Lorenzo Insigne will be in the spotlight as Italy return to the San Siro for Saturday’s Nations League clash against the European champions Portugal 12 months after their dramatic failure to qualify for the World Cup finals for the first time in 60 years.
Relegated to the bench by former coach Gian Piero Ventura for the entire second leg of the play-off lost to Sweden, the Napoli winger did not play a direct role in Italy’s humiliating exit.
A year on and the versatile 27-year-old has become an integral part of the new Italy side being built by coach Roberto Mancini, which is fighting for a place in the Nation’s League semi-finals.
Insigne has started five of the seven games Mancini has overseen two wins against Saudi Arabia and Poland and three draws.
“It hurts to think about it. More than the bench that evening, it hurts me to think that didn’t qualify,” said Insigne.
But despite his goal-scoring form with Napoli seven in 12 league games this season — Insigne has struggled to deliver on the same scale for the national team.
Saturday’s match, to be played on front of a capacity crowd of 70,000 at the San Siro, will be Insigne’s 30th, but he has scored just four goals in six years and is still waiting for a first under Mancini.
“In the national team we meet once a month so it is more difficult (to replicate club form),” he explained.
“I think it’s normal to do better for your club, in Naples we have been the same team for the past three years, even though was have changed coach.”
His seven goals this season are also the result of being moved closer to the strikers by Napoli coach Carlo Ancelotti.