Italy are taking heart from the promise England have begun to demonstrate as they look to transform their fortunes following their inability to qualify for the summer’s World Cup.
The 2006 world champions are experiencing a similar decline to the one England are attempting to recover from, and which most recently meant they missed out on qualification for Russia 2018.
With that failure following elimination at the group stages in 2010 and 2014 and leading to the sacking of manager Giampiero Ventura, that they are yet to recruit a successor and lost 2-0 to Argentina on Friday means their mood remains downbeat.
Carlo Ancelotti, Claudio Ranieri, Roberto Mancini, Chelsea’s Antonio Conte and caretaker manager Luigi Di Biagio remain in contention to be appointed permanently – one is expected by May 20 – and England have since become an unlikely source of hope.
Gianluigi Buffon, a link to Italy’s success in 2006, is also expected to soon retire in circumstances similar to those their hosts in Tuesday’s friendly at Wembley experienced when moving on from their so-called ‘Golden Generation’.
The World Cup hopes of Gareth Southgate’s team have since become reliant on the youth and promise of Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli, and the Italians’ decorated defender Leonardo Bonucci, 30, said: “We are playing against a team that managed to undergo change very well. They are a very talented group of young players who have a lot of international experience.
“We have many young players who have less international experience. Also the level of Serie A: we play less in Europe and get less experience than the Premier League.
“We need enthusiasm but we need to see things for what they are. We are undergoing a major change and we cannot be expected to start winning straight away.
“We have the possibility to create problems for this English team.
“We have a much younger team with not much international experience. You cannot compare our players born in 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997 compared to the England players born in the same years.
“These friendlies are useful for the younger players to manage games. People need to understand that patience is the key. We need to let young players grow and hopefully they will take us back to the Italy we were used to.”
In a further sign of change, the 19-year-old Gianluigi Donnarumma — long considered Buffon’s natural successor — will start at Wembley, and Bonucci added: “He is very young and we need to give him space to grow. He’s very good but only 19. We should just let him achieve his potential. I will do all I can to lead this group of players.”
Di Biagio, 46, encountered Southgate at the 2015 Under-21 European Championship, where Italy’s 3-1 defeat of England ensured Southgate’s team were eliminated at the group stage, and he added: “England have about five top level players who can easily hurt us.
“Some players pick up knocks (against Argentina). It will be at the very least three or four changes.”