Despite his heroics for Toronto FC, Sebastian Giovinco has been left out of the Italy squad because coach Giampiero Ventura believes "he plays in a league that doesn't count for much."
Giovinco was named Major League Soccer's most valuable player last season and this year led MLS with a combined total of 17 goals and 15 assists.
Since leaving Juventus in January 2015, he has made only two substitute appearances for Italy under Ventura's predecessor Antonio Conte, and he was not included in the latest squad announced on Saturday.
A day later, Giovinco scored a hat trick as Toronto eliminated New York City FC in the MLS playoffs on Sunday, but Ventura remains unimpressed.
"Giovinco is a different story. I have done everything to help him but the reality is that he plays in a league that doesn't count for much," Ventura said. "And the number of goals he scores is less important because with the quality he has got, he is bound to make a difference in that league.
"The problem is that if you play in that type of league, and you get used to playing in that type of league, it becomes a problem of mentality."
- Italy (@azzurri) November 7, 2016
Ventura said the same factors were affecting Domenico Criscito, who plays in Russia with Zenit St. Petersburg. Criscito was called up last month but left off of the current squad.
"Criscito, on the other hand, is a great player, I've seen him grow. The problem is that he has to fight to rediscover his spark and he needs that because he is just a little behind," Ventura said.
"The problem with Giovinco is the same. How long would it take to get him to show that spark?"
Of the 29 players Ventura called up to face Liechtenstein and Germany, the only players from clubs outside of Italy are Manchester United's Matteo Darmian, West Ham's Simone Zaza, PSG's Marco Verratti and Villarreal's Nicola Sansone. Nice's Mario Balotelli was also left off the list, as was Graziano Pelle of Chinese club Shandong Luneng.
In May, Conte also cited MLS as the reason behind leaving Giovinco and NYCFC's Andrea Pirlo out of the Italy squad for Euro 2016.
"When you make a certain choice and go to play in certain leagues, you do so taking it into account that they could pay the consequences from a footballing viewpoint," Conte said,
In addition to being overlooked by Italy, Giovinco was also left off of MLS's list of finalists for the MVP award this season, a fact that surprised his manager Greg Vanney.
"I'm not quite sure how he gets overlooked, but I only get one vote," Vanney said. "I think tonight, it was also an opportunity for him and the group to make a statement.
"Sometimes this group feels like they get overlooked for various reasons, and there's no better place to make a statement than in the playoffs by making a run."
Giovinco said he was not concerned by the award snub with Toronto closing in on the MLS Cup.
"This is not a decision that can be asked to me," he said. "My job is scoring goals and providing assists, and that's what I want to keep doing for the team.
"Everything will be put now into winning the MLS Cup, which is way more important."