Monday July 16 2012
A young argument getting old

Is Serie A really guilty of hindering the development of young Italian players? David Swan examines the evidence.

Spain has a lot to answer for. The machine that is their national team has led to every other country scrutinising their approach to developing young players and, combined with the 2010 World Cup debacle, has caused much inward reflection in Italy.

Serie A clubs have come under fire from all angles for not giving youth a chance – the latest to get in on the act a certain Donato Di Campli, the agent of one Marco Verratti. He took a swipe at Italian clubs last week when it became apparent none were planning on making a move for his client. “Italian clubs are guilty of short-sightedness. It is clear that young players find it difficult to establish themselves in Italian football, whether it’s Lorenzo Insigne at Napoli or Verratti.”

This particular remark was made in frustration that no Italian club, quite rightly, was willing to pay the minimum €12m that Pescara are asking for the player. That’s €12m for a 19-year-old who has not played a single minute of top-level football – meaning Serie A clubs would be paying for potential, for hype, taking an expensive gamble on a player that might not cut it.

The irony, of course, is that if Di Campli took the sensible option of advising Verratti to turn down PSG’s offer then his client would get 38 chances to establish himself in Serie A next season. But it is more convenient to blame Italian football for the probable transfer to France, rather than admit that the primary motivation is €2m per season in wages and the large chunk of cash Di Campli himself is likely to receive from the move.

Nevertheless, he opened that age-old topic of debate as to whether Serie A is hindering the development of young players. It has not traditionally been a League awash with teenage Italians playing regularly, but those that do are generally pretty special and have gone on to prove as such with the national team.

There can be no denying that young players are not getting playing time as easily as they were 10-15 years ago, when the Italian U-21 team was dominant. The general principle, however, is the same – if you are a genuinely special player, you will rise to the top no matter what.

Think of it as a more stringent filter on mediocre youngsters. Those getting minutes nowadays are worth watching, worth talking about, whereas those who are not are either not good enough or not ready. If they are not ready they get loaned out, usually to Serie B clubs, as in the case of Insigne. Napoli now deem him ready for a chance in Serie A and look set to give him some time on the pitch this season.

Even those who are on the books of Serie A clubs as teenagers and get released still make it if they are good enough, despite the criticism said clubs receive for having not given these players a chance in the first place. Inter have become notorious for having a good youth system, but for all the wrong reasons, with numerous players having started life at the club before making it elsewhere – Leonardo Bonucci is a perfect example of this and Mattia Destro looks set to become another.

The individuals that this ‘system’ does hurt are those in the middle, the ones between the youngsters who will reach the top regardless of what happens and the guys who are patently not good enough. These are the youngsters that require something of a gamble that clubs do not want to take, where it is 50-50 as to whether regular game time sees them blossom into a useful club-level flower or develop into a weed. But as the entire argument for youth development is with the national team in mind, and with these players unlikely to be of ability where they can make a difference for Italy, this group falling through the cracks is not the big drama it is made out to be.

It is not conventional, it is not the way other countries operate, but it has worked for decades. And judging by Euro 2012, it is still working now, irrespective of what a frustrated agent would like to have us believe.

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
The point is they're not up to scratch.
Let 'em go to the lesser leagues, Pirmera, Premiership, Bundesliga etc.
Let them take chances on foreign mediocrity. Often at the expense of their own players (all UK teams Eng, Wales, Sco etc) and their International sides will suffer as a result.
Spain is the exception, but lets be honest its a 2 team league, and a 2 team national team.
As for the UK, its about time Team GB was established as the unified team and all this regionalism eradicated.
on the 23rd July, 2012 at 2:15pm
@ Manni My point exactly, why spend the same amount on potential already reached and wasn't that good anyway.
Not that they (Juve) should have paid that 12mil. At one point if Italy and the big clubs want to regain their deserved dominance, then they will have to work with the smaller clubs.
on the 20th July, 2012 at 2:33pm
In this case Pescara might be guilty of asking a lot, but that's the reality of the business side of calcio. I'm not entirely sure Juve would have been better for him with the reliance of Pirlo and the recall of Giovinco. So was spendin €12mill on him going to be a wise choice when they need depth for CL and he was going to likely be a sub for Pirlo? Under Ancelloti, who helped shape Pirlo, his development stands to thrive as well and he'll be surrounded by champions as well.
on the 20th July, 2012 at 12:49pm
The Italian clubs need to re-valuate what they are doing with their young players. It takes youth players far too long to break into the first team meanwhile clubs spend unnecessary money on players who were once great e.g. Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Klose. Meanwhile, players like Rossi, Giovinco and Santon get loaned and sold on. Serie A should follow the Spanish league because clearly it has shown that giving youth a chance works!
on the 17th July, 2012 at 7:16pm
Manni good point about the German league very well run, Bayern now challanged by Dortmund, Money talks the germans fill the stadiums as do the english, that with a sugar daddy you will win titles 100% even if it takes 2 or 3 years.
on the 17th July, 2012 at 4:01pm
But why would any club thinkin economically pay 12 mill for a 19 year whos unproven?? sayin that Juve Wasted 12 million on that donkey Martinez and countless others! Elia most recently...Italian clubs do need to update theur Stadia and market their League better and more fan friendly its the only way forward for them u will neva eva see the english destroy their league with scandals even though it prob happens...toooo much is at stake. most would or should follow the German Model..
on the 17th July, 2012 at 12:58pm
@ Cule is that a fact? Lazio over spent and went bust?? care to Explain Leeds Utd then my friend?? where are they now and remember what they were doing late 90s? i think everyone knows Serie A isnt what it was in the 90s, fact its Serie teams are STILL Winning the champs league and the Italian team is still competitive in the national game. the Only league that has top attendances week in week out for nearly EVRY team is the bundesliga! even EPL has faded with attendences apart from Utd
on the 17th July, 2012 at 12:17pm
is running after money, it gives more pleasure to life. in this regards, i do not really blame Verratti or his agent they are humans and want convenient life. if you ask me, i blame FIGC for not imposing a proper measurements, the Players Association for not directing their calls and concerns, mostly Serie A clubs for their old culture that i do not think it will change. the youth system in Italia is in danger, and no one seems to care which puts Azzurri future at risk! i hope not.
on the 17th July, 2012 at 10:09am
1Word....Philippe Coutinho!!!
on the 17th July, 2012 at 10:08am
I hate to talk about comparisons, each league of a country has its philosophy and structure which is related to its strategy. I care about Serie A, but Azzurri the most, so when I see that Spain are dominating Europe last won U-U19 tourney days ago after Euro'12 can someone tell me what type of method they are imposing in here? Is it or is it not that national side strength comes from clubs strength and that clubs are the mojaor feed to national side? I must say; that now days everyone is
on the 17th July, 2012 at 10:04am
Yes, absolutely Serie A is guilty and more than guilty in not giving the chance for young talented Italian players in playing regulars and exploring their potentials. I for one do not like to see the likes of Verratti leaving Serie A just as F. Borini, Santon etc.. but in the other hand, I would like them to play more regular football in the league whichever as well as experience the European football in CL & EL it, this will enhance their skills. Serie A do not care about young players & Europe
on the 17th July, 2012 at 9:33am
One things which is abundantly clear, at least to me, is that, between 2007-2010 calcio suffered immensely from the dominance of Inter which had almost "zero" percent contribution to the national side. The italian clubs could maintain their peculiar position once the balance of foreigners and domestic players is kept. to this effect, Inter's practice was malicious. Stadia is another issue that clubs should solve. Juve example is to be followed.
on the 17th July, 2012 at 8:34am
Verratti is considered to be a great player BUT still has alot to prove, 12million for a player is honestly to much and Pescara are to blame here, the player stated frequently he is in love with juventus and for a more decent fee could have been transfered to juve and would have grown slowly under conte+pirlo+living in itlay, now i feel too much pressure in paris and an inexperienced club at growing players like PSG may risk ruining him.this is my opinion.
on the 17th July, 2012 at 6:36am
The situation is very complex - I wouldn't say that Italy is poor at developing young players - history speaks for itself - but as someone who has played there, I can say that there is a definite culture of respect for the older player. Coaches, boards and presidents are very close to their leadership groups, and this reveals itself on the teamsheet. A little more space for younger players would be very welcome, but it's hard to change the culture.
on the 17th July, 2012 at 2:08am
Ill gladly accept criticism where its backed up with valid facts. However i absolutely refuse to accept criticism that praises leagues like EPL & Bundesliga over Serie A, when those countries are unable to reach a Euro or World Cup final. I am not saying that they are not developing great players especially Germany, but Germany was in the same situation 8 years ago where Italy is now, & improvement started with new stadiums and most Germanys great youngsters play either abroad or @ smaller clubs
on the 16th July, 2012 at 7:13pm
do you not think that 16 is to young to be playing top flight football i mean not from a skill point of view but from a burn out one, loads of English players burst onto the scene at 16 and are washed out by the time they are 26, rooney is never fit for any international tournament owen was finished long before 30 there are loads of examples.i think that 16 is to young to play so many games look at arsenals wiltshire he looked spent before he got that injury.
on the 16th July, 2012 at 5:32pm
Provided players of his pedigree move onto clubs who play European Football and are protagonists in those teams it can only benefit the national team. If Italian clubs aren't prepared to play them let them show their skills elsewhere as long as they develop and enhance their potential.
on the 16th July, 2012 at 4:17pm
I partially agree with the article. My problem with the Italian mentality on youth football is the lack of patience. Players are not even given a chance to show if they are a 'flower' or a 'weed'. They are often shipped out before they even have a sniff of first team football, at their parent club. I dislike the way Italian clubs often refer to 25-year-olds as youngsters. A footballing youngster, in other countries is a player between 16-21. Too much time is wasted.
on the 16th July, 2012 at 3:06pm
Why shouldn't big clubs spend big on talents like Verratti? They spend big on South Americans all the time. These young player DO NOT get a chance. Case-in-point being Giovinco. He was just as good several years ago, but it took until he was 25 to get a shot at juve. And look at Pasquato: Lecce AND Torino would not start him. Cigarini's career has also been hindered when he could have been great. Serie A has no appreciation for youth and that's why all of it is leaving.
on the 16th July, 2012 at 2:59pm
I'll be honest but yet again we will see another young potential Italian player go missing in the world of football ,I mean really the French league give me a break yet again greedy agents ruling the roost and rich clubs throwing money around like confetti I wonder if he will say he has always supported psg like no doubt ibra will.the game players agents are rotten to core the only ppl who suffer are the fans but they are stupid enough to put up with it ,after all we are paying for these prices
on the 16th July, 2012 at 2:18pm
DEAREST CULE, first of all..DO NOT refer to Serie A as a BORING league, please observe that the so-called oldies also have a role to play..they have the ability to alter the dynamics in a game.Game fixing-authorities better equipped in exposing, if you think the other leagues are SAINTS-wrong. YES to PLAYERS WITH 100% ITALIAN DNA. OUR LAST WORLD CUP VICTORY 2006 NOT THAT LONG AGO.FIFA should make POWERBROKERS accountable in order to be FAIR to all leagues..VIVA ITALIA E FORZA AZZURRI.
on the 16th July, 2012 at 2:15pm
@Manni I indeed read it. Serie A is NOT what it was in the 90s, yes. let's deal in facts - Serie A stadiums are ancient, Serie A attendance avg last season is lower than MLS!!!. Another fact, Serie A was the first league to spend mad money and then go cripple, see lazio having to sell nesta in 2002.

till S.A starts changing their mentality it'll only get worse, fact. already lost a CL spot. worrying signs.
on the 16th July, 2012 at 1:59pm
The main problem is the chances at big clubs. look at criscito for example. is at juve then dumped back to genoa and now in russia. clubs in italy cant afford to pay big fees for players like when milan were after him and genoa wouldnt sell. There are plenty of young players around but not enough to get chances at big clubs. Thats why Italy dont have the stars of before like cannavaro, nesta, maldini, totti, etc. They need the big clubs to grow and develop with experience in the champions league
on the 16th July, 2012 at 1:56pm

I did read the article. Chris nails it on, Serie A clubs do NOT believe in giving any player be it foreign or local a chance. It is the main reason the other 3 leagues have become more attractice to young talented players and if Serie A don't fix their cancer then you can add Ligue 1 there soon.

You just have to look at how highly rated Merkel was, what did Milan do? ship him to Genoa. no development.
What do Udinese do? they have over 700 players on loan everywhere, ridiculous.
on the 16th July, 2012 at 1:45pm
@ Cule - did u even watch Serie A last season? Serie A is not what it once BUT it only lacks new stadia as someone on here mentioned, the teams spendin Doh r run by rich foreign owners is not the clubs capital being spent as the ones who dont have rich owners cant aford players either jus look at Utd! Only Germany spend what they bring in in revenue example Bayern...look at the facts! even Barca cant afford much 40 mill Budget this season, Italian Clubs need their own afordable stadia!
on the 16th July, 2012 at 1:43pm
The article has blurred the argument by focusing on Veratti. There is no long term strategy, no philosophy to build something and achieve in incremental stages in Serie a. Clubs are fixed completely on winning now. This leads to a lack of opportunity for Italian youth as in the EPL. What bothers most fans is the obsession with cheap S American players with an Italian p'port, who then hold the clubs to ransom when they "make it". Serie A is crippled with silly wages leaving no cash to buy players
on the 16th July, 2012 at 12:41pm
I have an idea........... why dont the Italians sell their clubs to the oil barrons?? Italy as a country is far more beautiful to look at and live in than England so there would be interest, That way Italian clubs could then buy who ever they want. If they refuse well then thats there fault and then they cant moan about having no money if its offered.
on the 16th July, 2012 at 12:15pm
Is the problem with Serie A clubs or youth player agents ? I think its the latter. If a young player had to choose between warming Real Madrid's bench or playing regulary at Palermo, he would choose Madrid.

Verratti had plenty of offers from Serie A clubs but his agent was more interested in the money & not grooming his players career.
on the 16th July, 2012 at 12:00pm
Although the lack if money in the Italian game is upsetting at present, it will be for the good of the game in the future. Money is ruining football, world wide. People are quick to ridicule Italian youth development, but is it really any better in England, Russia or Germany?
How are PSG going to keep FIFA happy in fair play spending all this cash and never earning anywhere near these amounts to offset it against. Agents, sheiks and oil barrons are ruining football.
on the 16th July, 2012 at 11:57am
ps: And add to that that the Barca's and Madrid of this world can invest millions upon millions on players while having depths of hundred of millions while their country is begging Europe for more loans....

At least in Italy teams are considerate with money: look at Milan basically HAVING to sell Ibra & Silva as they don't have the Spanish maladdiction rules.

With small budgets Italy just can't buy unproven players for 10mil+, you need to go to Spain, England, Russia or France for that money..
on the 16th July, 2012 at 11:02am

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