After plenty of tension and nervousness, the Italy Men’s National Team have finally secured their place at the 2024 European Championship but the questions for coach Luciano Spalletti are just beginning, as he seeks a reliable striker to lead the line in Germany.
The Azzurri booked their place in the competition thanks to a tight 0-0 draw against Ukraine in the final qualification match, finishing in second place in Group C behind England, but the stalemate highlighted a need to find a No. 9 by next summer.
As reported by La Gazzetta dello Sport, the central attacking role is providing Spalletti with the biggest headache since replacing Roberto Mancini earlier this year, and if Italy have any hopes of retaining the cup they lifted at Euro 2020 then an answer is needed.
However, selections are set to be based on form and fitness over the remainder of the season, as well as playing time and most crucially, goals. With eight months to go, the former AS Roma tactician has time to weigh up his options.
Raspadori and Scamacca are almost certainties
Spalletti seems to be convinced by Napoli striker Giacomo Raspadori and the diminutive forward has the confidence of the coach following their link-up at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona last season.
Raspadori has benefitted from an injury to Victor Osimhen to earn a regular spot in Napoli‘s team and has been entrusted to lead the line in Italy‘s most recent fixtures.
Meanwhile, his former Sassuolo teammate Gianluca Scamacca also looks to have done enough to be in contention for a call-up to Euro 2024. Having put a difficult year at West Ham United behind him, Scamacca is enjoying life at Atalanta and was Spalletti‘s preferred option from the bench against North Macedonia and Ukraine.
Another player who is looking to complete a redemption arc following a tough time in England is Moise Kean, and the Juventus striker is back in form and earning a starting berth with the Bianconeri.
The former Everton man is also being used from the bench for Italy, whilst keeping Dusan Vlahovic out at club level and Ciro Immobile out of the Azzurri squad is no mean feat.
Retegui and Immobile fighting for a place
Elsewhere, Spalletti is sure to be keeping a close eye on Mateo Retegui as his maiden season in Serie A progresses. The Argentina-born forward was plucked from Tigres and handed his international debut for Italy by Mancini before making a move to Genoa, and enjoyed a positive start to the campaign.
However, injuries and a change in coach mean his inclusion in the squad and likelihood of leading the line for Italy next summer are under threat, but there is plenty of time for Retegui to cement his place in Spalletti‘s thoughts.
Similarly, Immobile won’t have given up hope of forcing his way back into the reckoning after being dropped in October. The Lazio captain has rarely been able to convert his excellent club form to the international stage and he will be 34 come Euro 2024, but such a prolific finisher in Serie A can never be ruled out of contention.
The outside bets
Another name that Spalletti is familiar with is Andrea Petagna, and the powerhouse forward could bundle his way into the reckoning with a positive season at Cagliari. Indeed, Spalletti fought to retain the ex-Atalanta man prior to his move to Monza in 2022, and the coach has made no secret of his fondness for the 28-year-old.
There are a host of Italian strikers on the fringes looking to take advantage of injuries or loss of form to the key candidates and stake a claim for a place in the team. Andrea Pinamonti is hoping to follow the path laid by Scamacca and Raspadori by impressing for Sassuolo, whilst his partnership with Domenico Berardi could work in his favour.
The former Inter man needs goals, and lots of them, to force his way into contention and whilst a tally of 13 for Empoli last term saw him called up by Mancini, greater numbers are probably required this time around.
Monza loanee Lorenzo Colombo is another striker who is impressing in Serie A following a temporary switch from AC Milan, and the 21-year-old has caught the attention of those within the Italy set-up with his performances already. If he can increase his strike rate then there is a chance he could be in the squad next year.
Pellegri and Lucca haven’t given up hope
Finally, Spalletti may turn to a pair of complete outsiders who remain hopeful of barging the door down with a spell of excellent form over the coming months. Former wonderkid Pietro Pellegri seems to have put his long battle with injuries behind him and is starting to find his feet at Torino, as he looks to add to his single Azzurri cap.
Elsewhere, Lorenzo Lucca has returned to Italian football after an underwhelming spell with Ajax and has netted twice this season for Udinese.
Whilst he appears to be some way from breaking into the starting line-up for the national team, there is a possibility that Spalletti could see his imposing frame, at 2.01 metres, as the chance to provide a different threat.