On the eve of Italy's Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, 2006 World Cup winner Gennaro Gattuso has joined his AC Milan colleague Andrea Pirlo in bemoaning a lack of quality in the Azzurri's ranks.
Italy were humbled at the World Cup when exiting at the group stage at the hands of Paraguay and Slovakia and hope that the appointment of new coach Cesare Prandelli will herald a change in fortunes for a side that has not won in seven games in 2010.
But though Gattuso believes Prandelli is right to depend on Manchester City youngster Mario Balotelli and Sampdoria's enfant terrible Antonio Cassano when possible, the midfielder is concerned about a lack of young talent coming through the ranks.
"Prandelli's code of ethics is right," Gattuso told La Repubblica. "No group in any sector can go anywhere without rules. The first thing to do is gain the respect of the other.
"The national team doesn't lack a leader. Pirlo can drag people on the pitch and he is very good in the dressing room. And if a leader is someone who assumes responsibility, [Daniele] De Rossi is a born leader.
"Cassano and Balotelli aren't overvalued, but the essential thing is that they both put themselves at the service of the team and not the opposite. The problem is that you can count talented players on your fingers in Italy: Balotelli, perhaps [Sebastian] Giovinco and Cassano is no longer 20.
"They blame the foreigners, but there are other Leagues who have many more foreigners than ours."
Prandelli started his reign with a 1-0 friendly defeat to Ivory Coast but his competitive campaign starts with a trip to Estonia on Friday. Italy then face Faroe Islands at home on Tuesday in their second qualifier and the coach hopes the Azzurri start in style.
"We're at the start of a new era," Prandelli said. "My idea is try and win via our performance. We've got to squash these negative thoughts. The idea of not having won in a year could weigh down the squad."