Where is Italy's future?

MORRIS DALLA COSTA

, Last Updated: 9:15 AM ET

The soccer world is buzzing about the potential transfer and the insane dollar figures being thrown around Brazilian international and A.C. Milan superstar Kaka by Premier League's Manchester City.

But there is another signing that is indicative of the wrong direction Italian soccer and Milan itself is heading.

Milan signed Brazilian Felipe Mattioni. He will be Milan's sixth Brazilian signing.

If Milan accepts Manchester City's offer of 100 million pounds ($180 million US) for Kaka, there'll be one less Brazilian in the lineup.

When you match up Milan with Inter, which has few Italians in their lineup, you are talking about two Italian soccer giants that have turned their backs on developing young homegrown players.

And before all the Juventus fans begin pounding their chests about how much better they are at developing young talent, one of the best young players in Italy --Sebastian Giovinco -- spends most Sundays on the substitutes bench because he can't get on the pitch in regular Serie A matches.

Yes, Juventus is better at developing younger talent than some of Italy's other big clubs, but it, too, can do better.

It's a disturbing trend for Italian football, especially the national side.

Serie A has been surpassed in both talent and attractiveness by Spain's La Liga and England's Premier League.

The alarming numbers of South Americans playing in Italy is bad news for Italian soccer in general.

Many of the Brazlians, Argentinians, Peruvians, Uruguayians and others play the skill positions on their respective teams.

They are attacking or creating midfielders, wingers or strikers. Their skill on the ball allows teams to create chances and play attractive football.

Now zoom ahead, or flash back, to the Italian national team. Yes, they are world champions, but time catches up with everyone.

The latest version of the Italian national team is pedantic and dull. The No. 1 striker, Luca Toni, is a throwback striker. He's a big, lumbering target guy who can't play with the ball at his feet.

What are the Italians missing? They are missing the creativity that comes from the midfield. They are missing pure goal scorers.

Those positions in Serie A are occupied by South Americans or other foreign players.

You need look no further than the trouble the Italians are in when they are missing Andrea Pirlo.

It's a sad statement when Pirlo is the best the Italians can offer.

Rarely a week goes by that a young Italian player isn't under discussion for his lack of playing time or confrontations with managers.

Giovinco has gone through this. Inter's Mario Balotelli is now going through it. Some of it is attitude, at least in Balotelli's case.

But a lot has to do with Italian soccer's inability to give their young superstars a chance.

It is rare indeed to find an 18-, 19- or 20-year-old getting a chance to play on the national team.

Other national teams highlight their young Ronaldos, Michael Owens, Wayne Rooneys or Benzemas.

In Italy, being a young player often means taking a back seat to older, more experienced players at both the league and international level.

A.C. Milan is known as the La Veccia Signora. It translates to "The Old Mrs." -- a classy name and very true.

Sadly, Milan has become a retirement home for older players.

Serie A has become a place where players can begin and end their soccer careers.

That's not a good place to be when it comes to Italian soccer's future.

As the 2010 World Cup approaches, some of that Italian talent must get a chance to develop or the 2010 tournament may be as disastrous as Italy's 2008 European Cup campaign.


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