Juventus centre-back Giorgio Chiellini has labelled the tiki-taka style of possession-based football – popularised by Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola – as a threat to the rich traditions of Italian defending.
Guardiola is credited with revolutionising football with his tactics at Barcelona, where he won three consecutive titles in four years, before introducing his famed style of play at Bayern Munich and then City.
Even though the Spaniard has never worked as a coach in Italy, Chiellini said his ideas had spread to Serie A, where defenders now prioritise technical ability on the ball and distribution over defensive marking.
An example of this is the possession-based style of play implemented by Maurizio Sarri at Serie A leaders Napoli, who incidentally were beaten 4-2 by Guardiola's City in the Champions League last week.
"Guardiolismo has ruined many Italian defenders a bit – now defenders know how to set the tone of play and they can spread the ball, but they don't know how to mark," Chiellini was quoted as saying by ESPN. "Unfortunately, that's the way it is.
"When I was young, we used to do drills to get a feel for the man you were making. Nowadays, from crosses, Italian defenders – and I can only really talk for Italian defenders, I am only relatively interested about foreign players – don't mark their man.
"It's a great pity because we're losing our DNA a bit and some of those characteristics which had made us excel in the world."
Chiellini said Italian footballers were misguided to follow a model that was developed in another country and urged players and coaches to not lose sight of Italy's own rich traditions.
"We need talented players up front, but we also need to bring somebody through in defence because we are never going to be able to play Spain's tiki-taka because it's not part of our philosophy," he said.
Four-time world champions Italy face Sweden in Stockholm in the first leg of their World Cup play-off on 10 November.