Nazionale U21

Nicolato’s two main goals: "Opening up our pool of players for the Euros and helping Mancini"

Our Under-21 Coach on the lookout for new talent: "We need to focus on the players we know less about in order to build a competitive team and provide more resources for the senior side"

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Nicolato’s two main goals:

Enlarging the catchment area, securing more options for the U21 European Championship and thus helping Roberto Mancini in the discovery of new talent: these are Paolo Nicolato’s aims in the preparations for next summer, packed with the final phase of the Under-21 European Championship before UEFA EURO 2020, the first itinerant continental competition that was postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 emergency.

"There aren’t many U21 players who play in Serie A," he said to Rete Sport’s microphones, "and they’re the ones who are already knocking on the senior team’s door. We must try to increase the number of players on whom we can draw, because our target remains the same: to provide as many players as possible to the senior national team, while at the same time having a competitive team ourselves."

Kept away from the pitch for almost a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Under-21s resume their path in the European qualifiers in September. The Azzurrini currently sit second in Group 1, on 13 points from their five games played (four wins, one draw, 15 goals scored and zero conceded). Italy find themselves three points off table leaders Ireland, still however holding two games in hand. Our U21 Coach underlined the following: "Our focus is on the players making the first steps of their careers because we’re well acquainted with those who have already played for Italy. We don’t know what our team will look like at the final phase: I’ve been working with the 1999/2000 year group for four years in a row now so I know them very well, but we have to focus on the players we don’t know so much about."

With so many matches being played in quick succession, there have been more and more opportunities for young players in Serie A: "It’s clear that these opportunities are crucial. At a time when there are so many games, teams are making more and more changes. We’re following the progress of Pinamonti, Olivieri and Semprini in much the same way as we do with all the other youngsters: we’ve got to increase the range of players we’re looking at."
One player who has already made quite the impact is Nicolò Zaniolo, who put on such an impressive display under Nicolato’s guidance in the later stages of the European Under-19 Championship two years ago that he earned himself a surprise call-up from Roberto Mancini: "His performances on the pitch have shown that he has some top-notch natural ability, and he’s shown he can handle elite competition. I’ve already had the pleasure of coaching him; I called him up to the National Under-18 team for the first time and he showed some great qualities right from the outset. He’s a really important talent, but only time will tell what he’ll achieve. It’s one thing to arrive on the scene, but it’s another thing to establish yourself in a team."