Italy coach Roberto Mancini said Wednesday that his new striker Mateo Retegui reminded him of Argentina great Gabriel Batistuta, as the Tigre forward prepares for a possible Azzurri debut against England.
Mancini’s side kick off the defence of their European title in Naples on Thursday and hinted that Argentina-born Retegui could make his first appearance for his new national team after being called up for the first time for the opening Group C qualifier.
“I don’t want to exaggerate but he reminds me a bit of Batistuta when he arrived in Italy… he’s a young man, he needs to get to know his teammates, and that’s not easy,” Mancini told reporters.
“I don’t think it’s very easy to come to Italy, and not to a club, but to the national team. We’ve got a lot of faith in him but we need to give him a bit of time.”
Mancini is in the middle of the second rebuild of his five-year tenure as Italy coach after failing to lead his team to last year’s World Cup.
His team have an impressive recent record against England, who Italy beat to win the last European Championship and then relegated from the top tier of the Nations League last year.
“We want to return to the same level that we had winning the Euro and that depends on us and our desire to do so,” said Mancini.
“We’ve gone from the joy of winning the Euro to a huge disappointment of not making the World Cup… We’ll go again tomorrow with a great desire to qualify for the next Euro.”
Thursday’s match is the first without the late Gianluca Vialli on the Italy staff, and the team will have a message dedicated to the former Sampdoria, Juventus and Chelsea striker inside their kit.
Vialli, who died in January at the age of 58 following a long battle with pancreatic cancer, was Mancini’s best friend and long-time strike partner in their playing days at Sampdoria in the 1980s and 1990s.
“It’s emotional because it’s the first time without Luca. We were very lucky to have had him, me as a teammate and then with the national team,” said Mancini.
“You know what kind of person he was. Obviously it’s very sad but someone like him will always be with us, kind of immortal. He’ll always be with us.”
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