Roberto Mancini defended calling up Argentina-born forward Mateo Retegui as he bemoaned Italy’s lack of attacking options.
Mancini has turned to former Argentina under-19 and under-20 international Retegui for the start of the Azzurri’s Euro 2024 qualifying campaign.
The Italy head coach did not expect the 23-year-old, on loan at Tigre from Boca Juniors, to accept the invitation to play for the European champions.
Eyebrows were raised when Retegui, whose grandmother was born in Italy, was named in Mancini’s squad ahead of a Group C opener against England at Stadio Diego Armando Maradona on Thursday.
Mancini said on Monday: “We’ve been following him for some time, he has quality and he’s a young boy. We didn’t think he’d say yes, we hesitated a bit and instead he immediately said yes. The hope is that it can be important, he’s a bright and young boy.”
The Azzurri boss has changed his stance over calling up players who were born in a different country.
“Years ago I said that players born in Italy should play for the national team, but this problem didn’t exist yet and the world has changed.” he said.
“All the European national teams have players naturalised from other countries. We have had players who were taken by the national team of other nations.
“And we are doing the same thing. It is useless to talk, in Italy there are few. We are worse off than [England boss Gareth] Southgate, if there is the possibility of taking new we get players.”
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Mancini is concerned by the lack of options at his disposal.
He said: “In Italy nobody plays on the street anymore. We used to play three-four hours on the street and then we went to train, today this doesn’t happen anymore.
“It’s no coincidence that players are still born in those countries, such as Uruguay, Argentina or Brazil, where they still play a lot on the street.”
Mancini added: “I have no idea why so few forwards come out. we are really very limited in the offensive department.
“We have three teams in the quarter-finals of the Champions League, but out of three teams, there are seven or eight Italians at the most. This is the reality.”
Mancini is waiting to discover if Federico Chiesa and Federico Dimarco will be fit to face England in Naples.
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