National team boss pays Leeds United man compliment after revealing reason for squad omission

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Italy manager Luciano Spalletti has revealed Leeds United forward Willy Gnonto would have been included in his senior international squad this month had it not been for a specific set of circumstances.

Spalletti did not select 20-year-old Gnonto in his Azzurri squad for friendlies against Venezuela and Ecuador this month, citing the Under-21s' need to qualify for next summer's European Championship as the reason for Gnonto's absence at senior level.

Instead, the Leeds youngster has been included in Carmine Nunziata's Under-21 group, who will contest important qualification games versus Latvia and Turkey. Gli Azzurini are unbeaten in U21 Euro qualifying during this current cycle and currently sit top of their group but only by a single point, tailed by the Republic of Ireland in the standings. Gnonto was crucial for the 21s during November's international break, scoring four times against San Marino and the Irish as Italy recorded a 7-0 win over the minnows but relied on Gnonto's brace, including a stoppage time equaliser, to secure a 2-2 draw against Ireland.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The team can ill afford a slip-up against Latvia or Turkey with Norway trailing group leaders Italy by two points, while only one country is capable of qualifying for the final tournament automatically as group winners.

“[Riccardo] Calafiori would have been with us if there hadn't been the U21 team, which must qualify, as well as Gnonto and [Cesare] Casadei," Spalletti told reporters ahead of the side's meeting with Venezuela on Thursday.

Gnonto's absence from the senior squad is likely to please Leeds boss Daniel Farke, on account of the significant travel Spalletti and his players will undergo this week and next. Both friendlies against South American nations Venezuela and Ecuador take place in the United States, first at Fort Lauderdale's Chase Stadium in Florida, followed by an appearance at New York City's Red Bulls Arena three days later, several hundred miles up the US's Eastern Seaboard. By comparison, Italy's U21 Euro qualifiers this month are on home turf in Cesena and Ferrara.

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.