Roberto Mancini claims Italy have 'four or five' teenage midfielders as good as Jude Bellingham
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Italy manager Roberto Mancini believes the country currently has 'four or five' midfielders as good as England teenager Jude Bellingham.
The 19-year-old impressed at the World Cup, putting in a string of fine performances as Gareth Southgate's side reached the quarter-finals in Qatar.
Bellingham scored in Group B victory over Iran and ran the show against Senegal in the round of 16. He's become a standout player at Borussia Dortmund, playing every minute of every Bundesliga game this term.
Should he choose to leave Signal Iduna Park this summer, he'll have a host of Europe's top clubs lined up to secure his signature. Liverpool, Real Madrid, Manchester City and Manchester United have been linked in recent months.
Mancini isn't convinced Bellingham is head and shoulders above other players in his age range, however. The former Inter Milan boss claimed there are several midfielders in his home nation who rival Bellingham's ability.
Why does he think they're not praised as much? Because clubs in Italy don't let teenagers play at the 'highest level' immediately.
Speaking at an event announcing the FIGC and Adidas' partnership, Mancini explained per Calcio Mercato: "It’s not true that there’s lack of talent in Italy, that we don’t have a Bellingham. We have many Bellinghams, at least 4 or 5.
Interestingly, it's an opinion Pep Guardiola had of former Arsenal midfielder Jack Wilshere when he burst onto the scene 11 years ago.
A teenage Wilshere ran the show against Barcelona in the Champions League en route to a 2-1 victory. He received plaudits from supporters and pundits alike, which Guardiola didn't seem to understand.
He dismissed the idea a 19-year-old Wilshere was anything out of the ordinary, remarking there were players as good as him in the Catalan giants' academy.
He admitted: "Wilshere is a top player. He is an excellent player, not just Arsenal, but also for the national team.
"[But] he is lucky because we have many players in the second team like him but he plays because there is no pressure at his club to win titles."
Wilshere ended up winning two FA Cups with the Gunners but failed to live up to his massive potential. Following spells with West Ham United, Bournemouth and Danish outfit AGF, he retired in 2022.
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Topics: Jude Bellingham, England, Roberto Mancini