Since Prandelli’s made his Italy coaching debut last May, a position that caused him a headache was the right back position. In a little over six months, he has already tried Marco Motta, De Silvestri, Santon, Maggio and Cassani for the role. None of them has impressed so far to deserve a starting place. For a spot that is obviously up for grabs, it is hard to swallow that Abate didn’t get called up once.
Marco Motta, De Silvestri, Santon, Maggio and Cassani all have some characteristics in common. Each one of them has less than 10 caps for the senior national team and they have all featured at one time or another for at least one level of national youth teams. Abate has already played for Italy in the youth levels so he is halfway there and of the players mentioned, only Santon, Maggio, and Cassani weren’t given their debuts by Prandelli.
From the ones given their debuts by Prandelli, Marco Motta doesn’t even start for a struggling Juventus, with an 18 year old makeshift right back with no first team experience that goes beyond this season starting over him.
While De Silvestri hasn’t proven his early hype so far. Failure with Lazio made him switch to Fiorentina and despite starting almost regularly under Prandelli, he has had to prove himself all over again for Mihajlovic. He has only started to play regularly after the winter break, with a spell as a make-shift left back due to Pasqual’s injury.
The youngest of the bunch, Santon, wasn’t a regular under Benitez and mostly played out of position. He only started to see minutes when he was loaned to Cesena. Maybe Prandelli prefers Santon due to his versatility, as he could play at ease on both flanks. He could even prefer him as he is younger and has greater potential, therefore could be one for the future.
So if it is understandable that Santon merits a spot, due to his potential and versatility, this still leaves a spot open for one of Maggio and Abate, since Cassani is injured. Firstly, Maggio is 29 while Abate is 24, therefore the age factor is with Abate. Secondly, Maggio plays in a three man defense system, which means that Maggio generally plays with less worries defensively opposed to Abate who has proven his defensive qualities by solidifying himself as a starting fixture in Italy’s best defense line, as well as by successfully marking world class players in the form of Ronaldo and Eto’o.
The last point is that while some might argue that Maggio is a better threat offensively, whose to say that Abate won’t get there? A year and a half ago, Abate was a mediocre midfielder who spent most of his career in Italy’s lower leagues. The improvement he has had over the past year is an example set to others, on what one could achieve with hard work and passion. To think that only close to a year ago Abate started training as a defender and now he is a guaranteed starter in Italy’s top of the table team. Doesn’t that guarantee him at least a chance with the national team?
In the Prandelli era there has been an obvious lack of talent that led to calling up many ‘oriundi’ and giving debuts to mid table team players, proving that this indeed is a transition period for Italy. With so many players getting chances to prove whether they are of international quality or no, it is hard to argue that Milan’s right back doesn’t deserve an opportunity, especially in a position that is still up for grabs.