Lazio coach Maurizio Sarri said Friday that striker Ciro Immobile has become the “scapegoat” for Italy’s failure to qualify for a second consecutive World Cup finals and claimed Serie A is “30 or 40 years behind” continental rivals.
“He is becoming the scapegoat for this situation. If I were him, I know what I’d do,” Sarri said, seeming to suggest the international should quit the national side.
Italy’s 1-0 defeat to North Macedonia deprived the four-time world champions of a place in the World Cup fianls in Doha later this year.
“He shouldn’t worry excessively. He must focus on Lazio,” Sarri told a press conference ahead of this weekend’s Serie A match at home against Sassuolo.
“I didn’t find him down, I have confidence in him,” the former Chelsea and Juventus coach continued of the 32-year-old who is joint top scorer in Serie A with 21 goals.
Immobile and Napoli winger Lorenzo Insigne bore the brunt of criticism after the reigning European champions’ defeat in Palermo.
Sarri was also alarmed at the level of Italian football after this elimination.
“If you watch the Premier League and the Bundesliga on TV, Serie A seems to be 30 or 40 years behind,” he said.
“When I talk about the state of the pitch, I come across as someone who never stops complaining. But sending a team onto a pitch that is not good is like sending a surgeon to operate with a rusty scalpel,” he continued.
“We paid for the lack of attention to detail,” he added of the match against Sassuolo whose forward line has two candidates to replace Immobile in the national team — Gianluca Scamacca and Giacomo Raspadori.
Lazio are seventh in Serie A, six points ahead of ninth-placed Sassuolo.