Son of Argentina loyal to the Azzurri

Paddy Agnew Column Revenge, Italians like to say, is a meal best served cold

Paddy Agnew ColumnRevenge, Italians like to say, is a meal best served cold. If that is the case, then the talented 26-year-old Italo-Argentinian Mauro Germano Camoranesi will be having a feast this week.

Tomorrow night, the Juventus midfielder is due to make a controversial debut for Italy, lining out for Giovanni Trapattoni's side against Portugal in a friendly in Genoa. The controversy, of course, is linked to Camoranesi's nationality.

Camoranesi is Argentinian born and bred (in Tandil on October 4th, 1976). Yet, under a ruling that needs no explanation to Irish fans, he can also claim Italian citizenship since his great-grandfather, Luigi Camoranesi, came from the village of Potenza Picenza, near the Renaissance town of Urbino in the Marche region.

Shortly after his arrival in Italian football in the summer of 2000, Camoranesi, like many other South American footballers of Italian origin before him, opted for an Italian passport to avail of the advantages of being considered a European Union citizen and therefore not subject to the restrictive quotas applied to non-EU players.


In truth, some of his predecessors, such as Juan Sebastian Veron (when he was with Lazio) and Inter Milan's Uruguayan Alvaro Recoba, did not have quite such a bona fide Italian lineage as Camoranesi. Some of them subsequently fell foul of the Italian Football League's disciplinary body, with Recoba, for example, being given a one-year suspension (subsequently reduced) for having presented "false documentation".

What made Camoranesi different from his predecessors was the fact he was an uncapped player. While Brazilians such as World Cup-winner Cafu and veteran Aldair might have claimed Italian citizenship for cynical short-term purposes, they remained Brazilian internationals.

Camoranesi, however, is different. He never made it at the top level in Argentina, reaching only Division Three before emigrating via Mexico, Uruguay and Mexico again on his way to joining Verona in 2000.

Camoranesi was certainly no prophet in his homeland in his early days, but even more galling was that his subsequent success in Serie A went largely unnoticed in Argentina.

Last December, Trapattoni offered him an Italian cap. After thinking about it for a month, Camoranesi agreed. In a frank statement on Sunday, he explained he had not travelled through a dark night of the soul in choosing between Italy and Argentina.

"Argentina never came looking for me, so I never had to choose," he said. "One day Trapattoni called me. I thought his offer over and made up my mind almost two months ago to accept it. I remain an Argentinian, but this is a golden opportunity for my career."

There have been some, such as compatriot Gabriel Batistuta, Inter goalkeeper Francesco Toldo, Paolo Maldini and Juventus team-mate Alessio Tacchinardi, who have accused him of a cynical betrayal of his roots.

Camoranesi will be the 16th Italo-Argentinian to play for Italy, while he will be the 35th "foreigner" of Italian origin to line out for the Azzurri (in the past Brazilians and Uruguayans as well as one Swiss, one Paraguayan, one US citizen and one Scotsman have played for Italy). Remember, too, that Argentinians such as Orsi, Monti and Guaita played a key role in Italy's 1934 World Cup triumph.

Camoranesi has had a ready answer for his critics this week. He says simply he "owes" more to Italian football than to Argentinian football. The cold dish of revenge has been served.