Why was Moise Kean not called up for the European Championships?

The disappointment of Moise Kean’s failure to call up for the European Championships is a lot like the feeling you get when the team we support sells our favorite player, or maybe the youngster we immediately fell in love with – or the veteran with five hundred appearances behind him, it depends on tastes. While Paris Saint-Germain let the world know that they will try to buy Kean’s card outright and Everton shoots high – around 40 million euros – with requests, Italy decides that it can do without the striker born in 2000 in Vercelli. You cannot weigh the call-ups only with numbers, but those of Kean with PSG are a good starting point to understand what the Italian coach has given up for the continental tournament: 41 seasonal appearances, of which 22 as a starter in Ligue 1 and four as a starter in the Champions League; he has scored 17 goals in all competitions, and among these there is also a beautiful one scored against Barcelona in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.

The season that has just ended is – it must be, in some way – a watershed in Kean’s career, the passage to a next phase in which he is no longer just a promise to wait for a bright future, rather a striker or otherwise a player. ready to compete at the highest levels of European football. In short, Moise Kean is already the present. And this year, in Paris, he was able to prove it also thanks to two coaches like Thomas Tuchel and Mauricio Pochettino: both considered him a ready player from the start, not the star of the team or the ultimate weapon, but certainly an important element of a very high level squad. After the match played against Manhester United, penultimate round of the Champions League days, Tuchel had explained the use of the Italian forward from the first minute: “In my opinion today it was practically impossible to find spaces between the lines, which is the best gift of Angel Di María. So we wanted to go and attack depth, which is what Moise does better than Moise. It is not a rejection for Di María, Kean simply has different characteristics ». It is evident that Tuchel has put Kean on the same level as another attacking player, who then is Angel Di María, and not just anyone, he adds further meaning to the thing. Three months later, in March, Pochettino had used other words to express the same concept after the victory at Lyon: «Icardi didn’t play but he had been important in previous matches. Today was Kean’s turn, and he too was important ». Another coach, another round, the same evaluation. Or rather: same comparison with another great player.

There are no more doubts: this year Kean has become a forward real in a great team. His impact on the game was considerable, although not necessarily measurable with the numbers of goals scored, assists or other numbers that end up on the scoreboard. His is always a vertical, electric game, a source of energy for the attack, both in the shots in depth and in the ball-and-foot conduction. He is still an incomplete player but able to affect a match in several ways: he can occupy different portions of the field and have different assignments and tasks based on the opponent, other teammates, the needs of the coach. He can play in tandem with another striker like Icardi or act as a center of gravity for a raider like Mbappè, or maybe move from outside – the role in which Mancini used him in the national team – or even become the finalizer of a team that builds his actions starting from the movements towards the center of Neymar and Di Maria. Then there are, as is normal, some limitations, some blind spots: Kean, for example, gets into trouble if he has to receive and clean uncomfortable balls back to goal, perhaps with a defender able to balance his physical strength ( see the excellent performances of Upamecano on him in Leipzig-Psg in the Champions League group); and if he cannot move freely in search of a clod away from traffic, he seems to drown in spaces that are too narrow for him.

Here, identifying the things in which Moise Kean does not excel means drawing those boundaries necessary to understand why Roberto Mancini has not included him in the Italian national team, what is or is not in Moise Kean who convinced the coach to call someone other. Because Mancini’s choice is certainly not like that – imaginative and undesirable – of a Deschamps who decides to leave Mbappè at home, or a Southgate that he prefers to do without Kane. If Mancini has chosen to bet on other players, and he has done so despite the increased squad of up to 26 players, there is certainly a reason. Maybe there is more than one. Meanwhile, we do not have all the information that the coach had at our disposal, so there could be missing elements in the equation, or other imponderable variables: it may be for example that Kean’s physical condition was not up to expectations, that the positivity to Covid of March has left a few too many aftermaths, or perhaps the ballot was won by other players – not necessarily the two strikers Immobile and Belotti, but also the external players or the wild card Raspadori – considered more suitable for the national team.

After all Mancini has always focused on a hard core of players who have been confirmed over and over again, but he has also enlarged the jerseys, summoning several players in turn who have been tested in the Italian game system. In this sense, Kean – who played a few hundred minutes in the blue scattered between November 2018 and last week’s match against San Marino – was perhaps the one who guaranteed less certainty. Furthermore, the choices in attack would also seem rather schematic, therefore logical, in some way: Immobile is the reference center forward, Belotti the reserve; Insigne and Chiesa the offensive outsiders, with Berardi and Bernardeschi ready to take over. And then there is Raspadori. In this way Mancini’s plan B is made up of players who are all certain quantities, perfectly defined figures within the starting 4-3-3.

Moise Kean grew up in Juventus and played for PSG in the last season, but in reality his card belongs to Everton, who took him from the bianconeri in the summer of 2019; in total, he has played 119 professional matches with club teams, scoring 33 goals; with Italy’s senior national team, he scored two goals in nine appearances (Catherine Ivill / POOL / AFP via Getty Images)

But perhaps precisely for this reason a breaking element like Moise Kean, a striker with characteristics and peaks different from all the others, could have had a role in this team, even if only as an alternative. After all, we are talking about a unique piece in Italy’s striker park: the two center-forwards called by Mancini – Immobile and Belotti – in recent years have shown that they are the best Italian strikers in Serie A, but at the same time they have never really been decisive. in blue jersey. Compared to them, Kean would also be a tactical alternative, an added value: when there is a closed defense to move, perhaps attracting the central players to more external positions, Immobile and Belotti lack characteristics such as those of the PSG attacker. , which moreover would also have greater ability to resolve a stalemate with an individual play.

In addition, as mentioned before, Kean could also represent an extra option for the role of winger, a variation on the theme above all with respect to the other two reserves for the two slots: Berardi and Bernardeschi are outsiders used to moving mainly to the right looking at the center of the field rather than taking care of the attack of the depth, players at ease if they can receive the ball in the feet to recycle possession and manage, rather than accelerate, the offensive action. In this context, Kean would really have been a novelty, he could have represented a significant variable in a tournament in which a certain amount of unpredictability – not just technical, also tactical and athletic – can make all the difference in the world.