Not a simple question and there are probably not a lot of simple answers.
Naturally, there is a wealth of Italian talent in Italy's top-flight so that's where we'll start.
🇮🇹 Local talent
Most of that talent is young and in attacking midfield areas. Federico Chiesa has to be one of the most in-demand players in Europe right now; his father Enrico starred for Italy and Fiorentina, among others, and the 23-year-old is following in his dad's footsteps and threatening to surpass his achievements.
🍝 Who’s the best Italian attacking midfielder in Serie A?— Futaa.com (@Futaacom) October 5, 2021
Federico moved on from Fiorentina and is now arguably the jewel in Juventus' crown, and has proved himself to be a matchwinner on the grandest stages for European champions Italy. Chiesa scurries after lost causes and finishes chances with frightening regularity. Speaking of Italian jewels, Napoli club captain Lorenzo Insigne is already a bona fide club legend at 30 and now he might be dreaming of the Scudetto, with Gli Azzurri making an astonishing 100% start to the season. The little man is calling the tune.
Nicolò Barella's box-to-box abilities have drawn tongue-in-cheek suggestions that he has an extra lung. The Inter man can do pretty much everything you would want a central midfielder to do, including selfless running of the channels and a useful knack of scoring goals in big games. A manager's dream. His strike against Belgium in the Euros was a neat summary of what he can do in the final third.
And we'd be doing Ciro Immobile a disservice if we didn't mention him. 2020's European Golden Shoe winner bagged 36 goals in the 2019-20 Serie A campaign and, although he hasn't gotten off the mark yet this term, it's just a matter of time. A man with 161 goals in 266 career Serie A appearances doesn't just forget where the net is.
🪄 African flair
There were doubts over Franck Kessié and his ability to control games from the centre of the park, but those doubts seem to have evaporated in the past 18 months or so. Kessié was the best player on the pitch when Milan drew 1-1 at Old Trafford in last season's Europa League round of 16, and now he's strutting his stuff where he belongs; in the Champions League. The Ivory Coast and AC Milan have a gem of a player on their hands. And he's still only 24.
Napoli striker Victor Osimhen is starting to justify his hefty price tag by delivering the goods on the pitch. Attackers are judged by their goal returns and the Nigerian has seven goals in eight appearances this season. €70m is a lot of money no matter how you spin it, but all Osimhen can do is continue to put the ball in the net and dream of steering his side to the Scudetto. One of the hottest strikers in the world right now, and his whole career is ahead of him.
💫 South American star quality
Reigning champions Inter have a long and rich tradition when it comes to South American stars and in Lautaro Martínez, they boast the most valuable player in Serie A (according to transfermarkt). Martínez will assume more of the goal-scoring responsibilities now that Romelu Lukaku has moved on, but it's his tigerish fighting spirit that is likely to separate him from the rest and take him to the top of the world game. With Copa América and Serie A titles under his belt, Lautaro will be craving more.
Lautaro's compatriot Paulo Dybala has battled with injuries and consistency, but there can be no doubt about his talent. With Cristiano Ronaldo gone and a new contract on the table, now is Dybala's time to show the world what he is capable of on a consistent basis. He's a wonderful footballer.
🤺 Central defenders
No list of top-quality Serie A players would be remotely accurate without a selection of central defenders, although the old cliche about Serie A being a boring defensive league is truly outdated now. Juventus have struggled to keep clean sheets of late, but they still have Matthijs de Ligt in their ranks, a man who many believe will become one of the best defenders in the world. Juve looks like a better team with the 22-year-old Dutchman in it.
Inter's left-footed Alessandro Bastoni didn't get as much game time as he might have liked at Euro 2020 but that doesn't mean that he's not a massive prospect and at 22, he's set to become part of the furniture for club and country for a decade and more. When Leo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini call time on their brilliant careers, Bastoni is ready.
Kalidou Koulibaly, nicknamed K2 because of his impressive stature, has been a rock for Napoli and remained focused on the job at hand, despite being continually linked with big-money moves to a host of Europe's richer clubs. Easily one of the most consistent centre-backs in Italy, the Senegal man also comes up with big goals in big games when he adds his considerable presence at set-pieces. And when you're speaking about defensive consistency, Slovakia and Inter Milan man Milan Škriniar has to be part of the conversation.
And although they're very much the wrong side of 30, depending on how you look at it, Juventus duo Giorgio Chiellini and Leo Bonucci continue to prove that they're still able to mix it at the top level. Euro 2020 might have been their last ride together for Italy but don't rule them out this season. Juventus needs heroes, and there aren't defenders more heroic than them. Class is permanent, and a recent clean sheet against European champions Chelsea is proof of that.
🃏 Wild cards
North Macedonian playmaker Elif Elmas recently scored the quickest Europa League goal in history, and he showed glimpses of his quality at Euro 2020, although his country's limitations were clear to see. Elmas has just turned 22 and is a key creative spark for Napoli.
Sergej Milinković-Savić has long been thought of as a player capable of turning matches on their head, and the Serbian is starting to produce performances that back up the claims. And don't forget Napoli's Polish midfield dynamo Piotr Zielinski, there's plenty more to come from him.
Who have we left out?
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