With the 2015 MLS MVP award to his name and eight goals in the opening 12 games of the current campaign, Toronto FC forward Sebastian Giovinco could have been forgiven for thinking he stood a good chance of being a part of Italy's squad for the upcoming Euro 2016 tournament.
However, when, on Monday, Italy manager Antonio Conte announced his initial 30 man squad for the tournament, the former Juventus man was nowhere to be seen.
Giovinco's omission came as a shock to those who have been paying close attention to his excellent performances in Major League Soccer but, by the sounds of Conte's explanation for his decision, it is the very fact the 29-year-old is playing in the North American league that has led to him missing out.
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According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, via Fox Sports, the soon-to-be Chelsea manager was far from complimentary about MLS when discussing his decision to leave out both Giovinco and the 37-year-old Andrea Pirlo, who currently plays for New York City FC:
"I spoke to Andrea, I needed to hear from him and we sent people to the US,” Conte said.
“Nothing was left to chance. We evaluated [Pirlo] and Giovinco, it’s normal that if you choose to go and play MLS then you can pay the consequences in footballing terms."
The U.S.'s top domestic league has, for years, had a reputation as something of a retirement league - a chance for ageing stars to play at a lower standard than the European leagues.
And, while the arrival of Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Pirlo did little to change that perception, Giovinco's arrival before his 30th birthday was thought to be a sign that the league was improving its reputation.
Unfortunately for the Toronto star, despite his excellent performances over the past 12 months or so, his manager at international level is yet to be convinced that his opponents offer quite the same challenge as he may get elsewhere.
“We evaluated them technically, we didn’t leave anything to chance. Anyone who thinks otherwise is wrong, we went everywhere to have clear and precise ideas," continued Conte.
"I picked the 30 who I think will give me the most guarantees.”
The comments are pretty terrible PR for the league at a time where they are looking to grow their reputation.
Whether or not it will force Giovinco to contemplate his future in Toronto remains to be seen, but they won't exactly convince many other young European players with international aspirations to sign with MLS franchises over offers in their own continent.
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