Serie A coaches gang up on the kids of today

October 28, 2009

The coaches of the three biggest Serie A clubs recently indulged in what has always been one of the favourite pastimes of the older and wiser — picking fault with today’s youngsters.

Inter Milan boss Jose Mourinho kicked things off when he criticised 19-year-old forward Mario Balotelli’s approach in training and suggested that footballers of his age were more interested in Ferraris and Bentleys than getting on with the job.

“It’s probably a generational problem,” Mourinho said. “At the moment it’s very difficult to find a player who’s 19 or 20 and thinks like a man.”

Reporters asked Juventus coach Ciro Ferrara what he thought, but if they hoped to stir up another Mourinho-versus-the-rest-of-Italy row, they were disappointed.

“I agree. It’s a problem of values,” Ferrara said. “Things have changed a lot and the purely sporting side often drops down to a secondary level.

“A young player becomes a star after just a few matches in Serie A. Million-euro contracts arrive and thoughts immediately go to the national team. It’s difficult for them to keep their feet on the ground.”

AC Milan boss Leonardo agreed too.

“I understand what Mourinho is saying. It’s difficult to teach certain values to youngsters,” he told reporters, adding that he believed it was a problem for society as a whole, not just soccer.

Maybe the managers have a point and all the money pouring into football has corrupted the game’s budding talent.

I’m not so sure. Football has always had its share of prima donnas and players who, let’s say, gave great importance to the economic side of the profession.

Moreover, those wondering why young players find it harder to get a chance to shine in Serie A than in other top flights, might have be given a clue to the riddle.

PHOTO: Inter Milan’s coach Jose Mourinho (L) argues with his player Mario Balotelli during their Serie A match against Siena at San Siro, May 17, 2009. REUTERS/Giampiero Sposito

One comment

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For once, I agree with Mourinho. The amount of money some of these kids make is ridiculous but it would be cynical to ask them not to behave as any other teenager would in their position. The heart of the problem lies elsewhere. Football has become a money-spinning industry with the same double standards that apply in other spheres of life: the rich get richer and the poor can’t even afford to watch their teams in action anymore. It is no longer a fan’s game in the top leagues, given the ticket prices and the cost of fan merchandise. Last time round I was at Old Trafford five years ago, it was packed with “I am so posh and you are not” glory fans who were there to take photos of each other, the bulk of them left with 10 minutes remaining and United 3-1 up against Everton, they didn’t bother to stay as the visitors scored to set up a dramatic finale and their fans easily outsang the home crowd. I suspect it’s even worse these days.

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