact that they are playing in Champions League (even if the truth is probably a little of both,) the bottom line is that Juventus simply have fewer Italian players available.
Conversely, Milan’s “poor little rich boy” Berlusconi and his virtually extinct “Condor” all-in-one scout/sporting director/CEO/wage bill growing/”free” transfer guru Galliani accidentally stumbled onto a gold mine of young Italian talent in our youth sector because they couldn’t afford to buy “real” players. (By “real” players, of course I mean players who are aging, past their prime, and have ridiculously large wages, as per Galliani’s tradition.) Either that, or you could say that they simply didn’t sell our young talent for peanuts since they had no other choice than to promote them. But for Milan, it has been a delicious change of fortunes, something the fans have wanted all along.
|Say what you will about Ventura, but he's got balls|
Then you have to also thank Giampiero Ventura, the new Azzurri coach. I don’t know what his political affections are for the various clubs, but I can only guess that coaching at Torino for five years, he is going to be less favorable to Juventus’ players anyway. But any political preferences aside, he noticed Milan’s Italian treasures right away. When he first visited Milanello after being appointed, he said “There are many Italians here, unlike elsewhere.” (via football-italia.net) And he has followed up that statement with his callups, even giving a 17 year old Donnarumma and 21 year old Romagnoli their first senior national team callups. Ironically, he was very much linked with the Milan job before Montella was hired. I guess maybe this is the next best thing?
When you consider Italy’s rich heritage and four World Cup titles, it is really exciting to think that Milan players could play such a big role in the national team. And obviously, the connotations that gives to Milan's future success as well. Whether our players will stay at Milan with the coming changes or not remains to be seen. And whether or not they are all worthy of the honor of wearing the Azzurri shirt and can help bring future glory to Italy is also unknown. Certainly there are a lot of deserving young Italians in other teams, too. But if trends continue, it might just be Milan fans’ turn to say “ItalMilan” with pride.
This post inspired by the music of “Fratelli d’Italia”