World Cup-winning defender Alessandro Nesta claims “there is not enough quality in Italy to compete against Germany or other nations”.
In an interview with Omnisport, former AC Milan defender Nesta – one of the country’s most decorated centre-backs following an illustrious career spanning 20 years – lamented the standard of players coming through for Italy, despite their run to the quarter-finals at Euro 2016.
Under the guidance of former head coach Antonio Conte, Italy earned plenty of admirers as they upstaged Belgium and Spain before going down to world champions Germany on penalties in the last eight in July.
Italy have the chance to exact some revenge when the two sides meet in Tuesday’s friendly at San Siro, and speaking ahead of the clash in Milan, 2006 World Cup winner Nesta reflected on the team’s performances at the European Championship.
“Italy played a very good Euro for what this group [of players] is now. They had a great manager like Antonio Conte,” said Nesta, who is now head coach of North American Soccer League (NASL) side Miami FC.
“However, they couldn’t achieve more than this because nowadays there is not enough quality in Italy to compete against Germany or other teams.”
Giampiero Ventura has since taken the reins of the four-time world champions.
The 68-year-old has overseen five matches, four of those World Cup qualifiers on the road to Russia 2018.
After losing to France in his debut as coach in a post-Euro 2016 friendly, Ventura is now on a four-game unbeaten run, following wins over Liechtenstein, Macedonia and Israel, while drawing with Spain, who top Group G on goal difference.
Asked whether former Torino boss Ventura is the right man for the job, Nesta – winner of three Serie A titles and two Champions League crowns – replied: “I don’t know. We’ll see. The pitch will tell.”
Since Ventura’s appointment, Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti have quickly become mainstays in the Italy squad.
Maligned forward Mario Balotelli, however, remains in the international wilderness, despite his return to form with Ligue 1 outfit Nice.
Balotelli has scored six goals in an as many league matches since departing Liverpool but Nesta insisted the 26-year-old has no one but himself to blame for his Italy absence, which dates back to 2014.
“It’s up to him. He had so many chances given,” the 40-year-old added.
“Sometimes he played well but he has to follow what the manager says because it is impossible that a talent like his is not shining in the national team. If he is not there, it’s his fault.”