Paolo Maldini lamented the fading identity of Italian football, with the nation left behind following the success of Spain in continental competition.
As Italy prepare for next month's Euro 2016, former AC Milan captain and international defender Maldini said Italian football "needs to start over again".
The Serie A has only been represented once in a Champions League final since Inter won the competition in 2009-10, while Spanish side Sevilla have won three consecutive Europa League titles.
Add to that, Italy have failed to progress beyond the group stages at the past two World Cups.
And speaking ahead of Saturday's Champions League final between Spanish rivals Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid, Maldini bemoaned: "Italian football needs to start over again.
"As a country we are searching for an identity.
"You can see it in both the Champions League and the Europa League. Spanish sides are on a different level, particularly in terms of tactics and technical qualities."
Ex-Italy international Fabio Cannavaro echoed Maldini's thoughts.
"Our football is lagging behind," Cannavaro said. "Real Madrid, Atletico and Barcelona are all used to getting to finals.
"Previously other countries followed our lead, we have to get back to doing what we did before."