Former Italian Football Federation President Carlo Tavecchio claims that he almost managed to convince Juventus and Argentina forward Paulo Dybala to play international football with Italy.
The talented forward is a dual national and was eligible to represent either Argentina or Italy at international level as he had not represented either country in a competitive international fixture during Tavecchio's tenure.
Dybala has always made clear his desire to play for Argentina, informing Antonio Conte of this fact when the former Italy coach tried to persuade Dybala to declare for Italy ahead of Euro 2016, but Tavecchio insists things were different behind the scenes.
Speaking to Il Messaggero (via football-italia.net) Tavecchio said “[FIFA President Gianni] Infantino invited me to the World Cup final.
“I’m supporting Argentina, they’re half Italian and Dybala plays for them. I was almost able to convince him to play with us."
The former President then reflected on Italy's failure to qualify for the World Cup finals which commenced on the 14th June in Russia, and believes that had Dybala and Balotelli been included in the squad, Italy would be present at the tournament.
"With him and [Mario] Balotelli it would have been a different story, I sent [former Italy manager] Ventura to Nice. He [Balotelli] had recovered after Brazil, but nothing. Italy hasn’t produced a striker like him in years and we play without him, it’s crazy.
“Now [Roberto] Mancini starts with him. We’d surely have beaten Sweden with Mario on the pitch, even if today we’re struggling against Saudi Arabia.
“He [Mario] is above all an Italy fan, I know what the Azzurri mean to him. He’d definitely have scored a goal.”
Italy finished second in Group G of World Cup qualification behind Spain, meaning they advanced into the play-offs where they were beaten by Sweden, who triumphed over South Korea in their opening World Cup game, to the last spot at the World Cup.