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Former AC Milan president Silvio Berlusconi has refused to blame the large number of overseas players in Serie A for Italy’s failure to qualify for the World Cup.

After the national team missed out on World Cup place for the first time in 60 years, limiting the number of non-Italians in Serie A teams was floated as a potential change.

But Berlusconi said he did not believe that would be the right move after seeing how top foreign players brought the best out of homegrown talent during his 31 years at Milan.

“It’s a mistake to blame the foreigners,” he told Radio 105. “In England, Germany and France, there are more foreigners in Italy.

“It’s just clubs need to use them to help our Italian players to develop and not to replace them.

“I’d like to remember my Milan, for example, had foreign champions such as [Ruud] Gullit, [Marco] van Basten, [Frank] Rijkaard, [Andrij] Shevchenko, Kaka and [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, who were always matched with Italian champions of the highest order.

“Just think of [Franco] Baresi, [Alessandro] Costacurta, [Mauro] Tassotti, [Paolo] Maldini, [Filippo] Inzaghi, [Gennaro] Gattuso and many other Italy internationals, and they got some extraordinary results.

“We now need to put all the controversy to the side and work together. Italian fans deserve to see our team back at the highest levels again as soon as possible.”

Berlusconi said he believed the sacking of coach Gian Piero Ventura and the resignation of Italian FA president Carlo Tavecchio were “inevitable.”

And he added: “We’ve got to start from scratch again, and it would be wrong to blame just Tavecchio and Ventura.

“Italian football has been weak for years and it’s the responsibility of many people.”

He said the World Cup failure had done economic damage as well as hitting morale, adding: “Billions of people watch this sport and the fact that our nation is out of the World Cup is serious for Italy, also for promoting Italy and our products.”

Ben Gladwell reports on Serie A, the Italian national team and the Bundesliga for ESPN FC, UEFA and the Press Association. @UEFAcomBenG.

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