venerdì 14 marzo 2014

Gabriel Paletta, the latest Oriundo

Fans were astonished when Mauro Camoranesi, then Juventus winger, get his first cap for the Italian national team in 2003. But fielding players switching their nationality to play for Italy isn’t a news for the Azzurri. While Ermanno Aebi was the first one and Luisito Orsi became the most famous, the list of Oriundi to play for Italy is very long. An Oriundo is a footballer born and raised overseas but with Italian descent and an Italian heritage, that made him qualified to play for his adopted country. Raimundo Orsi, Omar Sivori and Jose Altafini all played for ther Azzurri and was part of a bunch of players including recent additions such as Mauro Camoranesi, Thiago Motta and Pablo Osvaldo. Often they played for both countries, the old and the new one. So did Monti, who played for Argentina in the 1930 World Cup. José Altafini played in Brazil's first games in the 1958 winning side. Thiago Motta, two appearances for Brazil at the Gold Cup in 2003. Other time, they started their international career immediately with the new country, as Camoranesi or Ezequiel Schelotto. FIGC gave Cesare Prandelli every freedom to pick oriundi for Italy during his regime. And he did it. He brought on Motta, Osvaldo, Cristian Ledesma and Amauri. Neither had a great impact. The argument in support of the utilise of oriundi was that they are part of the 'new Italians' category. Also, utilize an oriundo became easier with first and youth teams loaded with foreign players. Teams like Inter, Napoli, Lazio or Fiorentina usually field 10 or 11 foreign players in their starting line up. With other set to the increase the rank of foreign-born players, starting with Napoli midfielder Jorginho, the latest man to reach the crop of Oriundi is Parma defender Gabriel Paletta. Prandelli thinks Paletta could be a nice addition to a talentless defensive line. Originally signed with Palermo, Paletta switched to Parma after Sicilian side doubted of his knee health. At Tardini, Paletta became one of the best centre-backs in Serie A during the last four seasons. Rarely wasteful in possession, with an average of 85% of pass success, comfortable under pressure, Paletta emerged as one of the revelation of this term. Parma was established as a surprising team mainly thanks to a good defense lead by this centre back who posted 0 defensive errors with an average of 7 defensive actions per game. After this impressive seasons, isn’t surprising that he get the call-up for the friendly game against Spain. He can be lined up as centre-back in a three-man but also in a flat four back line. Paletta became the 42nd Oriundo to play for Italy. The debate about if is correct for Prandelli to select the Oriundi could never be answered. That we know is there is a plethora of South American players with Italian roots ready to contribute. Their call-ups are an evidence of a crisis in Italy about certain roles. This country seems unable to produce some great defenders as Italy did in the past with Franco Baresi and Gaetano Scirea or with Alessandro Nesta and Fabio Cannavaro  in the recent days. While some switch of allegiance raised eyebrows, as it was for Motta, Ledesma or Amauri, other was less of a surprise. They are not players such as Mario Balotelli, Giuseppe Rossi, Angelo Ogbonna or Stephan El Shaarawy, i.e. players with a foreign heritage but born and raised as Italian in Italy. With Paletta we are talking of players which status as Italians is questionable. They are layers born and raised overseas, never capped by their home country,  to which Italy asked to change nationality in the way to support Prandelli’s team. With a lack of options in some key roles, isn’t strange for Prandelli to pick them. The question is if this lack of options is enough to justify it.

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