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...
you cant expect a 12 million fee for a 19 year old who hasn't played in Serie A yet esp in this economy, if he wasn't greedy he would have gone to Juve the club he wanted with a player he really want to play with (pirlo) and still played in serie A and made some good money but instead he went with the greed and will now have a lot of expectations in a place he doesnt really want to be just so he can make some more money than he would have in italy.The problem is GREED and clubs like PSG
on the 16th July, 2012 at 10:59am
England has inflated the market and Sheiks and oil Barrons from the East are ruiining this sport further.

In Italy clubs are actually finally being sensible with money: 15 mil for a Veratti or Ogbonna is just TOO MUCH of a gamble for players without top level experience. Yes, if you have a multi-millionaire as owner you can take that gamble, but money is scarce in Italy.

It is not Italy not giving youngsters a chance, it is the rich sugar daddy owners abroad that Italians can't compete with.
on the 16th July, 2012 at 10:54am
The irony is that clubs seems more patient with players which are unlikely to improve than with kids with potential. Seba, Santon, Paloschi, Merkel are examples. Furthermore, last year Juve's very own Immobile was having a great season, Juve needed a striker. Instead of taking a gamble on Immobile, they sold him and loan in Boriello. Yes not all potential develops in talent but Italian clubs do very little to nurture potential! Would illustrate my arguments better if the site lets me.
on the 16th July, 2012 at 10:50am
A young kid can only develop his potential if he enjoys the faith of his manager. Some loan deals do work, but the way big clubs chuck of their youth seem to do more harm than good, leaving kids in limbo until they settle with a club (wasting an average of 2-4yrs). Now if the question was a matter of them finding no space because of much better players one can understand it, but when their replacements are mediocre at best, one wonders.
on the 16th July, 2012 at 10:45am
First of all this article is pointless. Its focus is on the greed of Verratti's agent, which everyone knows and agrees about. The other side of the argument is that Italian clubs are all too happy to spend these amounts on money on average at best (sometimes total crap) players which despite their age are still unproven in a top league. (P.S. A decent season with a medium type club does not make one a star). Italian clubs don't believe in giving youngsters a fair chance, TBC.
on the 16th July, 2012 at 10:41am
@Cule, at least read the article before commenting.
on the 16th July, 2012 at 10:36am
I agree with some of the article to an extent but young Italian players don't get enough chances in serie A In my opinion although this the case 12 million is a lot for a 19 year that had not been proven, the problem with football is the agents milking clubs for signing on fees and clubs running at a loss but spending millions on players that they havnt got barca real cough cough when its the financial fair play coming in, not a moment to soon
on the 16th July, 2012 at 10:26am
Couldn't be further from the mark, young players need to be given an opportunity to develop at the highest level and be nurtured and groomed at that crucial age. The right environment and atmosphere can make or break a player and be the difference between being an average player and a champion playing in the Champions League and representing Italy, had Pirlo stayed at Inter rather than transfer to Milan he more than likely would have been the former rather than the latter.
on the 16th July, 2012 at 10:23am
@Cule, I must disagree with you on all points. The players you mentioned went where the money is. Italian clubs at this time don't have rich Arabs/Russians etc. standing behind them and throwing money at individual talent. The only flaw Serie A has are the stadiums! If you are young & good you will make it weather its with Ascoli or Juve. This article is spot on & someone needs to show this to the agents who would have us believe that each player they represent is the new Messi!
on the 16th July, 2012 at 10:23am
It is all about the money.
Juve, Roma & Milan are interested in him but non of them is willing to pay this amount to Pescara or the €2m wage.
But is he going to get his chance with PSG? I dont think so, especially with Ancelotti!
on the 16th July, 2012 at 9:33am
I totally agree with the article. Verratti has potential - no question there. But he is a 19 year old Serie B player about to play in Serie A. EU12m is a lot of money for someone with no top league experience. I don't blame Serie A teams for not wanting to pay that kind of money. Juventus was willing to buy 50% of his ownership for 5-6m and let him continue with Pescara to give him first team experience. Now he won't get a game at PSG and is likely to not have developed his career as well.
on the 16th July, 2012 at 9:23am
Rubbish article by a pro-calcio fan.

Fact is Serie A does not even give opportunities to any young talent. its a league that prefers the oldies rather than talents its a boring league. hazard/ozil/di maria/kagawa/ rather went to much better leagues.

Serie A needs to change its mentality, it needs an enigma. empty stadiums, match fixing, benching young talents for oldies is what is making serie a dull and boring and only getting it more deep in the mess it is.
on the 16th July, 2012 at 9:21am

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