Italy fans are unhappy that Brazilian-born Italian Thiago Motta has been handed the highly revered number 10 jersey ahead of Euro 2016.
Motta, once of Barcelona, a 2010 Treble winner with Jose Mourinho’s Inter and currently of Paris Saint-Germain, is in coach Antonio Conte’s squad. That has already upset some fans because of his age and lack of pace. But the real issue is that the 33-year-old will be wearing the sacred No 10.
Social media and the press wasted no time pointing out that this jersey was once graced by legends Gianni Rivera, Roberto Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero and Francesco Totti. Entertainers Nicola Berti and Antonio Cassano have also been the No 10 at World Cups.
There was genuine disbelief that Motta, born in Brazil but an Azzurro since 2011, has been given the accolade. He’s a decent, feisty and tactically astute central midfielder, but has as much fantasy as a portion of mashed potato.
The criticism has been unforgiving. Some cheeky keyboard warriors claim the number is his top speed in kilometres per hour. Team-mate Daniele De Rossi defended the PSG enforcer, saying: ‘Those teasing Thiago on the web should come and try and beat him at kick-ups. Then wash their mouths out. Thiago has won everything and has experience at international level.’
Walter Zenga, who played in goal for the Azzurri at the 1990 World Cup was blunt: ‘We have been talking about a player’s number for two days. This is a country of crazy people.’ Injuries are another reason for concern about the four-times world champions’ midfield.
Bright young hope Marco Verratti, also of PSG, misses out due to a groin operation. Claudio Marchisio, the blue-eyed boy of the Italian media, is also absent. The Juventus man damaged knee ligaments in the spring.