Gianluca Scamacca, could it be you?
Many of Italian football’s most memorable days involve the feats of a great centre forward. Silvio Piola, the top scoring Italian of all time, fired the Azzurri to the 1938 World Cup, as did Paolo Rossi in 1982. Still, strikers have contributed immensely to Italy’s rich footballing tapestry, but their output has fallen off in the modern era.
Is this purely coincidental, a case of too much emphasis placed on other positions? Is it poor management and development of young strikers? Is it the changing nature of the role? A little bit of all three, I think, along with the unrealistic standards of striking beauty from sections of the media and fan worlds. Once Messi and Ronaldo normalised scoring 50 goals a season, being a striker would never be the same.
Each fan, pundit, coach, or whoever will have their view on the ‘last great Italian number nine', but a general consensus appears to be that it was Luca Toni.
If we have no ‘great’ Italian centre forward, then who could be the next Luca Toni? Nobody, really, but someone has to take the mantle of Italy’s number nine. For me, it’s Gianluca Scamacca, but he's some way off the level. He’s a modern take on the traditional centre forward. A big boy with supreme technical skills and ability to attack from deep. His party trick is smashing goals in from anywhere. I can’t pinpoint another centre forward with the ability to consistently score from outside the box.
An entertaining footballer, but one who finds his career at something of a crossroads. I didn’t like his move to West Ham last summer because David Moyes’ track record managing centre forwards had been rather poor to that point, something that didn’t change with Scamacca.
Scamacca was subjected to chasing long balls and wrestling with defenders, rather than playing to his strengths.
Moyes saw a 6ft 5ins striker and thought he’d found himself a continental Andy Carroll, and as such subjected him to a year of chasing long balls and wrestling with defenders, rather than let him play to his strengths. Having missed much of pre-season due to his late move from Sassuolo, it was a little more difficult than it needed to be for him to settle in, made even worse by living in a hotel and struggling to fully connect on a linguistic level with teammates and staff. Combine all this with being made to play hoofball and it’s no wonder Scamacca wanted out.
Despite his July interview with Gazzetta dello Sport in which he batted his eyes at boyhood club Roma, it was Atalanta who came in for him. Gian Piero Gasperini’s record of getting the best from forwards like Luis Muriel, Duvan Zapata and, more recently, Rasmus Hojlund will undoubtedly have stood out when it came to Scamacca making his decision.
Where Luca Toni was the prototypical goalscorer who relied on physique, aerial ability and that sixth sense for finding the net that great forwards have, Scamacca uses his technique and mobility to trouble defenders and link up play. The penalty area was Toni’s domain and Scamacca is arguably at his best outside the box but, at 24, he has time to improve on that front.
Ciro Immobile’s time has been and gone. One of the greatest goalscorers in Serie A history, he couldn’t replicate that form at international level. Still, 17 goals from 57 games isn’t to be scoffed at. Does winning the Euros make up for playing a role in Italy missing consecutive World Cups? For me, it’s a narrow yes, but I’m not Italian.
Perhaps a new era has arrived with Scamacca’s first Azzurri goal against England. Perhaps not, but Italy will need someone to drag them over the line in these big moments. I was momentarily shocked when the commentator announced it was the first time Scamacca had scored for Italy, but I suppose that’s the point of writing this piece. Where have all the good men gone, and where are all the Gods, I ponder.
The best Italian striker in Serie A right now? Quite possibly the one that isn’t ‘Italian’. Mateo Retegui has given Genoa a threat that few promoted sides have ever possessed and offers Italy another option with plenty of potential. It’s not quite Toni, Inzaghi and Gilardino, but it’ll have to do.
TalkSPORT scoffed at Scamacca daring to score against England, after everything that happened with West Ham.
Before Scamacca does anything else, he’s got to get fit, stay fit and score goals for Atalanta. After the brutal mistake of moving to West Ham, his time in Bergamo could, and hopefully should, serve as a rehabilitation required to make up for a year of David Moyes.
His goal at Wembley (predictably) drew the ire of TalkSPORT and the usual suspects, who scoffed at the idea that this ‘£35m flop’ dared to score against England after a whole year of nothing at West Ham, the club who halved Sebastien Haller’s value and whose best striker in over a decade is a failed right-back.
If Scamacca utilises this moment to kickstart a strong year in nerazzurri, then maybe he can start dreaming of taking the Azzurri to World Cup 2026. Luciano Spalletti’s massively revamped side might have found some form by then. Who knows.
Those who proclaimed Luca Toni’s retirement as the death of the great Italian centre forward weren’t doom and gloom merchants, it seems, but maybe there’s hope for the future with Scamacca. Or maybe it’s Retegui. Andrea Pinamonti has time yet. Massimo Coda is still banging them in for Serie B clubs; is 34 too late to bloom? I jest. Unless…
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