No call up for one of West Ham's most consistent players

Emerson Palmieri was snubbed

West Ham, Emerson Palmieri
West Ham, Emerson Palmieri / Claudio Villa/GettyImages

In 2017 Emerson Palmieri gave up his Brazilian citizenship and declared himself eligible for the Italian National Team. Since then he's stepped up when the team needed him most and helped them win a European title.

At the club level, Emerson has been Mr. Consistent, starting almost every game for West Ham and often finishing matches as the best player on the pitch. Emerson has enjoyed the best season of this career in the best league in the world and he's been snubbed by his national team. It's a mistake, but why isn't anyone else talking about it?

The last time Emerson Palmieri walked off the pitch as a member of the Italian National Team he did so playing hard and with pride not knowing that being replaced in the 77th minute by Alessandro Bastoni would be the last time he ever donned the Azzuri kit. Italy would go on to lose to Argentina 3-0 in what amounts to an exhibition game where the winners of the European Championship face off against the winners of the South American champions. 

Rewind to the European Championships where Italy’s defense dominated all tournament long. Emerson plays in only one game during the group stage against Wales as then Italy coach Roberto Mancini wanted to rest his star left back Leonardo Spinazzola. Emerson doesn’t let his coach down and impresses in a 1-0 win helping his team continue their shutout streak and not allowing a goal in the group stage. 

Emerson Palmieri was snubbed for no real reason

We don’t see Emerson again until an unfortunate injury to Spinazzola in the quarter-finals against Belgium. Up 2-1 against one of the best offensive teams in the world, Emerson comes in to replace his teammate in the 80th minute and helps stave off an onslaught. Italy win 2-1 and advance to the semi-finals.

News came out the next day that Spinazzola would miss the rest of the tournament and in his place, Emerson would take his place. Soccer pundits and journalists had praised Spinazzola for being one of the best players all tournament and there would be no way Emerson could step in and replace him. Emerson, as experts said was a major step down from his teammate. 

Emerson would finish the tournament at left back defying all critics. He was instrumental in the semi-finals vs. Spain and in on the drive that would lead to the tying goal by Frederico Chiesa. Emerson had his hands full on defense having to stop Alvaro Morata, Fernan Torres, and Gerard Moreno.

In the finals versus a stacked England team, Emerson continued his strong play against stars like Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Jaden Sancho, and a 19-year-old Bokayo Saka. Emerson played 118 minutes and was only subbed because Alessandro Florenzi had more penalty kick experience. Italy would go on to win the championship. Emerson rising to the occasion did not go unnoticed. 

Emerson spent the next 3 seasons after winning the European Championship going on to win a Champions League trophy with Chelsea and a Europa Conference League trophy with West Ham. Also in that time, Emerson has gone on to be one of the most consistent players on a West Ham team that needed steady play from their fullbacks as their Center backs have gone through several injuries. He’s come up big playing against some of the best wing players in the world like, Saka, Sterling, and Kaoru Mitoma. 

Emerson has also forged a great partnership with Lucas Paqueta on the left side where the Brazilian has played most of the season. Their chemistry was created while playing at French side Lyon together. Both players joined David Moyes and West Ham in the same summer. Many said that Emerson was instrumental in recruiting his friend to the team. 

Since officially taking over full-time duties at left-back from an aging Aaron Cresswell, Emerson averages more scoring chances, has more assists, and gets more balls inside the box than many other fullbacks in the league.

This season he’s even scored one of the more memorable goals of the season. He’s stepped up to be a leader on the pitch. He makes himself accessible to the press and the fans. At 29 years old Emerson is having the best season of his career and the best two seasons by any other fullback in the premier league. 

The best league has recognized Emerson’s contributions with the goal of the week and defensive player of the month honors. Yet somehow that day at Wembley versus Argentina, 3 years ago remains the last time we saw Emerson in an Italy jersey.

Since the European Championship former Italy coach Mancini felt the team needed change. He began ushering young and exciting offensive players, specifically at left back, Frederico DiMarco, who has started most of the matches at that position since Emerson’s last.

Last year Mancini surprised everyone when he stepped down as Italy’s coach and gave way to former Napoli coach Luciano Spaletti. Fresh off a league title, Spaletti had put together an incredible side of young players and veterans and ascended to the top of Serie A. 

Surely Spaletti would bring the right mix of veterans and young players to the Azzuri and would recognize Emerson belonged. But that hasn’t happened thus far. I’m not suggesting that Emerson come in and start, but that he hasn’t had a call-up in 3 years is a head-scratcher.

Is it biased against premier league players or players who were on the European championship team? Nope. A player thought to have seen his last days in blue and white has been welcomed back to the team. After 2 years Spaletti called up Joringho who has been playing with Arsenal and somehow 21-year-old Destiny Udogie who plays sparingly at leftback for Tottenham got a callup over Emerson. 

Italian fans rarely venture out and watch matches outside of Serie A so I don’t expect there to be much interest from them as to why one of their best defensive players has not been called up in 3 years. Emerson himself has always been a humble player who rarely complains about playing time or makes any demands about his role.

He's a consummate team player and I can’t seem to understand why his National Team has turned their back on him. As a supporter of West Ham, he has steadied a position fans thought was a weakness going into this season. At times he has been the lone player on the pitch sacrificing himself and playing harder than any of his teammates. 

In 40 years of watching national team soccer,  I’ve never seen a player snubbed without a real reason like this. He is not a head case like Mario Balotelli, he’s not too old, he’s not too young, He gave up his eligibility to play with Brazil when he chose to play for Italy in 2017.

Come June when the European tournament commences yet again there will be a need for leadership and steadiness on the pitch.  The Italian National Team has lacked that with the retirement of Giorgio Chiellini and the decision not to call up Leonardo Bonucci.  Youth movement or not you don’t snub players that can help you win. The only hope now is that come June, Spaletti realizes just how important a player like Emerson can be.