Coach Di Biagio Chooses Continuity: Buffon In, Balo Out

The revolution can wait. For his first convocations as interim head coach of the Italian Nazionale, Luigi Di Biagio chose to walk a conservative path. Those who were hoping for a complete cleanup among the Azzurri ranks after their shameful failure to qualify for the upcoming World Cup might be disappointed – and yet, the pool of human resources available to Di Biagio and the whole Italian football movement didn’t leave much room for different choices at this stage.

Di Biagio’s only unexpected innovation was the calling of Milan’s jewel Patrick Cutrone, who conquered his spot in the Rossoneri starting lineup this season, and of figlio d’arte Federico Chiesa – the son of Enrico, who was capped 22 times by the Azzurri in the ‘90s – who’s been a key player for Fiorentina since 2016 already.
Federico Chiesa is one of the two debs in Azzurri coach Di Bagio’s first convocation list. However, the 20-year-old striker has already collected multiple caps for Italy youth squads

With Milan’s Alessio Romagnoli and Andrea Conti, as well Juventus’ Federico Bernardeschi and Giorgio Chiellni all ruled out by injuries, the only big name missing seems to be Mario Balotelli. Rumors about a possible return of Super Mario, in view of his positive season with French side Nice, didn’t find confirmation.

Gianluigi Buffon will still be part of the group, despite having announced his retirement from the Nazionale right after the Swedish distaster. The Portierone agreed with Di Biagio to keep wearing his Azzurri jersey for at least the next two games. As the interim coach put it, the last impression of Buffon with Italy couldn’t be his tears after the missed World Cup qualification.
Gianluigi Buffon’s last image with the Azzurri couldn’t be this one…

Below the full list of the 26 players summoned by Luigi Di Biagio. Italy’s new deal will start on Saturday, March 24, with a friendly game in Manchester against Argentina. Three days later, the Azzurri will move to London to play England.

Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Gianluigi Donnarumma (Milan), Mattia Perin (Genoa)

Defenders: Leonardo Bonucci (Milan), Matteo Darmian (Manchester United), Mattia De Sciglio (Juventus), Gian Marco Ferrari (Sampdoria), Alessandro Florenzi (Roma), Angelo Ogbonna (West Ham), Daniele Rugani (Juventus), Leonardo Spinazzola (Atalanta), Davide Zappacosta (Chelsea)

Midfielders: Giacomo Bonaventura (Milan), Bryan Cristante (Atalanta), Roberto Gagliardini (Inter), Jorginho (Napoli), Marco Parolo (Lazio), Lorenzo Pellegrini (Roma), Marco Verratti (Paris Saint Germain)

Forwards: Andrea Belotti (Torino), Antonio Candreva (Inter), Patrick Cutrone (Milan), Federico Chiesa (Fiorentina), Ciro Immobile (Lazio), Lorenzo Insigne (Napoli), Simone Verdi (Bologna)