There are a number of explanations why this could be. Massimiliano Allegri, the past and present coach of Juventus, claims that youth football in Italy is indeed too tactical: the coaches are so preoccupied with their work that they mask the individual shortcomings of their players with a strategy.
“Instead of letting the kids learn to defend themselves one-on-one, they give them a blanket,” Allegri said. “They’re doubling. But that means the child is not learning. So when they have to go one-on-one, they don’t know how. This is, in his mind, why “Italy no longer produces champions”.
Paolo Nicolato, the country’s Under-21 coach, argues that the football culture in Italy is too intolerant of mistakes, which he calls “a necessary step in growth”. He suffers from a “bad relationship with the future,” he says. “We are very focused on the present.
This assertion is supported by the facts. Last season, out of the 50 youngest teams from the top 20 European leagues, only one was Italian: AC Milan. Only three Italian teams made it to the top 100. More importantly, just five percent of all minutes played by Serie A teams last season were spent with local players and academically raised. Italian football remains a culture that is deeply suspicious of young people.
“It’s a strange championship,” said Maurizio Costanzi, youth development manager for one of the few teams to turn the tide: Atalanta. He has spent four decades working with young players in Italy, and he has noticed an undeniable and unmistakable change in the quality and quantity of emerging prospects.
He wonders if this could be linked, in part, to the demise of street football, or to the rise of athletics in the sport eliminating the types of players – playmakers and schemers – that have long characterized the Italian game. . But it is sure that those who succeed do not have the chance to succeed neither quickly nor reliably enough.