English football now ahead of 'struggling' Italy - Gianfranco Zola

Gianfranco Zola has said English football is ahead of the Italian game as the two nations prepare to meet in a friendly at Wembley on Tuesday.

While fans in England tuned in to watch Italian football in the 1990s, Italian supporters are increasingly following the Premier League, with up to six games screened live each weekend, and Zola says this shift is reflected in the national teams.

"This is what history is telling us -- in those days, we had the best league in the world and the top foreigners were helping our young players grow," the former Chelsea playmaker told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"Now England are ahead of us, and I don't think it's just down to money. They are a footballing nation which is booming and they've boosted their youth systems and started to work on their coaches.

"There's no doubt our country is struggling -- we've got a general problem which is being reflected in sport.

"One thing is unequivocal -- we no longer have international top players, and the question springs to mind immediately: why are we no longer producing them?

"Why in Italy -- apart from [Lorenzo] Insigne and [Simone] Verdi -- do we no longer have any players capable of dribbling past opponents? I can tell you in just three words: the talent's missing."

England now boast players with this sort of ability, Zola said, adding: "I like [Marcus] Rashford a lot. He's hugely talented and I'm surprised he's not been playing regularly for Manchester United of late.

"The other interesting player is Dele Alli. If he sorts his head out, he could become a top player. There's not much to say about [Harry] Kane -- you just need to look at his statistics. He's got goals in his blood."

Zola is also impressed with runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City and hailed coach Pep Guardiola for the job he is doing at the Etihad Stadium.

"Pep is an extraordinary coach," he said. "He's completing a masterpiece.

"City play the best football in the Premier League and they are also solid in defence."