Amauri: A man without a country
The Juventus star could play for Italy or Brazil at the World Cup
More than anything else, Juventus star Amauri wants to play at the 2010 World Cup.
But whether or not he will get the chance to participate in soccer's showcase event - and which national team, if any, will afford him the opportunity to go to South Africa - remains to be seen.
Amauri is man without a country.
Born and bred in Brazil, Amauri, or Amauri Carvalho de Oliveira which is his full name, is regarded as one of the top strikers in Serie A (the Italian first division), a fact underlined by the $35.7-million Cdn transfer fee that Juventus had to pay Palermo in 2008 to procure the services of the tall and lithe striker.
But the Brazilian national team has not availed itself of the talented Amauri, and the Juventus hit man has never appeared for his country in international competition. Brazil coach Carlos Dunga did call up the 29-year-old to play in an exhibition match against Italy in February, but Juventus refused to release him.
Brazil hasn't officially closed the door on calling up Amauri for the World Cup, but the fact that he wasn't used in the team's South American qualifying campaign does appear to be a clear indication from Dunga that the Juventus star won't be donning Brazil's famous yellow jersey in South Africa.
To that end, Amauri, who has lived in Italy for over five years and has a wife with an Italian passport, has applied for Italian citizenship. Once granted an Italian passport, Amauri would be eligible to play for the Azzurri.
Before FIFA tightened the rules, players were able to represent more than one country in international competition.
During the 1930s, several of Argentina's biggest stars played in Serie A, the Italian first division. Italian national team manager Vittorio Pozzo seized the opportunity and extended invitations to Raimundo Orsi, Enrique Guaita and Luis Monti - all born in Argentina, but with Italian roots - to play for the Azzurri in the 1934 World Cup.
Although criticized by some, Pozzo defended his use of the oriundi (an Italian word used to describe foreign-born national team members of Italian ancestry) by famously saying, "If they can die for Italy, they can play for Italy," a reference to Italian conscription.
It proved a wise decision, as all three were pivotal in helping Italy win the World Cup on home soil: Orsi scored three times (including the tying goal in the final), Guaita netted the winner in the semifinals, and Monti (who represented Argentina at the 1930 World Cup) proved a defensive dynamo in midfield.
Other national teams have also recently used foreign-born players with ties to the country, most notably England (Calgary-born Owen Hargreaves), Portugal (Deco, born in Brazil) and Croatia (Brazil's Eduardo da Silva)
But even if he does receive Italian citizenship in time for the World Cup, there is no guarantee that Amauri will be on the plane to South Africa. Although the Italian sports media has campaigned for Amauri's inclusion in the squad, the man whose opinion matters most, national team coach Marcello Lippi, appears to be less than convinced.
"Lippi has never come out and said he would definitely try him out," Paddy Agnew, a Rome-based journalist and noted Italian soccer expert, told CBCSports.ca.
Working against Amauri has been his inconsistent play over the past 10 months - his recent outburst of four goals in three games for Juventus ended a scoring drought that dated back to February. There's also the question if it would be fair to bring Amauri to South Africa, considering the Brazilian played no role in helping the Azzurri qualify for the World Cup.
"He hasn't been at the top of his form the last few months, but the other consideration is ... are you really going to bring in a guy who didn't play at all in the qualifiers?" Agnew said.
Because there are only five spots on the roster for strikers, someone would have to be left at home in order to make room for Amauri, and that could lead to disharmony in the Italian camp.
"Do you bring Amauri instead of Alberto Gilardino or Vincenzo Iaquinta? If I were one of those two guys I'd be pissed off because Gilardino was Italy's best player in the last two qualifiers and Iaquinta is one of Italy's best strikers," Agnew explained.
Amauri's chances of playing for Brazil in South Africa appear less likely.
"He's a player who's made his career abroad. When he left here he was totally unknown. It's only since he joined Juventus and since he's wavered as to whether he will play for Italy or Brazil that that's given him more press coverage," Tim Vickery, a Rio-based journalist and South American soccer expert, told CBCSports.ca.
Because Brazil has a dearth of attacking players and coach Dunga tends to use a 4-2-3-1 formation with only one striker, chances are the Selecao won't lose any sleep if Amauri is called up by Italy.
"From a purely cold, rational point of view, there's no real reason for Brazil to pick Amauri," Vickery stated.
"Luis Fabiano is scoring goal after goal after goal. There's only one out-and-out striker that they often pick, so places are limited anyway and there are plenty of quality reserves. There are lot of strikers who are there to knock on the door, so without any real constituency at home, it's difficult to see how Amauri can force his way on the team."
The Italian national team has a history of deputizing foreign-born players dating back to the 1934 World Cup. More recently, Argentine-born Juventus midfielder Mauro Camoranesi was granted Italian citizenship due to ancestral ties, and won the 2006 World Cup with the Azzurri.
But the moral question of using players born in other countries - a practice employed by other national teams, not just Italy - splits opinion amongst Italian soccer fans.
"Every now and again you see public polls in the newspapers and if you ask Italians should the national team be made up of only Italian born and bred players, the majority of people say yes, but it's a narrow majority," Agnew explained
"It happens in a lot of other countries, so there's this thought of why should we be any different? But others argue that whereas, say, Croatia and Ireland need all the help they can get, Italy, surely, with the big pool of players we have here, don't need to do this."