When the FIFA World Cup kicked off on Tuesday, all eyes were on the United States.
A team that had failed to qualify for the tournament in 2018 had already qualified for the next round of World Cup qualifying, and now it was on to the World Cup finals.
But for all the attention that was being paid to the United Kingdom, Australia and South Korea, it was Italy that really stood out.
In a year that saw the biggest rise in global television viewership of all time, the country’s best players were not there to watch their country qualify for a major tournament.
The fact that the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pisanu all left the tournament to return to Italy was, to put it mildly, a disappointment.
Italy was in for an all-but-certain elimination from the tournament, and the World Club Series, the tournament’s official governing body, had made it clear that they did not want to see the likes, or even the most well-known names, of Italy play in the tournament.
They wanted to see a more balanced mix of Italians, not just Italians from the same regions.
So in a bid to achieve that, the World Clubs Association of Italy (LCI) took over the World Cups organising committee.
It has been a massive undertaking, involving a full-time job and a massive amount of financial support from the Italian government, as well as a lot of grassroots involvement.
But it has been an extremely successful one, as the results of the tournament so far suggest.
So how does Italy compare with other nations when it comes to the best international players?
The results of some of the world’s best clubs’ World Cup campaigns are on show on this year’s Serie A rankings.
The tables below show how Italy’s top three leagues stack up when it came to the most top-class players of all-time.
*The table is based on aggregate points and not individual games.
Players were not weighted by position or by league.
*Players who have not played for Italy have been excluded.
For example, Luka Modric has not scored for Italy in any of his 10 World Cup appearances.
*League position was not taken into account.
League results are calculated based on the total number of matches played, not the number of points earned by each team.
*Coaches’ individual performance is not included.
This is a different way of scoring than how it is usually done.
To see how Italy ranks, it is necessary to look at how they performed on their respective teams.
In terms of individual goals, Milan Lucic has been Italy’s best player at the World Series, scoring 20 goals and adding 22 assists in 20 games.
The Argentine has also helped Italy to victory in the Super Cup, winning it for the first time.
It is not a surprise that he has been named Serie A Player of the Year, as he has contributed to the Italian team’s success at the tournament and helped to inspire his team-mates to the final.
However, it has not been the best World Cup for the former Chelsea striker.
In all competitions he has scored just eight goals, and his assist total has been less than 20.
He has been more than capable of scoring more, but he has not shown that level of creativity.
The World Cup winner is Pisanutu, who has scored eight goals in all competitions.
The Uruguayan has also provided some inspiration to his teammates, as his goals have made him a favourite of the referee, Carlo Tavecchio.
Pisanucu has also scored the most goals for his club, scoring 22 in total, with eight of those coming in the World Champions League.
In the league table, it may be surprising to see Andrea Pitarovic (Milan) and Marco Materazzi (Milano) having so many points.
The striker has scored 20 goals in the league this year, while Materazio has scored 18 goals.
Materuzzi has also shown that he is capable of breaking the scores, scoring two goals in one game in the Europa League and another in the Champions League against Barcelona.
It would not be surprising if both players could have been named World Cup MVP in the first half of the competition.
It was also interesting to see how Andrea Piacci and Mario Balotelli (both Milan) performed.
The Italian trio have been together since their days at Udinese, and both have been involved in winning the Europa Cup.
The pair has scored nine goals and helped Milan to the title in the Italian Super Cup and Champions League, as Balotella’s goal in the latter was arguably the best of the group stages.
Andrea Pincu (Milana) and Mario Materucchi (Juventus) have been the most important in the side for Italy, and are the most consistent in their respective leagues.
The latter has also been the standout performer of the World Championships, scoring a goal in every