Milan: Italian football's love affair with the number 10 jersey traditionally worn by the Azzurri playmaker could soon be brought to an end, national coach Cesare Prandelli hinted on Thursday.
Italy's coveted number 10 shirt has been worn in the recent past by icons like Roberto Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero and Francesco Totti.
But as Prandelli continues experimenting with a squad that has played two of its 10 qualifying games for the 2014 World Cup, he believes changes in the way the modern game is played mean there may soon be no need for a 'trequartista'.
"The disappearance of the traditional number 10 is not just an Italian phenomenon," Prandelli told www.legaseriea.it, two days after the Azzurri's 2-0 win over Group B opponents Malta.
"In modern football, it's a role that is beginning to disappear or is at least evolving. When we all talk about the role of the playmaker, we all have different definitions."
Veteran Roma forward Totti wore the number 10 shirt for Italy when a side coached by Marcello Lippi won the World Cup in Germany in 2006.
In Lippi's second spell in charge Antonio Di Natale inherited the shirt, but at the 2010 edition in South Africa the reigning champions exited at the group stage.
Prandelli took over and began transforming traditionally defensive Italy into a more offensive unit.
Despite showing few signs of promise prior to Euro 2012, the Italians impressed on their way to the final, before coming back to earth with a bump after a 4-0 defeat by Spain.
Should Italy, four-time World Cup winners, qualify for the 2014 World Cup, they are likely to be among the favourites for the title in Brazil. But Prandelli's quest to find the right formation is far from over.
In Sofia last Friday, Juventus forward Sebastian Giovinco wore the number 10 shirt as part of a disastrous 3-5-2 that narrowly escaped a battering by Bulgaria in their opener, which ended 2-2.
A furious Prandelli started with a 4-3-1-2 formation against Malta, but it was a far from convincing performance against a side sitting 133 places behind sixth-placed Italy in FIFA's world ranking.
In the second half he switched to a 4-3-3 after replacing Bologna playmaker Alessandro Diamanti and Roma striker Pablo Osvaldo with AC Milan's Giampaolo Pazzini and Lorenzo Insigne of Napoli.
Pazzini became the centrepiece in a three-man attack alongside Mattia Destro -- who scored Italy's opener -- and Insigne, whose dribbling skills and constant forays down the left flank turned the game in Italy's favour.
Whether that move has sounded the death knell for Giovinco or Diamanti is anyone's guess.
But although still awaiting the return of Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano, neither of whom have played for Italy this month, Prandelli said he had not yet decided whether to keep faith with the 4-3-3 system.
"It's too early to say whether the 4-3-3 we used against Malta is something we could use again with Balotelli," added Prandelli.
"But the debut of the boy from Napoli (Insigne) was very good. It's an interesting situation.
"However, I don't have a lot of time, and I have to start making choices if I want to create a new and exciting team."