Gabriele Grav­ina

Ital­ian fed­er­a­tion boss tasked with in­tro­duc­ing B teams into Serie C

World Soccer - - Headliners - Paddy Agnew

New Ital­ian Foot­ball Fed­er­a­tion boss Gabriele Grav­ina will have just two years in of­fice to make a dif­fer­ence – a time-frame con­sid­ered far too short by ex-Mi­lan star Demetrio Al­ber­tini, who has been ac­tive in foot­ball pol­i­tics for over a decade.

A deputy pres­i­dent of the fed­er­a­tion from 2007 to 2014, Al­ber­tini ar­gues that much longer is needed for mean­ing­ful change, and he is prob­a­bly right, but at least Grav­ina will be able to over­see the com­ple­tion of one re­form al­ready started, namely the cre­ation of Serie A “sec­onde squadre” (re­serve or B teams) play­ing in Serie C this sea­son.

Ital­ian clubs have al­ways used their un­der-19 Pri­mav­era sides as a sort of re­serve team, but a prob­lem comes with what to do when a player turns 19 but is judged not yet ready to join the first-team squad. In an­other cul­ture the player might be thrown into the se­nior squad on a sink-or-swim ba­sis, but that is not al­ways the Ital­ian way, with coaches much slower to blood young tal­ent.

Un­til now, such play­ers have ei­ther been sold – with a buy-back op­tion – or loaned out. If all goes well, the player gets in­valu­able, gen­uinely com­pet­i­tive

ex­pe­ri­ence so that if and when he re­turns to his Serie A club he is a more valu­able player, both on the pitch and in the trans­fer mar­ket.

A buy-back op­tion is fun­da­men­tal. Take Roma and Italy in­ter­na­tional Lorenzo Pel­le­grini, who at 22 is one of the bright­est stars in the Ital­ian game. In June 2015, at 19, he was sold by Roma – where he had been since the age of nine – to Serie A side Sas­suolo for a re­ported € 1.25mil­lion with a first op­tion, buy-back clause of € 10m. Two sum­mers later, hav­ing proved him­self a more than use­ful player in 47 Serie A ap­pear­ances for Sas­suolo, he re­joined Roma.

But was that bad busi­ness, as Roma had spent € 8.75m to buy back their own player, one who they had orig­i­nally nur­tured and de­vel­oped?

At first glance this clearly looks the case. Yet in or­der to per­suade a Serie A ri­val to take on a player like this you have to of­fer some sort of in­cen­tive, oth­er­wise there is a risk that the club will take your young player and leave him on the subs’ bench all sea­son. They will ar­gue that if they do make good use of a promis­ing player, and in the process in­crease his mar­ket value, there is noth­ing fi­nan­cial in it for them, what­ever his on-field con­tri­bu­tion to their cause. With a buy-back clause, the smaller club has a se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial in­cen­tive to make a good job of de­vel­op­ing the young tal­ent.

The idea of the sec­onde squadre is to avoid this sit­u­a­tion and al­low the big clubs to hold on to their youth-team tal­ents rather than send­ing them off to the prov­inces for com­pet­i­tive foot­ball.

An al­ter­na­tive would be for the big clubs to ei­ther buy a Serie C club or come to an ar­range­ment with one. But not ev­ery­one can af­ford to buy a feeder club, while such “ar­range­ments” could run foul of fed­er­a­tion reg­u­la­tions.

With B teams play­ing in the tough and very real en­vi­ron­ment of Serie C, clubs can look af­ter their own play­ers’ de­vel­op­ment and en­sure they get that des­per­ately needed ex­pe­ri­ence. They have much greater con­trol over the des­tiny of bud­ding young­sters who, if they develop well, can be in­tro­duced into the first-team squad at no cost.

That, at least, is the the­ory. So far the prac­tice has proved rather dif­fer­ent, with only Ju­ven­tus un­der-23s opt­ing to play in Serie C.

Other clubs have adopted a wait-and­see at­ti­tude, with many ar­gu­ing that the de­ci­sion to al­low Serie A re­serve sides to en­rol in Serie C has come too late, leav­ing them with not enough time to put to­gether the rel­e­vant in­fra­struc­ture of a B team, in­clud­ing coach­ing staff, train­ing fa­cil­i­ties and a sta­dium.

Ju­ven­tus un­der-23s are play­ing their home games at the 8,000-ca­pac­ity Sta­dio Mocca­gatta in Alessan­dria, a sta­dium owned by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity of Alessan­dria and un­til this sea­son used ex­clu­sively by Serie C team Alessan­dria, who were mem­bers of the top flight in the 1930s. Ob­vi­ously, you are not go­ing to stage re­serve-team games in 70,000plus seater sta­dia such as San Siro in MI­lan or Rome’s Olimpico.

Al­ber­tini ar­gues that the B-team project needs time to be as­sessed, but adds: “I would be very sur­prised if other clubs did not sign up for it.”

Un­der­lin­ing his words came a prom­ise from Torino owner Ur­ban Cairo, speak­ing at a Gazzetta dello Sport- or­gan­ised fo­rum in Oc­to­ber, to the ef­fect that “next year, Torino too will have a B team”.

If Al­ber­tini is right, and if Cairo keeps his word, then oth­ers may fol­low the Ju­ven­tus and Torino ex­am­ple.

For Grav­ina the sec­onde squadre con­cept of­fers a use­ful op­por­tu­nity to prove that he means busi­ness when he speaks of re­form­ing Ital­ian foot­ball.

“I would be very sur­prised if other clubs did not sign up for it” Demetrio Al­ber­tini

Serie C...Ju­ven­tus un­der-23 Matheus Pereira in ac­tion against Pro Pa­tria

Sup­port...Demetrio Al­ber­tini (left) and Gabriele Grav­ina

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.