Il Ragazzo: 7 Young Players Who Could Take Italy to Glory at UEFA Euro 2020

Italy have come a long way since putting out the oldest starting XI at Euro 2016. Well, not in terms of success – they missed out on the 2018 World Cup altogether.

But that near unprecedented crisis set in motion a series of events that have got the Azzurri where they are today – filled with young, strapping lads ready to take on the world. And it wasn’t just the retirement of Gianluigi Buffon that lowered this average. Or Daniele De Rossi. 

Actual exciting young talent has grown a-plenty in the proceeding years, leading some bold folk to present them as potential Euro 2020 winners! How you ask? Well, these young guns (anyone under the age of 25, in my book) might help.


Moise Kean

Moise Bioty Kean

Moise Kean has long been touted as one of the potential saviours of Italian football. At the lowest points, it was his name – forged by the brave players of Football Manager? – that helped quell the tears. 

And now here he is, expected to make his second cap. The record breaking brace-scorer for ?Juventus is now well and truly established in the hallowed hues of the Azzurri, and he’s here to stay. Sure, he’s still raw, as that botched one-on-one prior to Cristiano Ronaldo’s clinching penalty against Atletico Madrid showed. But he’s got it.

And that it is what Italy have been missing for some time.


Leonardo Spinazzola

Leonardo Spinazzola

?The man of the hour. Well, maybe not the hour. But at least the most important hour of Italian football in recent times. Yes, Leonardo Spinazzola was the unsung hero of that dramatic night against Los Rojiblancos. Move over, CR7. This is LS37’s time. 

And look, at 25, you may not think Spinazzola’s the springiest of chickens on this list, but thanks to injury issues he’s made less than half the ?Serie A appearances of the only 25-year-old on this list. So, there’s still some spring in that step. And he’ll be 27 by the time the Euros roll around – that’s peak major tournament age. 

Plus, his agent has said he’s better than Alex Sandro. So, yeah. 


Nicolo Zaniolo 

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The Culled Kid of Milan has become the Golden Boy of Rome in just a few short months. Incredible. Our introduction to Nicolo Zaniolo may have been brief so far, but there’s no denying his incredible potential. 

With his first cap beckoning, the 19-year-old looks set for plenty more in this Euro 2020 qualifying campaign and, with AS Roma’s prime target this summer just to keep hold of the attacking midfielder, he should be allowed to blossom a little further at the Stadio Olimpico before the brighter lights come calling.


Nicolo Barella

Nicolo Barella

?Poor Jorginho. No sooner was the central midfielder – who has been restricted to just 12 caps in his career – rid of the likes of Andrea Pirlo and De Rossi that Nicolo Barella came through, all ridiculously accomplished and poised and versatile and mature at the age of 22.

But, aside from the Chelsea man’s perspective, Barella’s breakthrough has been a breath of fresh air, tinged with sunshine and rainbows and sardines (Sardinia, innit). And, he’s already been able to translate his easy-going mentality to the international stage, with his debut against Ukraine as good a showcase of his talents as any. 


Federico Bernardeschi 

Federico Bernardeschi

I know we’ve spoken a lot about the so-called MVPs from that Atleti clash, but let’s be real for a second, it was ?Federico Bernardeschi. And that showing was just the tip of the iceberg for the former Fiorentina man this season. He’s been electric. 

Sure, he may not possess the suit-wearing suaveness of the legends that have come ?before him, but he’s got class on the field. And that’s just about enough. I mean sure, it’s not ideal, but it’s enough. At least for Euro 2020 success. So the ?fresh-from-the-plane pics will have to take a back seat. Big deal…*sobs*. 


Federico Chiesa

Federico Chiesa

While he may have been forced to pull out of this particular national team squad through injury, this is not the end of Federico Chiesa. And that is not a hot take. With 31 games played across competitions, he has already doubled his goalscoring tally from last season with 12, as his transfer value continues to skyrocket. 

Though the wait for his first international score is set go on beyond this month, rest assured he will break this duck in the upcoming qualifying campaign. And, if not then, how about mid-July at Wembley Stadium next year?


Patrick Cutrone

Patrik Cutrone

?The only player on this list who is yet to wear the true blue shirt of a fully fledged Italy international, but Patrick Cutrone does not plan on kicking it with the Under-21s for too much longer. 

While his progress at ?Milan may have been curtailed by the arrival of a certain Polish marksman who is incapable of going scoreless in any game ever, he remains a precocious frontman. Besides, word on the street says that he could be used as a makeweight in a deal for the man standing above him here, so, potentially, problem solved. 

Either way, don’t be surprised to see him super-subbing it at the Euros when the time comes.


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Italy vs Finland: Roberto Mancini’s Best Available Gli Azzurri Lineup

Italy begin their EURO 2020 qualification campaign on Saturday night, when they host Finland in Udine.

The Azzurri are looking to qualify for the European Championship for the 10th time, as well as hoping to win the tournament for the first time in 51 years.

Here’s a look at Roberto Mancini’s best available Italy lineup to face Finland on Saturday.

1. Goalkeeper and Defenders

Giorgio Chiellini

Gianluigi Donnarumma (GK) – Now comfortably established as Italy’s new number one, Donnarumma looks set to earn his 12th Azzurri cap. The 20-year-old has played 31 games for Milan this season, keeping 11 clean sheets in the process.

Alessandro Florenzi (RB) – The Roma right back will make up Italy’s defence against Finland, as he hopes to keep his third consecutive international clean sheet. Florenzi has also been in solid form for his club, having made 22 Serie A appearances this season.

Giorgio Chiellini (CB) – Chiellini has been at the heart of the Italian defence since 2004, and remains the key figure at the back. The Azzurri captain has earned a remarkable 100 caps, more than any other player in Mancini’s current squad.

Leonardo Bonucci (CB) – Bonucci will partner up with Chiellini on Saturday, as he usually does for club and country. The Juventus star has earned 85 caps – bettered only by his defensive partner – having made his debut under Marcello Lippi in 2010.

Cristiano Biraghi (LB) – Having made his national team debut last September, Biraghi is now an essential part of Mancini’s team. The Fiorentina player has already earned four caps, with his first goal coming as a 92nd minute winner in Italy’s 1-0 win over Poland.

2. Midfielders

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Marco Verratti (CM) – Verratti looks likely to retain his place in the Italian midfield, featuring in Italy’s fifth game in a row. The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder’s season has been hampered by injury, though he has still managed to make 29 appearances for the Parisian side.

Jorginho (CM) – Though it hasn’t been easy riding for Jorginho recently at Chelsea, Mancini will keep his faith in him. After making his debut in 2016, the Azzurri playmaker regained his place in the Italy side in late 2017 and has since earned 11 caps in their midfield.

Nicolo Barella (CM) – Barella is one of the latest additions to Mancini’s revitalised squad, having made his debut last October. The Cagliari midfielder has since played four times for Italy, making up a very strong midfield three.

3. Forwards

Fabio Quagliarella

Federico Chiesa (RW) – Chiesa should make up Italy’s front three for the visit of Finland, as he searches for his first national team goal. The 21-year-old has been outstanding for Fiorentina this season, with 12 goals and eight assists in his 31 appearances.

Fabio Quagliarella (ST) – Despite not having played for the national team since 2015, Mancini called up veteran striker Quagliarella for March’s fixtures. The 36-year-old, who currently plays for Sampdoria, could earn his 26th cap for the Azzurri in Saturday’s game.

Federico Bernardeschi (LW) – With Lorenzo Insigne injured, Juventus forward Bernardeschi will get his chance for the visit of Finland. The 25-year-old has been a key part of the reigning Italian champions’ squad, making 29 appearances under Massimiliano Allegri this season.

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Serie A in Talks Over Holding Domestic Fixtures in China as Part of Trade Agreement

Serie A and the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) are in talks with executives at the Chinese Media Group (CMG) over holding competitive league fixtures in China amid a wider effort to ‘cement economic and cultural ties’. 

The league has held their Supercoppa Italiana fixture abroad 10 times, with Saudi Arabia hosting the 2019 encounter between AC Milan and Juventus this January. China has hosted the tie four times – the most of any country outside Italy. 

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Now, according to a document seen by the ?Financial Times, the league are looking to extend this global outreach programme to competitive clashes, in a bid to improve their marketability abroad and strengthen their ties with the country. 

As revealed in the document, the FIGC are looking to schedule a ?Serie A game “in the next three years and with an adequate budget.” 

The talks are understood to be led by FIGC president Gabriele Gravina and Gaetano Miccichè and Luigi De Siervo of Serie A, alongside several leading figures at the CMG, with the blessings of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is a known football fan. 

The proposal would also account for a number of exhibition fixtures in both countries between their international sides, as well as a multimedia content exchange and Italian assistance in any potential investment from Chinese companies in Serie A teams. 

Torino FC v Parma Calcio - Serie A

However, it would still need approval from both FIFA and the Asian Football Federation. Both ?La Liga and the ?Premier League have been thwarted in their previous attempts to reach such agreements. 

Speaking after the Spanish division were forced to postpone their plans for recurring fixtures in the USA, Fifa president Gianni Infantino said: “Official league matches must be played within the territory of the respective member association.”

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Milan Skriniar’s Agent Talks Up Interest From Barcelona & Real Madrid Ahead of Possible Summer Move

?Milan Skriniar’s agent has told reporters his client has attracted strong interest from Spanish rivals Real Madrid and Barcelona, with the duo set to battle it out over his signature this summer.

Skriniar has showed himself to be one of the game’s most accomplished central defenders since joining Inter from Sampdoria in 2017, making 76 appearances in just over a year and half with the ?Nerazzurri.

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Speaking to ?AS, Halis, who is one of the partners at the agency which represents the Slovakian, revealed: “Real Madrid want to sign him, so do Barcelona; whoever can convince Inter to let him go will sign him this summer.”

Los Blancos are understood to see the 24-year-old as a potential replacement for rumoured wantaway centre back Raphael Varane.

And Halis continued: “Skriniar is a model professional. If Real Madrid want him, they could get him but there are other agents who have a vested interest in taking players where they want.”

He then claimed that the only complications that could arise in the transfer revolve around the possible intrusion of super-agent Mino Raiola, explaining: “Mino Raiola, who represents Ibrahimovic and Pogba, might try to mislead Skriniar, but the player is on the books at our company – we have a contract with him.

“?Inter paid Sampdoria €28m for Skriniar and six months later, Manchester City came in with an offer of €55m. Now he is valued at around €100m. Any deal would certainly be complicated by the interference of intermediaries.”


Halis is a compatriot of Skriniar, but largely specialises in Turkish football, and had some further revelations about another centre back Madrid have been rumoured to be looking at, VfB Stuttgart’s Ozan Kabak, whom he has known since his early academy days at Galatasaray.

However, this time Halis was charged with playing down said links, declaring: “Ozan Kabak is an exceptional talent, but he’s not ready to join a top level club like ?Real Madrid. 

“At the moment he is not on Madrid’s list of candidates. He needs to get a few seasons under his belt and improve his game at Stuttgart before he goes anywhere else. There are a lot of steps he must go for before being in a position to join a side like Madrid”.

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11 Brilliantly Retro Images of Football Managers During Their Playing Careers

Looking back into the past can be a lovely thing: Iconic albums, genre-defining films, and of course, golden football moments.

Also, it can be harrowing. I speak from experience here, as a man who thought, for much of his late teens, it was perfectly acceptable to wear a trilby – like a deli counter Pete Doherty – around a small Scottish seaside town without suffering severe repercussions.

Yes, nostalgia can be fun, but it’s always there to haunt us with ghosts from the past when we least expect it.

Alongside from a stunning array of ‘Cats Doing Hilarious Things LOL’ video compilations, the internet has also blessed us with a plethora of images showing football managers lookin’ all goofy back in their playing days.

So, here’s 11 managers in some truly extraordinary snaps from back in their prime…


1. Eddie Howe

My goodness me! where to start with this absolute beauty?

Kicking us off, it’s Eddie Howe looking even more cherubic than usual. The now-Bournemouth manager rocked a sensational pair of curtains back in his playing days, which could have seen him slot into boybands as high profile as 911 or BBMak.

The sharp-eyed among you might well have also noticed the giraffe lurking in the background. 

Interestingly, Peter Crouch left Portsmouth at around the same time Eddie Howe joined in 2002, so that’s presumably the towering striker lurking in the shadows.


2. Mick McCarthy


??Straight in at number two, it’s an absolute belter of Mick McCarthy picking up Manchester City’s Player of the Year trophy back in 1983.

A real fashion icon of his times, McCarthy sports a sumptuous sleeveless lemon v-neck (with matching tie), alongside a smart pair of cream trousers, quite frankly putting the gentleman beside him to shame.

And what about that thick and luscious moustache, eh? Yes, I think we can all agree, 1980s McCarthy is far superior to the curmudgeonly chap who prowls the touchline these days.


3. David Moyes

Good grief! Someone give that man a vitamin C packed smoothie, and put a warm jacket around his shoulders!

The pasty-faced young chap before you is none other than David Moyes back in his playing days, looking like Mick Hucknall, if he was cast in Trainspotting.

The former ?Everton and ?Manchester United (remember that?) boss had quite the playing career, you know, enjoying spells with the likes of Celtic, Bristol City and Preston North End.


4. Roy Hodgson


Former England manager Roy Hodgson here, looking like a Coronation Street stalwart wth a lovely new set of rollers back in his prime.

Roy the Boy had a playing career as just as eclectic as his managerial one, and spent time with South African side Berea Park as well as more mundane spells at Maidstone United and Ashford Town.


5. Martin O’Neill


Lock up your daughters! 1970s Martin O’Neill is ready to charm and dazzle with a haircut I don’t quite know the technical name for.

??Free of the spectacles that give him a rather bookish demeanour these days, O’Neill’s piercing stare is one that means business.

The very same year this photo was taken, Nottingham Forest (the club he now manages) won a league and cup double. Lovely stuff!


6. Steve Bruce


Just look at him! Like a Northumberlandian Ronald McDonald, Steve Bruce cut quite the bold figure back in his playing days.

Here is his right at the beginning of his career, wearing a delicious Gillingham top that doesn’t at all clash with those luscious, fiery locks.

The now-Sheffield Wednesday manager won a mighty three Premier League titles with Manchester United in the 1990s, and was a ferocious defender in his day.


7. Jürgen Klopp


I think I speak for all neutrals when I say this: Jürgs, forget all that nonsense about winning ?Liverpool their first ever ?Premier League title – just focus on growing back that splendid moustache.??

These days Jürgen Klopp looks quite the snappy character with his thick rimmed spectacles and baseball cap, but back in his days at Mainz, the charismatic German let his hair grow cascade down his forehead like a glorious lion’s mane.


8. Luciano Spalletti


Yes! Now we’re talking!

Here’s Luciano Spalletti back in the day, wearing an item of clothing vivacious as his 2005/06 Roma side.

The Italian never really much of an impact on the field, and presumably spent his hours outside of training modelling lavish open-necked shirts, rather spending time practicing his free-kicks.


9. Louis van Gaal


Very Partridge, this. And I like that, I like it a lot.

There’s so many astonishing tales of Louis van Gaal’s exploits both as a player and a manager it’s hard to separate fact from fiction at times, but there’s no denying he was quite the fashionista back in the day.


10. Claudio Ranieri

Some people think Claudio Ranieri’s greatest achievement is winning the Premier League with Leicester at odds of 5000/1. Wrong. Claudio Ranieri’s greatest achievement is this photograph. Woof.


11. Gareth Southgate

England at La Manga day 3 X

Let’s round things off nicely here, with an extraordinary photograph of now-England manager Gareth Southgate, posing uncomfortably in a bed of thriving cacti.

Was it a punishment for that Euro ’96 penalty shoot-out miss, or merely training for a future career of dealing with – ahem – prickly individuals at the FA? 

We may never know…

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