There was a time when the Fantasista was the most celebrated player in Italian football... the protagonists, these were the real Gods in Italy, the ones who provided fantasy to the game.... a spark of colour in a sea of black & white, or the artists midst the athletes... Rivera, Mazzola, Baggio, etc - the history of Italian football is not complete without reviewing its legendary "Fantasista". Sadly, not only are the fantasista disappearing from the modern Italian game, its now more like a disease which is destroying the most talented crop of Italian football talent.... a disease called Fantasisitis...

Fantasista (the fantasy player) has been typically employed as the Trequartista in the last few decades... Trequartista (which literally means "three quarters" in Italian) is a role of a creative playmaker who plays in the "hole" between your midfield and attack (ie three-quarters up the pitch). In the last few decades, Azzurri sides were built around their trequartista... whether it be Baggio, Zola, Del Piero or Totti, this is where the Italian national side got most of its fantasy from... The regista, a deep lying half brother to the fantasista, being the other role which provides creativity. But while the regista has flourished in the modern Italian game, which Pirlo making this role his own for most part of last decade, the fantasista is becoming more of an endangered species...

Last summer, the inconcievable happened... the Italian squad in the World Cup lacked any players who could play as a trequatista... there was NO FANTASISTA! Not that the Italians have stopped producing such players (we have all heard/screamed arguements about how Totti/Cassano/Miccoli/Rossi should have made the World Cup Squad). Its more to do with the fact that Lippi did not have any use of a fantasista in his modern gameplan. It wasn't the form/fitness of the existing Italian fantasista's, or their undeniable talent, that stopped them from making the World Cup Squad... They were just clearly suffering from a case of fantasisitis, that typical Italian disease, where everyone and his mother praise you for your talent and skills, but somehow you are never good enough to start for a big team, due to vague issues related to team balance, tactics, workrate, contribution, experience, determination...

The disease is spreading accross, slowly but surely... the origins of this disease can be traced back to sometime around 1994, post the World Cup, when Roberto Baggio (then the current World Player of the Year) suddenly fell to a bad case of this yet unknown disease.... he was dropped from the Italian national team, and found himself somewhat of a luxury player at Juventus... indeed, fans of that wonderful amazing player (like yours truely) could not understand at that time why such a great player was never again the main protagonist of a big team, inspite of showing he was still as good a fantasista as you could find during his stints at smaller clubs (Bologna, Brescia)... Then we saw young Pirlo, the MVP at Euro U21s for Azzurrini, suffer from the same symptoms at Inter... he finally found his salvation as a regista at Milan. Zola never got the chances his talent deserved in the peninsula. Even Del Piero, the legend at his club, has suffered from this disease in the last few years, having to play as a winger or stay on the bench... Miccoli was another terminal case at Juventus, and after being tossed around he ended up recuperating at provincial Palermo.

And now young Giovinco, for many years touted as the most gifted of players of the new generation, grew middle-aged (from a footballing sense) on the Juventus bench before leaving for a smaller club. He has caught a serious case of fantasisitus, a disease the modern coach does not want spreading in his team.

Perhaps Totti was the last of the great line of Italian Fantasista's to have escaped from this disease... will the legendary Italian fantasista become extinct along with the fading trequartista? Do we have to endure watching the likes of Pepe running around like a headless chicken in the future, instead of watching magic from the likes of Cassano? I guess only time will tell...