Dubbed by the majority of Italians as the darkest period in their history, the Azzurri are traveling up a creek without a paddle here in 2018.
Upon conclusion of the 2018 FIFA World Cup in which Italy played the role of spectator, ‘La Nazionale’ dropped two spots to their lowest ever ranking ever of 21st. Whether it be the last remnants of the old guard, the newcomers, Gian Piero Ventura, or the FIGC, accountability is required by all involved if Italy are to turn this around under acting CT Roberto Mancini. But in dire times such as these, certain individuals must rise to the occasion, and be one of many small rays of hope – and Lorenzo Insigne is one of these individuals.
Insigne’s early-season form for Napoli has been nothing short of spectacular, with the local Naples star currently sitting on six goals through eight matches as we enter this latest international break. With the 27-year old on pace to shatter 2017-18′s domestic tally of eight, there is a palpable sense of life and motivation behind the Italian’s exhibitions in Serie A, leading many to believe 2018-19 can be his best season yet.
Those who frequent ‘calcio’ on a regular basis, and tuned in to observe Napoli over the past few seasons throughout the ‘Sarriball’ era, recognised the skilled attacker out on the pitch, with his skill on the ball, ability to pick a pass, the shiftiness to beat his marker and an eye for goal all on display. A fundamental cog in the Napoli machine, Insigne’s proven plenty capable of changing the complexion of a game on his own. When clicking on all cylinders, the talent is undeniable and delectable. But for whatever reason, when wearing Italy blue, his production and impact in the side pale in comparison to what we have been accustomed to seeing over the years at the San Paolo.
Since making his senior team debut in September 2012, Insigne’s international numbers fail to match what he has put up for his boyhood club (4 goals and 2 assists in 24 appearances) nor do his collective performances justify him wearing the heavy number 10 shirt currently resting on his back.
By no means is Insigne the only Italian to have underperformed throughout this stretch however. And perhaps a portion of the blame for his struggles rests on the shoulders of Ventura who, despite making the winger somewhat a prominent figure leading up to the World Cup Qualifying play-off with Sweden, failed to foster a winning mentality to bring the best out of him and so many others. But it goes back to accountability here for Insigne and his performances not meeting demands. The lofty expectations bestowed upon the diminutive attacker from a young age, and throughout the last handful of seasons in southern Italy, means he should be held to a higher standard. After all, the famous azzurro shirt comes with a great sense of pride and responsibility, and that rings especially true when it is the number 10 printed on the back.
Based off this current eruption, there is no telling how Insigne will stack up amongst his domestic contemporaries at the end of the campaign. Of course, while the coveted Scudetto takes precedence for Insigne and his beloved Napoli, there is still plenty to prove to both himself and those most critical of him when donning the blue shirt of his National Team. This week, with Ukraine (friendly) and Poland (UEFA Nations League) on the docket, Insigne is slated to get a fair amount of minutes for Mancini and the opportunity to quell any doubt about his importance towards the Azzurri cause moving forward.
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