Alessandro Bastoni won’t be a regular starter for Italy, but Euro 2020 is a necessary step to build his future with the Azzurri, writes Richard Hall.
It was Giuseppe Bergomi who made the best case for Alessandro Bastoni being part of the Italy squad, whether at Euro 2020 or any other time. “He has always been physically and technically good,” the 1982 World Cup winner pointed out. “He is a left-footed centre-back, which is a rare commodity in today’s game. He is a good dribbler, and has a certain arrogance that is nice to see in a young player.” What stronger recommendation could there be?
In fairness, Bastoni will probably be one of Roberto Mancini’s first picks as he now has a Scudetto under his belt too, and is still only 22. “He is very young,” Mancini has been quoted as saying. “He can improve a lot and become the next Leonardo Bonucci or Giorgio Chiellini, a great defender.” Praise doesn’t get much higher from than Azzurri boss.
Bastoni is just one more of the seemingly endless roster of talented graduates from Atalanta’s youth academy, although his development has been forged at Inter. The Nerazzurri signed him after only 90 minutes for La Dea, against Sampdoria, and a handful of other appearances, parting with €31m to get their man. There’s been no looking back. Bastoni stayed on loan at Atalanta and later spent a year with Parma but Antonio Conte was eager to integrate him into the first team for the 2019-20 season. Bastoni has been majestic in the last two campaigns and his relationship with Milian Skriniar and Stefan De Vrij has given Inter one of the best defences in Italy.
He has weaknesses, but also has ways to combat them. Bastoni is not the quickest player, and could be stronger, but Conte has had him doing extra gym work – and that lack of pace is made up for with superb reading of the game. Bastoni can instantly sum up a situation, break up play and start the attack with a dizzying array of passing. He is a player who does not panic, and is more than happy to play out of trouble.
Bastoni is simply the future of the Azzurri defence. It’s not a stretch to see Bastoni and Gianluca Mancini or Alessio Romagnoli playing in front of Gigi Donnarumma for tournament after tournament, as all three are experienced beyond their years and with long international careers ahead of them.