Matteo Politano scored twice against San Marino and had a solid season at Napoli, but Roberto Mancini chose Giacomo Raspadori over him, writes Lorenzo Bettoni.
It wasn’t an easy journey to the top of Italian football for the Rome-born winger who came through the academy of the Giallorossi to eventually join Perugia, Pescara and Sassuolo.
It is a Mapei Stadium where the 28-year-old made a name for himself, scoring 20 goals in 96 appearances with the Neroverdi.
His speed and technical skills convinced Inter to invest €23m to sign him on loan with an obligation to buy. When the Nerazzurri made his move permanent after 48 appearances and six goals under Luciano Spalletti, Antonio Conte had already replaced the Tuscan tactician, and the Nerazzurri had no more space for the attacking winger who thrives in 4-3-3 systems.
Conte’s 3-5-2 formation could not suit Politano and an injury suffered against Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League did not make his time under Conte any better.
In January 2020 he joined Napoli on loan with an option to buy after coming close to joining Roma in a swap deal with Leonardo Spinazzola.
Politano had already moved to the captain and even took a picture with the Giallorossi shirt, but the two clubs failed to agree on the final details of the transfer and his return to the capital collapsed.
However, Politano found a new and perhaps more stable home in Naples.
He played on a regular basis under Gennaro Gattuso, managing nine goals in 37 Serie A appearances. He came off the bench in 15 of them and proved to be one of those players who can have an immediate impact even when not starting, a quality that can be crucial in competitions such as the Euros.
That’s why it was not surprising to see the Napoli winger picked in the Azzurri’s provisional squad. When Mancini cut the team from 33 to 28, Politano was still there but the CT eventually opted to bring Giacomo Raspadori to the Euros. His fate could have been much different if the Italy U21 had qualified for the semis of the U21 European Championship, but Portugal’s win over the Azzurrini also meant the end of Politano’s Euro dreams.