Macheda highlights Serie A’s impatience with youth
Serie A clubs are understandably upset about English sides scooping up youngsters such as Federico Macheda from their academies.
Lazio President Claudio Lotito cried foul after the 17-year-old, a product of the Rome club’s youth system, scored a stunning winner for Manchester United against Aston Villa in his Premier League debut on Sunday.
He has a point. After doing the hard part of nurturing the players’ talents, wealthier foreign sides can step in and enjoy the benefits. It’s not the best way to encourage clubs to invest in their academies and FIFA and UEFA are looking at tightening the rules on the transfer of under-18s.
But Lotito’s annoyance is only justified to a certain degree as, if Macheda had stayed at Lazio, it seems unlikely that he would have got the chance United boss Alex Ferguson gave him to hit the headlines at such a tender age.
“I doubt an Italian team would have made the move Ferguson did,” respected Italian sports writer Italo Cucci told Rai television.
Indeed, while Serie A clubs are good at producing young players, they are frequently criticised in Italy for not giving them the chance to shine.
Italy striker Giuseppe Rossi, another player snapped up as a teen by United, was unable to find a Serie A side even after an impressive loan stint at Parma in 2007 and his skills are now on show in Spain at Villarreal.
It’s also worth remembering that Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry both joined Arsenal in the 1990s after failing to find space early in their careers at AC Milan and Juventus respectively.
The highly charged atmosphere of Serie A pressures coaches into preferring tried-and-tested options rather than risking players who inevitably make mistakes out of inexperience.
“The English definitely have more courage in giving youngsters a chance abroad,” former Juve and Chelsea striker Gianluca Vialli told Sky. “The difference there is that when they have an off match, they still let them play the next game.”
That said, Ferguson seemed to have acquired some of his Italian colleagues’ caution on Tuesday, with Macheda warming the bench in a disappointing 2-2 home draw with Porto in their Champions League quarter-final first leg.
PHOTO: Manchester United’s Federico Macheda heads the ball during a training session at the club’s Carrington training complex in Manchester, northern England, April 6 2009. REUTERS/Phil Noble