No Country For Young Men

Over the last two years, the football kingdom has been ruled by the English and the Spanish teams which have maintained a high level of supremacy over their Italian counterparts, winning all the major competitions in Europe. Of course, winning alone does not guarantee a team’s hold over football, but the way the Italians have recently surrendered in European competitions has raised a question on their status in European football.

Apart from Italian clubs, even the recent performances of the world cup winning national team has not helped boost their depleted power. If the reasons for this downfall are analyzed, one  major highlight is the unreasonable youth policy in Italy. An eye opening report by the FIFA commissioned Professional Football Players’ Observatory (PFPO) suggests that only 12.8% of the Italian youth stars have made their way into Italian teams.

Giovinco – Who?

As a consequence to FIFA’s report, the critics want the youth to be given a fair chance at the top-level of football, especially when the old folks find it hard to get a hold of the ball, quite literally. Criticism should always be taken constructively, but this argument has projected Italian football in an altogether different tangent.

The stringent media policies in Italy do not allow young stars to hog the limelight. They do not have the freedom of interacting with media without prior permission. This had led Italy’s young talents to believe that to get a chance at the top and be in the limelight, they need to sign up for an English or a Spanish team. There is a feeling in Europe that Italy is deprived of talented youngsters, judging by the way Italian teams field veterans virtually all the time.

The truth, however, is far from perception. If we bother to look at how the youth teams in Europe have performed in the last decade, it can be easily concluded that Italy has some of the best young talent in the world at this point of time. For instance, the Italian youth team has been crowned champions a record five times in the European U-21 championships.

So why on earth aren’t these promising youngsters given a chance to prove their mettle where it matters? This can be attributed to the winning mentality in Italy. In Italy, from the managers to the support staff, from the Tiffosi to the club owners, and not to forget the media – all want instant results in their favour. So even if a youngster is fielded, he has the burden of expectations right from the moment he steps onto the field. There is no settling-in time or a buffer period; one needs to deliver right away. Such weight on the shoulders of a youngster can be too hard to handle, forcing the management to shift their priorities towards the more reliable and experienced lot. The interpretation? The young talent has had his chance and he has blown it. The young footballer fades away.

Contrast this with English football. A youngster will be thrown on the field in a pressure cooker situation, and will be given the freedom to express. This is the way the young men blossom over there. Consider the case of a seventeen year-old Italian boy named Federico Macheda, who was brought off the bench by Sir Alex Ferguson in a tense situation, and he happened to score the most important goal of United’s season.

Sir Alex could not help but launch an attack on the Italian system, saying he doubted if an Italian native would have had the guts to make this move. Macheda was not allowed to play when he was with Lazio, due to  the Italian football association’s law which barred under-18 players to sign professional contracts. Of course, Lazio’s loss was United’s gain, and the Italian system fumed could all but fume at Sir Alex’s comments.

Macheda turned United’s season around

This brings us to the second reason. A youngster in Italy is carefully and slowly brought into the system. Any youngster aged below 22 is deemed unfit to play top-level football. This is one of the prime reasons why one of the most promising boy in recent times had to move to Manchester United and then to Villareal. Giuseppe Rossi ,when asked of his chances to go back to Serie A, had just one thing to say- “Italian teams are scared of their youth”.

The followers of this ‘experience over youth’ policy will always proclaim that this is the way Italians have played and won their accolades, so why would they want to change a winning policy? Consider Marcelo Lippi’s 2006 World Cup winning squad, the average age of which was above thirty years, and yet managed to win the world cup, knocking out countries with a better youth policy in the process. On the contrary, Lippi’s current core squad still consists of a majority of players who were there in the 2006 team, and their performance in recent times is proof enough to ditch this policy.

Paloschi is a name that comes to mind when we talk about the ill-effects of this policy. After showing a promising start with Milan, he was transferred to Palermo in the Serie B in a move to let him develop. Sebastian Giovinco would have been a household name had he been in England or Spain, but surprisingly, people at Turin are talking about letting him go. With people like Mourinho in charge, some changes were expected; it was refreshing to see youngsters like Davide Santon and Mario Balotelli giving a hard time to some of the experienced flavours of Italian football.

The supporters of this adherence to the youth policy will always argue with examples like Buffon and Alessandro Del Piero, who were developed and nurtured, which is a major reason for them being still around. Their bodies were not thrown into the rough and attacking game at the top level,  unlike players like Michael Owen who entered the top-level at a fairly young age,  and have had to battle with long-term injuries throughout their careers. They will always point out Italy ‘s success in the past with this policy, whilst teams like England are yet to taste success on the International stage..

Is it time for the Italians to change their habits of resting on their laurels? They will point to the success they’ve had but Italy could well be deemed as a ‘retirement home’ and risk being left behind for years in the race for the World Cup.

47 Responses to “No Country For Young Men”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. Somnath says:

    Good article. Italian football’s over adherence to ageing players is really a pain now.

    However, conversely, it can also be argued that player who starts late can continue playing well till a later age.

    Ortega, Aimar are on the verge of oblivion. While a Cannavaro can play in his peak when he is 32.

    Having said that, a team where all players are aged will get you nowhere. Even in last WC Italy NT had young players like Zaccardo, Barzagli or Gilardino starting games.

    The 1982 WC winning team’s legendary defense had a rookie Giuseppe Bergomi along with 3 veteran Juventus defenders. Baggio played in 1990 WC, del Piero played in Euro96, both were fairly young then.

    The problem lies with the Italian coaches, who are typically orthodox. Juventus has one of the most talented youth teams in Italy right now, winners of back to back Viareggio Cups. Yet none of those players are given a run in first team. The Primavera Scudetto winning team of 2006 had stars like Paolucci, Marchisio, Giovinco & de Ceglie. Among them only Marchisio has earned himself a regular starting spot.

    It’s a wrong notion that Italian teams never relied on youth. Bettega, Paolo Rossi, Schillachi, Furino were all Juventus youth products, with considerable success for first team. Scirea, Tardelli, Boniperti, del Piero were all brought to the club when they were fairly young. Only in recent times do I see the clubs not taking risks on youth players at all.

    The samller clubs like Genoa, Napoli & Bari are doing a stellar job in breeding youth players though. The Palermo youth team is the current Primavera League champs. The big clubs need to take more risks.

  2. Arvind says:

    IMO this is too simplified an analogy. We cannot generalize the happenings at Milan/Juventus and La Nazionale with Italy as a whole.

    Most of the other clubs have a healthy youth system and they blend in youngsters.Fiorentina is a great example with the likes of Gamberini and Montlivo coming up. Palermo and Napoli do the same exceptionally well. Genoa have a policy of fielding one primavera player into the main squad every year (Though not many make it).

    In Past 25 years, Italy as a country has possibly produced 10 times more world class footballers than England, yet youth players today choose to leave for England. This has NOTHING to do with youth policy, but more to do with unethical but legal actions of English club combined with instant gratification sought by Parents of the talented youngsters.

    Italian teams failing in Europe has to do more with Calciopoli than lack of youth.

  3. HurtLocker says:

    @arvind.. are you talking about alessandro gamberini.. he is 28 years old for christ sakes and he’s been aound for some time now, montolivo is touching 25 now.. of course you’ll have 1 or 2 young boys in any club.. even milan has pato.. but what about the rest?? when 17 year old boys start moving on to other european leagues because they are not getting enough playtime then obviously something is wrong..

  4. Arvind says:

    The situation of National team is somewhat different. Lippi in his second coming has brought in his stupid policy of trusting over the hill players. Confederations cup would have been a great chance of giving youngsters a chance to blend in. But sadly nothing happened.

    As such the country believes in slowly blending players into main squad. This is because the press behaves like bloodhounds and the feeling rightly is that it is unfair to expect youngsters to shoulder the burden.

    In England, there are almost dozen examples in past 15 years of teenagers making their national team debut.
    In Italy only 6 made it before 20th birthday. It is not as if there were no teenage prodigies. The likes of Baggio, Totti, del Pierro were all marked for greatness in their teens. Yet they bade their time and were slowly blooded in. In a way it worked well as they had a long career.

  5. Arvind says:

    @HurtLocker: First of all it is a plain simple fallacy that 17 year olds are moving because of lack of opportunity. They never had it in Italy in the first place. Yet great players did emerge. 17 Year olds are simply moving because of legal loopholes.

    Gamberini wasnt a right example agewise, but the point was that clubs do give youngsters chance. He was a starter at Bologna and Fiorentina.

  6. @somnath.. when you bring in young boys to play competitive football , by the time they reach a age of 26-29, at which a player is supposed to play the best football of his life, their bodies are burned out because they were not prepared at the onset.. this is what developing a player means.. you develop their bodies and minds to be in sync before letting them on the field but one thing the Italians can learn is to substitute a player after 70 mins.. All the development and molding theory is fine but a youngster also needs exposure at the top level..

    @arvind.. what exactly do you mean by unethical actions of the english clubs.. its called business mate.. CAN YOU GIVE ANY OTHER EXAMPLE OTHER THAN MACHEDA??.. HOW CAN YOU GENERALIZE THIS CONCEPTION WITH ONLY MACHEDA’S CASE??.. N there’s nothing unethical about it.. Macheda wasn’t getting a chance to play with lazio so it was a pure business move

  7. Luis says:

    @HurtLocker… The article i suppose is focused on Italian youth, players from club academies, Pato is a young prodigy from Brazil and hardly has anything to do with the Italian youth policy.

    @Arvind… Calciopoli surely had a terrible impact on the performance of Italian Teams in Europe but the lack of spirited youngsters also is a major factor. I cant think of one italian striker who’s performance has been even near to those of Messi’s(who is from Barca’s academy and is still only 22). Having said that I know comparison with Messi is too much but there’s no one in Italy who can match up to even half of Messi’s talent and performance which is a pity.

    IMO the article has beautifully touched aspects like Pressure on managers from Tifosi and club officials who want everything in their favor, a recent example being that of Melo, Tifosi have a major influence and Clubs end up on their recieving end.

  8. @Luis.. Exactly my point.. the issue is a lack of homegrown players in Italy.. just for example.. Paloschi had all the potential in the world to break into the scene if given the proper guidance.. but he was loned out to a Serie B club after starting for a team like Milan.. what does this do to the confidence of the young boy??.. he’s doing well there but i doubt if we’ll see him doing wonders in Italy..

  9. and again @arvind.. i have this PFPO report with me.. I just shared Italy’s data at 12.8%.. if you want I can share the stats of clubs from Germany, England, Spain, or even france.. and if u still think that it has nothing to do with the youth policy then I can share club specific reports for the italian clubs as well.. your call now.. If u think that throwing one or 2 odd youngsters in a team like chievo or napoli or palermo means they have a good youth system then I really wish you say “share the reports with me” my friend.. How many of these players have become household names in Italy????

  10. Somnath says:


    Has any Italian player ever played like Maradona ? 😀

    How many WCs does Argentina have again ?

    Like Arvind said, it is oversimplifying. An Argentine , Dutch or French player will break into his first team much ahead of an Italian player.

    That was never stopped Italy from being one of the topmost NTs, ahead of the mentioned names. Italy is possibly the only nation where club success is of compareable volume to NT success.

  11. Somnath says:


    A similar example to Macheda is Petrucci, a Roma youth product.

  12. Somnath says:

    Is it really necessary to give a 17 year old player a regular run in in the first team ?

    Andrea Pirlo was an unknown name outside Italy when he was in early 20s. Ariel Ortega was touted to be the next Maradona.

    10 years down the line, look at where those players ended up.

    It is not wrong for a club to wait till the player has adequate mental/physical maturity. It is wrong however, not give a player starting spots when he is 22-23 (Giovinco), especially if the player has quality.

    I would rather have a player starting out at 22 & continuing till 35, rather than starting at 17 & burning out at 26.

  13. Arvind says:

    @ Nikhil…. again it is ignorance if you think only Macheda was the case. Wake up and smell the coffee

    Let me list out

    1) Arturo Lupoli: Lured by Arsenal from Parma. Career floundered and Parma got Zilch for developing him till the age of 17.
    2) Guiseppe Rossi: Same as Lupoli, but at least he has had a decent career so far.
    3) Davide Petrucci : Roma got Zilch for someone whom they saw as rivaling Totti in natural talent

    Sorry to be blunt… but you need to take out your English coloured glasses. For developing players what did their clubs get? Zero Zilch nada. Just because law in England allows it doesn’t make it right.

    Italian clubs were doing great in Europe till 2006. Then too they never played youngsters, while clubs in England regularly did. So the lack of youth didn’t hurt till 2006, but does it now? Isn’t it too crazy assumption to say the least.

  14. Luis says:

    Since I follow Juve closely I’d talk of a few youngsters from Turin….
    Cristian Pasquato, a free kick specialist from Juve’s academy is another one who was loaned out even after he spent the 2008–2009 pre-season with the Juventus’ first team, impressing throughout the summer. I believe he would have come in handy in a season that has seen almost everyone in the juve squad injured. Similarly Candreva and Giovinco have not been utilized by Juve when they could have amidst all the injury problems they have had this season.

  15. Arvind says:

    First of all, it is oversimplification to start with. To start with how many world class players have come out of Italian clubs in last 15 years. Possibly a dozen.

    How many of them were starters for their clubs before 20. Except Nesta and Buffon – Zero.

    A talent like Totti never started in an ordinary Roma XI before 98. Pirlo was acknowledged as a world class talent but struggled to make a mark at Inter. Cannavaro became a regular at Napoli at age 21 only when Ferrera left. Zambrotta made his Serie-A debut at 20 and was never a regular initially. Yet all of them enjoyed a very successful club and national career. At their peak all of them were counted among the best in their positions.

    In this decade before 2006 both Juventus and Milan had done fairly well in Europe. How many players below 21 were there in their starting lineups. The answer is Zero.

    Yet the claim is made that it is the lack of youngsters that is hurting Italian clubs, just because the philosophy they follow is different.

    Yes in the past 3 years Milan and Juventus have struggled to replace their oldies with youngsters. Both the clubs have been guilty of letting go of some very talented youngsters. But that is very small part of the larger problem faced by the two clubs and country.

  16. Somnath says:

    Candreva was a loaned player to start out with. He did play a few games, but added nothing to the team. His price is too steep too. Another terrible move by Secco.

  17. @arvind.. you just summed it up yourself.. if some english clubs are able to lure these players then it is because these players don’t see a future in an italian club just because they don’t get substantial playtime.. and how the hell is it unethical for a club to lure a player.. its pure business and they have a valid reason to lure these players.. the simple reason being the freaking youth system.. If you are an 18 year old and you see 34 year old hogs struggling on the feild and still you find yourself sitting on the bench and not doing your bit then won’t you try and move on.. that is exactly the core of this article..
    even the example that you gave -> Rossi has mentioned the same problem and if you didn’t notice i have mentioned him in the article so just try clicking on his name and read the article and you’ll find your example reiterating this article.. and again united Signing Rossi was not unethical.. I was looking for Unethical examples and you gave me Rossi..
    I know that italy has never been like this but then with changing times don’t you need to change and catch up to world.. and the problem has never been a lack of youth, its the lack of oppurtunity..
    I understand that probably you’ve been following italian football from even before i was born but then again i think you have not digested this article well

  18. Arvind says:

    @Nikhil… as I say again wake up and smell the coffee. Some English clubs lure the youngsters because they have thrown ethics down the drain. In theory you propound the likes of Totti and Del Pierro should have done the same in their teens as they didn’t get chances.

    What is business here? Morally and ethically business is when both parties gain something in the transaction while parting with something else. When Alberto Aquilani moves to England it is Business. Not in the case of youngsters, when the club parting is helpless in preventing the players from leaving.

    Pray tell me what did Lazio/Roma/Palermo/Parma etc. got in transfer fee in case of Macheda/Petrucci/Lupoli/Rossi? So the clubs develop them and get shafted in return. To give an analogy do you think the English media would have kept quiet if Jack Wilshire was lured by Italian club, taking advantage of legal loophole.

    The English cannot do it in their own homeland, yet they will raid Italy because the law allows them. Shameful and yet someone will justify and say it is business.

  19. Too much of coffee ain’t that good.. try snorting a little decaf to calm you down
    Jack Wilshire will never end up being lured by an italian club because as per DA ITALIANO POLICIES he’ll never get enough playtime so that’s out of question..
    And do you by any means get this perception that i am a supporter of English clubs on this??.. Cuz if you do then its wrong again.. M no supporter of the English, its just that I want a change in the way the Italians handle their youngsters.. If you want to develop them at least try retaining them by giving them enough confidence that they are required.. that will make the English attempts of luring them unsuccessful…
    And Sir, Totti and Del Piero when in their teens was a diferent era of football altogether.. they didn’t have old hags messing up Italian football while they patiently waited for there chance.. Had they seen that happening they might have voiced their concern too.. now if you wanna go back to that era why don’t we talk about Maldini here.. he broke into Milan at 16.. and broke into Italy at age 19.. that defies the italian logic of slowly getting teens into the first team..

  20. another definition of business for you ->.. do it within the laws of your country, if you find loop holes capitalize on them and get rich..
    from the Italian side ->.. Retaining is also a major part of business.. so gaining something in every transaction should not be goal at least in terms of football.. If u retain your own resources then you’ve made some serious profit sir.. n u stand to lose if you don’t change your youth policies n how do you retain them??.. let the boys play!!!
    1 ques for you – > Why do you think Macheda and the likes of Rossi left Italy?????????????????????????/

  21. Pranjal says:


    I think you are taking this on a wrong foot. In simple terms the point Arvind is trying to make is this:

    In order to seek the best world talent and reduce their transfer fee burden in future, English clubs have been exploiting differences in employment law between the United Kingdom and European territories.

    English clubs can sign a player onto a trainee contract before 16 years of age and enjoy the protection that it offers, clubs in France, Spain and Germany generally cannot. In case of Italy its 18 years.

    It is altogether a different issue and has nothing to do with players getting opportunities and playing time. It’s not a problem of just Italy and Italian soccer to begin with. It is highly unethical and gives an undue advantage to the English clubs. It is even destructive for all the small clubs, also for young talents being traded.

    Here’s how it works. A player joins a youth academy at an age below 10, the next 6-7 years the club invest heavily on his training, education, nutrition and development. An English club comes with a contract, the player leaves. What does the club gets? Zilch. Why? Because they can’t do anything. The legal jurisdiction of there country does not allow them to offer professional contracts. Even if they manage a pre-contract, it is non enforceable and deemed void as the player is a minor.

    If you think that moving to a big club is always a step forward for a youngster then you are terribly wrong. For every Macheda who succeeds, there are 100 who do not. 95 per cent of all these players come back extremely disappointed. It would have been beneficial had they stayed at there local clubs and home environment.
    English clubs buy these youngsters for peanuts, and therefore don’t really care much of each individual, as they can always trade them in 1-2 years. They are like Japanese fishing trawlers, just sweeping up everything in their nets, discarding the waste. In simple words it’s called poaching.
    I cannot understand how can you support it by suggesting it to be a smart business move by English clubs.

    Poaching by English clubs is not just a problem of Italy, its effecting other nations as well. Here are some other players who have been poached by English clubs.

    Empoli lost 16-year-old Alberto Massacci and 18-year-old Manuel Pucciarelli to United.
    16-year-old Michele Fornasier’s recent move to Old Trafford from Fiorentina.

    Barcelona lost Fabregas, Fan Merida to Arsenal and Pique to United under this legal loophole. Later they had to buy back there own player.

    Jordi Brower poached from Ajax academy to Liverpool while he was on a youth contract.

    Jeffrey Bruma joined Chelsea at the age of 16, from Feyenoord.

    Dutch champions AZ Alkmaar lost 17-year-old Vincent Weijl to Liverpool and a 15-year-old midfielder, Oguzhan Ozyakup, to Arsenal.

    Marseille, were aghast when 11-year-old Jeremey Boga moved to London last year to join Chelsea.

    Chelsea set a new standard when they induced French super-kid Gael Kakuta to break his contract with French club Lens. almost handing them a ban but again the legal complexities came to Chelsea’s rescue.

    I think it’s serious issue and i support Michele Platini suggestion to ban under 18 transfers in all Europe. The players local surrounding are important also. The first contract the player must sign for its youth club.
    Otherwise, such smaller clubs who rely a lot on there youth, see no point in running youth academies if players never graduate to the first team and they receive scant compensation for them.

  22. Arvind says:

    I don’t know why you keep repeating the same, when it is clear that only TWO CLUBS Milan and Juventus have the problem. And it is not hard to see that both of them are in a state of flux. Each of the other teams in the league do nurture youth players. And unlike your claim that Mourinho was instrumental in Balotelli making the grade, it was Mancio who blooded him first and he was instrumental in a few wins when Inter were struggling in March 08.

    And if you think Totti and Del Piero didn’t have oldies ahead of them, again I guess you need to really know more about the world of Calcio. They also had their share of Seniors blocking their way. But they knew to bide their time and had the club at their feet by the time they were in early 20s.

    Second point on business… There is something called respecting laws of land. Italian law (And Spanish law) doesn’t allow professional contracts before 18. Nothing can be done about it. If the clubs were to act ethical (which you can never expect in England) shouldn’t they wait till the players sign up professional contract and then lure whoever they feel is not happy with his lack of chances. Well at least they do the same in their own land right?

    It is stupid to think that players who have moved have done wonders for their careers. Arturo Lupoli was considered best striker at U-17 level. Where is he now?

    Moving between leagues means adjusting not just to a different culture, but to a totally different footballing philosophy. Italian coaches are known to be notoriously inward looking when it comes to choosing players. In a way the player who goes abroad at a young age simply is jeopardizing his national team future. The thinking is that it is tough to integrate players who play in different football philosophies. That way every player who moves out of Italy, is compromising with his long term career.

    Third and the dirtiest part of the business is how badly it hurts small clubs. Parma surely could have done a lot with the few millions they could potentially have got out of Rossi and Lupoli. Same with Empoli.

  23. Arvind says:

    Secondly the premise here is that just because a 17 year old makes an odd appearance off bench in England, he would go on to become a world beater? Yes Macheda scored an all important goal, but whats the guarantee that he will be a future star.

    Vince Vaughan scored premiership goal before his 17th birthday. Today he is playing two leagues below. Theo Walcott was pulled off from obscurity and was taken to WC 2006. 4 years later he still struggles to get into a starting XI of poorest Arsenal team in a decade.

    Maldini is a very rare exception. Heck Buffon made into national team by age 19, which is exceptional for goalkeeper of ANY COUNTRY.

    For the world of Calcio, getting rid of Calciopoli induced malaise will be the key to regaining lost glory.

  24. Arvind says:

    Sorry… read that name as James Vaughan, not Vince

  25. sarad says:

    @Arvind: For a moment if we keep “young Italians going out of the country” out of the discussion: may I ask: what’s your take on young players whose career is getting shunted in Italian League.

    Let me get couple of names: Giovinco, Motta, Davide Santon etc.

    What all we have not heard about Giovinco – and due to inactivity in the last 20 months under two very different coaches, the guys is gonna be 23 soon and is not showing any promise what so ever.

    You r very close to Inter and I ‘m sure you would appreciate Davide Santon’s example a tad better. I mean what more you need to do to impress Jose? Please do n’t come back and tell me Chivu has been a much much better choice. He has been on bench or was completely left out of the squad even when the ever injured Chivu was nushing his injury.

    And what to say about Motta. Lemme confess. I don’t follow roma as much but whatever I saw of this guy in UCL against Arsenal, he had the Arsenal full back (Clichy) in his pocket. And such a bright prospect is playing 2nd fiddle to a 32 yr old Casetti.

    Wish to touch Santacroce and Cigarini etc but lemme stop here.

    Bottomline is – there are very few movements from Italy U21 intl to senior intl mainly because of lack of EXPOSURE to young guys in league. And the stats of 12% does not lie. And this bottled up with the lack of senior contract @<18 asks kids to look else where. you can call it an illegal poaching (yes I agree that's wrong) and close your eyes but something is surely wrong within Italy itslef.

  26. I was just doing what any writer would do.. Saving my article from being labeled as a generalized writeup.. at the first place this wasn’t about poaching at all.. it was about youths not being given exposure and hence italy is suffering from this.. arvind took it to unethical business from english club.. agreed italy is not the only one suffering from poaching.. even france and spain and germany are suffering.. but are these teams struggling in world football??.. Why do you need to stick to the hags when you can see some fire???.. My point is just that Italy can benefit a lot if they…. forget it before arvind says “why am i saying it again”.. I think we can end this here and call it truce!!

  27. And i am surprised at how pranjal being a Milan fan himself.. forget it.. Do you remember Paloschi??, Gourcoff??, Darmian, Cardacio??.. Where are they now??.. did they get a chance??.. to the best of my knowledge they were not poached??.. N similar examples are waiting for attention.. guys i am not addressing poaching here.. why did rossi leave italy???.. i am saying the same thing again n again because you are taking this article into a different world.. if your oldies are doing wonders it wont matter if you bring in these boys or not.. but when they are not, you gotta give it a try.. N this is not just the case of milan.. take the Italian national side for example.. and arvind please don’t give me the reason to be Lippi.. Argentina has Messi, England has Rooney, Spain has Torres, there were so many youth stars in the Italian U-21.. has any of them become a household name like all of these??.. don’t tell me everyone was poached away by English teams.. N for christ sakes if theres a loophole in the Italian law and we as Indians can see it and still the Italians are not doing anything to amend the law then who are we to blame the English for exploiting that law..

  28. @sarad.. exactly my point..
    thank you for understanding the core of this post!!

  29. @ARVIND AND PRANJAL..It`s all very well for Platini to talk to the Italian FA in order to keep their young players at Italian clubs but the Italian League has the worst record of fielding club or association trained players (played for at least three years, between the ages of 15 and 21, in the club or federation which employs them). Club/Association trained players were fielded in only 14.5% of matches by the top 5 Italian clubs according to the report. This compares with a European average of 23.52% with France`s top 5 fielding such players in most games at 35.43%. But Englands top 5 clubs at 26.89% of matches, not only fielded a higher percentage of these club or association trained players than Italy but also Spain (23.81%) and Germany (17.67%).
    At a club level Barcelona has the best record of fielding club trained players at 41.7% with, unsurprisingly, Arsenal the Premier Leagues best chance of a first team appearance at 39.6%. Bruno Conti of Roma might ask himself whether the fact that his club only fielded club or association trained players in 16.1% of matches made Manchester United an attractive proposition for Petrucci where he is more than twice as likely to get a game at 37.5%.The message to young European players from this report seems clear. If you want to increase your chances of making the first team in a big league then come to England – and first head for the Arsenal Academy.
    Just don`t expect anyone at FIFA or UEFA to take any notice of this report. It would mean them having to think about what is really best for young players and not their archaic notion of maintaining national purity.

  30. Shady says:

    @pranjal: I dont know what story you are talking about when you said Kakuta episode by chelsea….as far as I know Chelsea were cleared of any wrong doing and Kakuta was legally signed by chelsea. Also it was platini’s way of taking revenge on the dominant english clubs.

    @ others:
    The best a player plays starts from 22 and he peaks at 28 and by 31 or 32 he should be dropped if the player form dips. There are some exceptions to this on both sides of the age group but these players are exceptional talents and once in a generation players.

    Whatever football I have seen in the my life I can say the best goal keepers have hit top form in their late twenties and continued till mid thirties, the best midfielders around the age 27 to 32 and strikers from 24-30. The defenders have been in form from the age of 25 till 35.

    What I can see from the Italian managers is that they utilize a players at peak form very well and they have been quite successful at that. History speaks for itself. Youngsters like Macheda or balotelli or Santon are good players but they still havent made it to their clubs first teams yet, people forget this very easily and 1-2 match winning performances make us all feel they are the future of italian football. I would like to wait and see who can sustain their form till mid twenties. I would say at least 3-4 unknown kids aged 17 or 18 today will be better players than the macheda’s and Santon’s. balotelli is a self destruct weapon and JoMo has been trying to help him but he doesnt want help but wants to end his career even before it starts.

    I vouch for the Italian managers who have been very successful in utilizing their experienced and youth players in the right blend to win World cups and european trophies.

  31. Pranjal says:


    My whole objection was against the support you showed for a serious issue like poaching, calling it business acumen of English clubs. Poaching is a different problem altogether and my post was strictly related to it.

    Well, i not once denied that problem persist in the Italian Football regarding proper integration of youth. This problem again is concentrated to the big clubs, mainly Milan and Juve, and few other clubs. Not all Italian clubs face this problem. Teams like Palermo, Napoli, Sampdoria, Genoa, Cagliari, Parma and Bari have done well with the youth players, although they face financial and legal problems.
    IMHO, to this situation, credit majorly goes to the senile and incompetent management of these big clubs (Read B&G and the Secco family). Italian football philosophy and culture may have aggravated the issue.

    Again i do not understand why are you so keen on players getting chance at the age of 16-17. What is wrong if the club holds them for let’s say 20? Does a player becomes a old player at 20. You have to understand, we rarely get a Maldini, and not every 16 year old can handle the pressure and demands of modern football. at times it’s cruel on these youngsters.

    I do not believe that the legal framework in Italy is wrong or Platini effort to ban all under 18 transfers in Europe is to settle personal vendetta against English clubs (That is actually lame – @shady).
    Why do players like Rossi and Macheda leave? well it’s simple, they see the money, they are restless and there parents are also involved in the deal. Something the Italian clubs cannot do.
    Platini’s argument about the impact of local surroundings and home environment on a young kid is a sensible and noble one. 10-15 year old are little kids, they don’t need to go to a new country. It’s not that easy of a transition.
    The problem is the media only focus on the success stories, while for every such story, there are 50 stories of failure.

    The problem at Milan and Juve is down to very poor management, financial weakening and enormous pressure of getting results. Italian clubs have also become psychologically weaker and inferior to English clubs in recent times.
    A good team integrates young players at regular intervals to the first team. A mix of experience and youth is necessary for the team. Milan and Juve are worst examples of club management at the moment.


    Lens had a pre contract agreement signed by Gael Kakuta before his 16th birthday. Chelsea offered a lot of money to Kakuta’s family to persuade him to leave and break the contract.

    Fifa after investigating handed them a two year transfer ban, some compensation money to be paid to Lens. Kakuta was banned for 4 month.
    Chelsea was rescued by the contract being non enforceable in France.
    Chelsea then made a settlement with Lens outside court, paid them 1 million pounds and got out clean.

    Btw this was not the first time your beloved Chelsea was handed a ban for unethical transfer practices.

    In 2006 Chelsea had to pay 16 million pounds in compensation – 12 million pounds to Manchester United and four million to Lyon – after signing Nigerian midfielder Mikel John Obi after he had seemingly joined United.

    In the same year, the Leeds United chairman Ken Bates called for them to have points deducted after approaches were made to two Leeds youth players, Tom Taiwo and Michael Woods.

    A year earlier they had been fined 300,000 pounds for “tapping-up” Ashley Cole before his move from Arsenal.

    Probably Platini is orchestrating all of this!!

  32. I never said bring on the 16-17 year old boys and throw them onto the feild and burden them with responsibilities.. just throw them in an odd match just to give them some exposure and give them the confidence that boy you will be required in the future.

  33. Somnath says:

    The problem with Giovinco is very unique. Most Juve fans want to see him in first team, but the thing with him is, he cannot fit into the current system. Sumple as that ?

    Where will you play him ? In youth level he mainly played as a second striker. He definitely can’t do that in senior level. He is too small for that & gets muscled off the ball easily. His finishing isn’t upto the mark either.

    Other positions where he has been tried – as a trequarista in a 4-3-1-2. Was an abject failure in that formation added nothing to the team. Played 2-3 games in that position when Diego was injured in the start of the season.

    The only position where he was a success was 4-2-3-1, as the left sided wide advanced mid. Camoranesi on the right & him on the left with Diego in the centre. Juve played 5 games with this formation, 2 of them were won after scoring 5 goals. One against the then 2nd placed Sampdoria. One flaw of this system was it depended on those 3 players a lot & there was no replacement.

    In the game against Napoli, Camo got injured & was subbed by Tiago. Juve took a 2-0 lead & conceeded 3 in last 30 mins to lose 2-3, the 4-2-3-1 was distorted.

    This system was soon to be scrapped after a 2-0 loss at Bordeaux. Meanwhile del Piero got fit & Ciro promptly replaced Giovinco with Alex on the left wing against Udinese. Alex was terrible on the left wing, against Udinese as well as the next game against Bordeuax.

    But del Piero will play in big UCL games. There’s no two ways about it. Giovinco is not capable of producing the moments of genius that del Piero, can produce at this age.

    Juven’s current squad/formation just cannot accomodate Giovinco. He can work best as a wide midfielder, in an advanced position. His pace is a menance on the wings. Put him in centre & he gets lost.

    Neither had Juve had coaches who can use Giovinco in any different way. The quality of coaches simply hasn’t been good enough. Which has led to the long absence of him from the first team.

    Injuries haven’t helped either (even Santon got a surgery this season).

    It’s not his fault, but he is in the wrong place in the wrong time.

  34. Somnath says:

    Ah yes, the Platini consipracy springs up again 😀

    Italian clubs get toughest groups in UCL, lets blame Platini 😀

    English clubs get easy groups, Platini is to blame.

    Drogba scores a goal against United after being 2 yard offside, Platini is to blame 😀

    English clubs being most dominant in Platini’s era, Platini is to be blamed 😀

    When you take off those EPL tinted glasses off (which the media wont let you, I know), you will appreciate how he has championed the smaller teams (which the media portrays as favouring Italian teams). Minnows like Unirea Urizeni, Rubin Kazan almost made it to UCL round-2 this season. Platini has a lot of hand in this.

  35. Somnath says:

    By the way what’s all the raving about Macheda already ? Has he made regular starts for the Azzurini ? No. He has scored a few good goals & ppl are touting him to be the next Baggio.

    Let him do well for one of the best youth NTs in Europe, then we’ll judge him.

    Ciro Immobile has been scoring for fun in youth level. You don’t hear Italian media calling him next Vieri do you ?

  36. Somnath says:

    Youth stars don’t always make a successful transition to be a top senior player.

    Rafael Palladino, Michel Paolucci were both top players in youth level. Palladino got pleanty of game time too. Where are they now ?

    The whole point which you are not grasping is that it’s not necessary to start early in Italy. It’s how long you stay in the peak, which is more important, not how early you start.

    In Italy only the very best like Malidini, Bergomi, del Piero or Totti break into first team at a tender age. If you are not near that level, you have to wait. Simple as that.

    Again like I said, there’s no use of starting early & fizzing out when you are 25 (Michael Owen), I’d rather have my players playing in his peak when he is in his 30s.

  37. Shady says:

    Lens did not have a agreement signed by Kakuta but his mom if you read the news correctly. So kakuta never signed one and that means he doesnt need to worry about the contract. If a club signs a contract with a underage kid that too taking moms sign rather than the players then i guess that is more of cheating rather than Kakuta joining chelsea.

    Jon Obi Mikel episode is something which continued to recent times.Did you stop reading Mikel related news after chelsea paid the fine. It was later told that his former club chairman had forged Mikel’s signature and sold him to Man Utd. That is the reason even today Mikel says he never signed for Utd but his signature is on the form.

    Also anyone would prefer working for more money than what they are paid currently. The same goes the case with me or you, so why should a 17 year old not dream about Ferrari’s and BMWs when they get an opportunity. Italian youngsters want to make money so they moved out and they all moved out in legal ways. The reason italian clubs dont sue other clubs is because there is no law to stop someone from making money by hard work.

    Talking about ken bates crying…he has destroyed all the clubs he owns, he put Leeds for Admin and bought it back for cheap. So he behaving like a saint and someone believing all he has got to say sound LOL for me.

    Ashley Cole issue no one knows what happened when chelsea met him. Might be nothing happened and the fans reaction to the event made Ashley Cole decide to quit Arsenal for Chelsea.

  38. Pranjal says:


    Dude a minor can only enter into a contract when there is a written, verified consent from his legal guardian. If he is emancipated he can only enter into contracts of “necessity of life”. Her mom anyways had to be involved.
    Forget contracts .. don’t you think a 14 yr (age when he signed with Lens) old will consult every such decision with his parents.
    So even if his mom signed the contract, are you suggesting she conned her own son, and what she did was illegal.

    Kenyon and Arnesen were warned and still they took the kid to a tournament with the reserves, without international clearance, when he was in a contract with lens already.

    I already mentioned the contract was void in France as it was with a minor and that’s what came for Chelsea’s rescue.

    Why did Chelsea went in for an outside settlement with the club and paid 1 million pounds?

    You are telling me that Mikel’s signature were forged by the chairman and Mikel did not have a clue about all that? This is a serious crime then, Chelsea should have filed a case against the chairman and recover something of that 16 million pounds they gave as compensation. Now why did i not hear about that?

    Unfortunately money is the prime force driving youth trafficking. But the money is not huge as the local clubs are not even eligible to play. English club share this uninterfered privilege

    Since when did more money necessarily means a right career move always. There is a reason why the law does not allow minors to enter into contracts, the reason being they are too naive and immature to make those decisions. Moreover there home club are not allowed to offer

  39. Pranjal says:


    A minor can only enter into a contract when there is a written, verified consent from his legal guardian. If he is emancipated he can only enter into contracts of “necessity of life”.
    There is a reason why the law does not allow minors to enter into contracts, the reason being they are too naive and immature to make those decisions. Her mom anyways had to be involved.

    Forget contracts .. don’t you think a 14 yr (age when he signed with Lens) old will consult every such decision with his parents.
    So what even if his mom signed the contract, are you suggesting she conned her own son, and what she did was illegal.

    Chelsea contacted them without the clubs consent and lured them into breaching the contract.
    Kenyon and Arnesen were even warned and still they took the kid to a tournament with the reserves, without international clearance, when he was in a contract with lens already.

    I already mentioned the contract was void in France as it was with a minor and that’s what came for Chelsea’s rescue.

    Why did Chelsea went in for an outside settlement with the club and paid 1 million pounds?

    You are telling me that Mikel’s signature were forged by the chairman and Mikel did not have a clue about all that? This is a serious crime then, Chelsea should have filed a case against the chairman and recover something of that 16 million pounds they gave as compensation. Now why did i not hear about that?

    Money does not necessarily means a right career move always. Unfortunately money is the prime force driving youth trafficking. But the money is not at all huge as the local clubs are not even eligible to offer any contracts. English club share this supreme privilege over the other nations due the legal loopholes.

    Again you are forgetting that this is a pretty cheap bargain for a player to risk his entire future. 95% do not end up with Ferrari’s and BMW’s and in process ruin there future. You just don’t get to know about the failures.

    You can defend your club as much as you want but they are involved into unethical practices in the transfer market and poaching of youth. They are surely not the only ones in England although.

  40. redNblack_blood says:

    @sommnath– no no no no no chap, even if one is kidding one “CANNOT” compare “Divine Ponytail” with macheda….

  41. Arvind says:

    @ Sarad,

    Now that you point out a few names, especially from Inter. Let me answer it.

    At the start of 2008-09 season, Inter’s first choice LB were Chivu and Maxwell. The former is captain of Romanian National team and one of the best defenders in Serie-A. Made into the team of the season multiple times. Last season Davide Santon broke into Inter main team, taking advantage of Chivu’s injuries.

    His emergence WAS THE BIGGEST REASON why Inter let go of Maxwell.

    No coach TODAY in his right mind will prefer Santon over Chivu. Unfortunately this season, Santon himself has been struggling with injuries. After a disastrous start to the season (Where the talks of transfer was instigated by Lippi and Juventus players) he got himself injured. Now he has had surgery.

    If that qualifies as ignoring a player, I dont know what to say. Inter are taking the measured approach. Over a period of time he will make the full back role his own.

  42. Arvind says:

    First and foremost the premise of this article was that it is lack of youth which is making Italian teams fail in Europe. Nothing could be farther from reality.

    If you go by UEFA league Coefficients Italy was top in 2006. Due to Calciopoli traditional powerhouses Juventus missed out next two years. Their replacements were just not up to level. Which Italian team post 2006 (Bar Inter maybe) can come close to the level of Juventus squad of 2004-06? Maybe Inter of today? In fact Chievo Verona was in Europe that year.

    The problem with Italy was that the established structure got changed so much that the mid-table teams simply didn’t have quality to compete with European teams.

    The likes of Napoli, Fiorentina, Palermo etc. which have a healthy youth structure are also the ones which are usurping the place vacated by giants like Milan and Juventus.

  43. Prithwish says:


  44. John Gent says:

    great post thanks, follow me on twitter everyone i follow back

  45. I really like your post. Always been very informational. I hope you’ll keep up the good work and maintain the standard. Best of luck.

  46. Couldent have put it any better my self, some points in this article is very accurate.