Fans need a reality check dealing with Italy and Donnarumma

by | Jun 15, 2022 18:54

The hysterical reaction over Italy’s Nations League defeat to Germany, and specifically Gianluigi Donnarumma’s comments, proves just how little people understand the moment, writes Susy Campanale.

Every time people ask why Calcio doesn’t launch young players with as much regularity and eagerness as other nations, and every time we get the answer clear as day as soon as something goes wrong. The Azzurri played five games in the last two weeks and we heard every imaginable hot take. After the 3-0 Finalissima defeat to Argentina, Roberto Mancini was begged to throw the entire squad out the window and start from scratch with the youngsters. He did that, earning a 1-1 draw with Germany in a game we fully expected to lose badly, then beating Hungary 2-1, which as it turns out from other results is by no means something to be taken for granted, and seemed content enough with a point away to England.

We saw the same people praise the starting XI in Germany, who by 45 minutes in were happy to declare Mancini didn’t know what he was doing and should be sacked. There was a reaction late on, Italy did get two goals back to make the scoreline a little less embarrassing at 5-2, but Die Mannschaft were visibly fired up and desperate to get that statement win after three consecutive stalemates. The drubbing we expected the first time out arrived at the fourth game, which made the reaction all the more disheartening.

Italy fans act like spoilt brats and always have done. In the space of 10 days we saw Willy Gnonto go from the greatest player the Azzurri ever produced who really should’ve already been playing in the World Cup qualifiers when he had barely just turned 18, to that classic moniker ‘over-rated’ after one poor game. If anyone wants to understand why Italian football is careful with young players, this is your answer in a nutshell. There is no sense of balance.

The same is true for the whole team, as fans and media went from ‘this is the Italy we want, why weren’t they playing before?!’ to ‘Italy have no talents, they are a total waste of space.’ Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it can be brought down in a heartbeat.

Donnarumma is another case in point that we really need to look at carefully. It might feel like he’s been around forever, but he is still only 23 years old and was named Player of the Tournament at EURO 2020. He remains one of the best shot-stoppers in the sport. Yes, he always was poor with his feet, but frankly he has improved in recent years on that, going from total disaster to only potential disaster. It would also help if his teammates stopped giving him such wobbly back-passes to deal with, knowing that opposition strikers will go into the high press because of his reputation.

Donnarumma was accused of arrogance for his irritated reaction to the RAI Sport line of questioning after the defeat to Germany. He went to speak first as captain, nobody likes to lose 5-2, so he was never going to be in the best mood. The same channel didn’t treat Nicolò Barella with much respect either, asking if the players felt “ashamed of yourselves?” None of this is helping the situation.

Now there are calls for Donnarumma to be dropped, because Italy have so many great alternatives just lining up behind him who are never error-prone, like Alex Meret… In 10 days we’ve gone from ‘Mancini can’t invent players’ to ‘see he always had the players’ and round to ‘Mancini doesn’t know what he’s doing with these players.’

The tendency to catastrophise is the most damaging thing about Italian football, throwing the baby out with the bathwater and forgetting any positive lessons in order to call for a scorched earth policy. The Nations League was meant to be that reset that people asked for, and they got it. Let’s be honest, Italy did far better than expected in the first three games and that saw people get ahead of themselves. That’s not Mancini’s fault, nor Donnarumma or Gnonto, it’s the fault of the fans and media. Accept reality and try actually helping.


  1. Gio

    While people are blaming the coach and players, or the they’re blaming the fans… Serie A clubs are laughing and getting away with it because THEY and the league are responsible for the current state of affairs.

    Anyone expecting more than what we are right now is living in the past.

  2. nino amor

    Agree totally with article. Fans need to get a grip and support the team through the lows as well as the highs. It could be worse, thank god we are not England!

  3. Romanista

    Great with some perspective!
    It’s a nations league game and he’s trying out youngsters, where’s the disaster?

    They aren’t going to the World Cup so isn’t this the best of times to try some things out then I don’t know when.

  4. Del Piero

    When top Italian teams like my own, Juventus are sending young Italian players to Serie B and C and showing zero faith in them then what can you expect to achieve on a national level?

  5. R. Bonora

    At least England is in the world cup. They maybe there for a short while but at least they are there. Italy is watching from home.

  6. R. Bonora

    Italian National Team fans are very demanding. They demand the best from the players, coach and staff. That is why they have won 4 world cups and 2 Euros. Fans have a right to be demanding as they are the ones who pay for the tickets to go see the games. Italian fans expect the team to play well every game. When they go into a tournament we expect the team to win the tournament or be at least in the TOP 4. No outside looking in! If coaching or player changes have to be made they should be made on time and not wait until the team does not qualify for an upcoming tournament. If it takes $25 Million per year to bring in Carlo Ancelotti or Capello so be it. WE EXPECT TO EXCEL AND WIN OR GO DOWN WITH PRIDE!

  7. Coop

    I feel as if this article is a direct response to absolute drivel usually existing in the comment section. Couldn’t agree with it more.

  8. 1972 Azzurri

    Capello!!! Because he did such a great job as England coach! The problem is a lack of Italian players in Serie A and until that is addressed we had better start getting used to missing tournaments regardless of who the coach is.

  9. Tony

    What a stupid article
    Look at the teams Italy have lost to for not make it to the World Cup.
    ANd we should be proud of that.
    For a nation like Italy to not make the World Cup for the second time it’s not acceptable
    You don’t need to be a smart to realize Italian national soccer is in big trouble all the way to youth

  10. Brandon

    Agree with Coop.

    It sounded like the comment section the last 15 Days. At least the messages that miraculously got by and actually got posted.

  11. InterFanatic

    I don’t agree with the premise of this article. Italy fans don’t act like spoiled brats. This is the Azzurri.

    We have expectations. Most of which are NEVER met. Mancini deserves all criticism for not qualifying for the World Cup. What other teams do you know ,in the space of mere months, go from winning the Euro to not being able to qualify for the World Cup?

    The criticism aimed at Mancini isn’t born out of being spoiled brats. It’s because this team goes through the trials of Job that no other team has to go through and it drives the fans nuts.

    Rightly so. Under Mancini, Italy is no longer recognizable. Gone are the days when Italian defense was feared. Teams knew they were going to be out through the test when they played Italy.

    No more. Mancini has Italy pressing offensively only to watch as other teams score on the counter.

    This coach deserves all criticism that comes his way.

  12. interfamagosta


  13. Milan Fan

    Ummm … fans or your journalist peers?

    I mean, wasn’t there an article just yesterday of how every newspaper and journalist in Italy criticized Donnarumma and his performance/post match reaction?

  14. Milan Fan

    Also praising the starting line-up doesn’t mean the coach has done his job. Choosing a line up is a small part of the coach’s job. How those players interpret the roles and occupy the spaces on the pitch is the important part. I can’t believe that I actually have to explain this!

    Mancini more or less chose the right players for the Germany match, he did that part right, the problem was everything after that.

  15. Milan Fan

    So many issues with this article. So many things taken out of context to make a point.

    “ Now there are calls for Donnarumma to be dropped, because Italy have so many great alternatives just lining up behind him who are never error-prone, like Alex Meret…”

    Obviously people don’t mean Donnarumma should be dropped permanently. They mean it doesn’t kill him or hurt Italy if another young deserving goalkeeper, like Meret yes, gets a game once in a blue moon, and that would actually do Donnarumma some good. Nobody should feel relaxed and untouchable in the Azzurri jersey, because that’s when catastrophe strikes. Players need to be on their toes, always, to perform their best. Now is that really so wrong?

    There are always ridiculous people who took things out of too far, but all criticism is not hysterical after the biggest trashing in like 50 years for a team.So, yeah. Calling all the concerned (rightly) fans brats is a lazy way to look at things imo.

  16. Ale

    brazil, portugal, Argentina, have their natioanl team players playing abroad. How does having more Italians playing in Seria A solve the national team issues? Brazil Port and Arg don’t live by that reasoning

  17. Gmsn1980

    Mancini got the starting 11 wrong. The back 4 was asking for trouble. The midfield had no balance, why were Locatelli and Pessina on the bench?
    Up front it was probably the weakest front 3 Italy have had under Mancini.
    Having said that, the players that were not here are our best, Chiesa, Veratti, Bonucci, Pellegrini, Tonali, so not totally deflated.
    Only thing that does stick out is where are the leaders to replace Chiellini & Bonucci long term? Think that’s what worries me more, when I look at the spine Italy just feel weak.

  18. Milan 93

    Drop Donnarumma and Italy will start doing well again.He is the obstacle to the team..Those that have real eyes saw this.

  19. Tony t

    We can lose 1maybe 2 goals not 5 sorry that’s manger fault you go back to what’s best you shut shop you don’t leave your self open like that , and please send donnaumma to America NFL learn to kick a ball more 3 foot pls I beg you .

  20. True i

    Did England make it to World Cup ???
    I guess the Italians waiting for Ecuador!!
    What a joke Italians become


    Donnarumma is a bad example to talk about when it comes to giving young players a chance as the only reason we has made this far is because he was given a chance, and then having been given a chance to turned his back on the club that nurtured him and is now petulantly hitting out at journalists for asking questions, Looking back it’s hard to see what was so special about Donnarumma and why he was given room to breath at Milan whilst the likes of Calabria, Locatelli and Cutrone had to fight off endless competition.

  22. Gman

    The reaction is because it was a horrible game. For ff you can loose to a superior team, there is no shame in loosing if you show “something” but Italy got humiliated. Get your sh1t right before you post nonsense that we should all accept that and be happy.

  23. Geo

    @Ale, because Italians are not playing anywhere else..that’s why the domestic league plays important role. Go watch Barzil, Argentina, league 95% are local players.. those that play abroad are the “high-end” players. They gave opportunity to young local players sadly the Serie A clubs are not doing. Spanish, Germans and France are promoting their academy players in respective league.Would not be surprise in 2-3 years Italy would be in the level of (no disrespect) Scotland, Ireland, Greece, Bosnia, etc…happy with participating but close to zero of winning major tournaments.. and finally our football team will be the same as our rugby team-whipping boys to the big boys. Sad..

  24. Brandon


    Where do you want them or expect them to play? There are only so many spots and Brazilian are always in high demand. Besides, why should Italians play abroad when they have their own league and can learn from their own coaches.

  25. Brandon

    I don’t know how old you are but in the mid to late 90’s Roberto Di Matteo, national of Italy and Switzerland, declined repeated offers to play for Switzerland. But he was in a jam because he could never get a look at the Italy team while still playing in Switzerland. It wasn’t until he made the jump to Lazio that the Italy team called him.

  26. Brandon

    Willy Ngognto getting a call as an 18 YO and playing in the Swiss League would have NEVER happened as recently as 15 Years ago.

    We lined up a team in the 1994 World Cup Final that heavily repped the 1994 European Cup Winners, Milan, plus Roby Baggio, some good players from a good Parma team. A team loaded with pedigree.

  27. ACM

    Fans will be fans, but the author missed the point completely, going for the usual cliché. Italy have failed to produce a single performance since the Euros, with the same players who won it and then some. And it all happened on Mancini’s watch. It took him a year to ring the bells of change and when he did he fluffed his lines.
    You weren’t blaming the clubs last July, not even after the Macedonia game with your article about how a total rebuild was NOT needed. It’s not like other group teams are perfect, I would take this Italy crop over Germany’s and England’s everyday of the week, players are not the problem.
    We were all behind Mancini when things were going good, and it’s only right to criticize him for an entire year of nothing but decline. Ventura was praised for his days with Torino, and destroyed for his WC campaign. What makes Mancini so special? It’s the same manager who failed to qualify for WC with a Euro winning team.
    His stubbornness to stick with Gorginho on PK and Immobile and now Donna did neither them nor the team any good, but here we are.
    Suddenly a total rebuild is needed, 5 games wasted with numerous changes, an acquired sense of inferiority and not a hint of a plan, where is the progress?
    No one on Italy’s side learned anything from those experiments so far, and I doubt he did either, so before u ask for patience, show us some hope, a plan, something, not a continuation of the decline.
    I really think he could’ve walked away with many more points and a plan for the future, not what looked like a bunch of players on vacation.

  28. Bianconero

    Yes Mancini has had a bad year. But he was only a penalty away from qualifying. Plus he had 3 very good years securing Italys first trophy in 15 years.

    This is a time of renewal. He has earned the right to build a team for the next euros and to breed young talent. But clubs need to do more to breed young talent. Spain and Germany are leagues to look at as they have better stadiums and invest more in young talent.

  29. JEZ

    Look for all the excuses you need, but the players are not good enough and that it.
    I don’t blame Mancini the poor guy gets ridiculed for not changing then when he does change he gets equally as much [email protected]#t.
    He got rid of a fair few players who needed to go, people saying he should have changed things after Euros are mad. Why would you change something that was working. Once things looked like a real deline he started changing BUT if you have change good players for what is obviously average [at best] players what do you expect the guy to do.
    There is no replacing Chiellini and Bonucci. Attack has always been rubbish and no we don’t need Balotelli. The change need to happen in Serie A if it doesn’t then cheer this lot and stop moaning or don’t watch them at all becuase results like this will be more frequent.

  30. mario

    grow up italy fans

  31. Marazico

    As the old saying goes “A week is a long time in football.” …Let alone 12 months or Euro 24 which is the next major tournament,
    Italy has the talent & always has, as proven at Euro 20. The current problem is only 33% Italian players in Serie A. This doesn’t help with depth, as proven by failing to qualify for the World Cup. Italy have also proven they can bounce back from not qualifying for a WC so that’s Italian football full of contradictions criticisms failings, glory and great victories

  32. Ricky

    Interestingly, history shows that Italy win when expectations are low and tend to fail when they are high.
    As for Donnarumma, his form has dipped badly in the last year. He clearly made an error in judgement in forcing his move, attached to conditions that only a few clubs in the world could meet. His reactions to high profile errors show he is struggling with the pressure of the situation. Pressure that started with the way he forced his move and the way he dealt with it. There was something really childish in the way he seemed to expect none of his former fans to have a problem with it. Also quite revealing how when he saved a tournament winning penalty at the Euros he didn’t even realise what had happened.

  33. GIAN

    Ale, the reasons that Brazil, Argentina and Portugual have there players playing abroad is the exact reason some man foreigners come to Italy and want to play in Italy and it is not only about money, we have better coaching than most countries, we are at the top of coaching and their players come here and learn and progress while our players get demoted to the bench or Serie B or worse. We need more Italians starting in Serie A and bringing in less foreigners while we have capable Italians that will do the same job or better playing in Serie B or on the bench because the foreigners are noticable and marketing because they play for their national teams.

  34. Pippo

    @Ricky….u said it all. Bravo Azzurri. Forza Rossoneri!!

  35. ACM

    Ok you’re right, it’s all the clubs’ fault, which means Hungary have a better league than Italy because -unlike us- they managed to humiliate England and not lose 5-2 to Germany with a manager that I had never heard of, France also have a better league having won a WC that we couldn’t even reach, Frattesi is better than Barella, Cristanti is better than Locatelli, Berrardi is better than Chiesa and Immobile is better than a red card, and the same team that easily beat Belgium can’t even beat Bulgaria. Clubs decided to bench Italy’s better players in WC qualifiers and picked PK takers and insisted that buildup has to to through Donnarumma’s legs. Clubs also decided that players like Politano, Dimarco, Darmian and Zappacosta shouldn’t get a sniff since Palmieri, Berardi and Di Lorenzo are untouchable.

  36. JEZ

    Azzurri have been in decline for years. True Italian fans are shocked and will forever be shocked at how we were able to win Euros. Italy come good in chaos and chaotic situations. The fact Euro 2020 was played in 2021 is about the start of it really!
    Italy pulled togther in the Euros, freak results with great team spirit. You expect your goalscorers to score ours don’t [didn’t]. In the qualifying stages for WC the weakness showed, midfielders and defenders can only cover the cracks and weaknesses for so long.
    There are no ifs, buts or maybes serie A is to blame and thats it. The fact [based on a previous article] raspadori is apparently a top commodity with 10 goals in 36 should tell you the state of Italian football! Top that with people still calling for Balotelli really does ice the cake of the point i am trying to make.
    Mancini can only pick from whats currently palying and most of that is AVARAGE at best. The odd decent player can only be replaced by a below standard alternative.

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