RESTORING the youth academy back to a powerhouse should be the key to Milan’s transfer policy.
Milan’s transfer season focus has changed in recent years from signing past their prime superstars and hoping they regain their form, to signing young players who have not yet reached their potential. It’s not a coincedence that Milan’s worst team in years, 2008-2010 came partially because of the flawed system that saw Sheva and Kaka leave and Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, and Huntelaar arrive.
Up until August 2010, Milan fans hoped for at best 2nd place in Serie A, and to avoid another embarrassment in the Champion’s League. Then 2 buys, Zlatman and Robinh, changed the scope of the Milan forecast and gave hope and expectation to Milanisti everywhere.
Fast forward 9 months. Milan are Champion’s of Italy. Now that the evil to the core Inter have been taken down from their paper throne, the expectation for Milan in 2011-12 is the 8th Champion’s League title. But Milan have holes to fill and the summer of transfers has just begun.
With the acquisitions of Alberto Paloschi, Stephan El Shaarawy, Gianmarco Zigoni, Ignazio Abate and Prince, Milan has showed their transfer outlook has changed. Youth Youth Youth. Their enthusiasm, speed, and willing attitude bring a new competitive spirit to the Milan locker room as well as a positive outlook for the future.
But Milan still need to go back to what made them great during the late 80s and early 90s- The youth academy.
Milan has placed an emphasis on the youth and that is evidenced by the emergences of Strasser and Merkel and well as the promotions of Calvano and Fossatti to the first team. However, the path of many of these youngsters is a loan and co-ownership laced way, with many of them obscured into oblivion. We need more young players to make the jump from the Primavera to the first team with the “help” of Torino, Treviso and Novara. Instead, training with players like Seedorf, Gattuso and Nesta everyday can teach these players things they would never learn in Serie C.
Nurturing players through the youth academy accomplishes 3 things; it builds an foundation that establishes an identity starting from the bottom up, builds a loyalty to the club that purchasing foreigners does not provide (yes as much as I love him, I’m talking about Zlatan), and institutes good financial habits that will come in handy for the new Financial Fair Play Rules that go into effect in 2012.
Barcelona- What do you think of when you hear the name of this city? If you are a fan of football, you don’t think of a booming metropolis in eastern Spain, you think of “tika toka.” In the 2011 Champion’s League starting line-up, 7 of the 11 were groomed in the Barcelona youth academy. Barcelona’s signature passing and possession game does not begin with Pep Guardiola, it begins with the youth coaches when the kids are 12-15 years old. This is the system that Milan should model itself after. Milan can build a new playing strategy that can become the envy of the world, but more importantly, it will win us trophies.
Loyalty is not a quality that can be purchased. It is the glue that holds destiny together. It keeps players from accepting ridiculous offers the rainy, gloomy black hole that is known as Manchester City. Loyalty comes from players understanding the importance of the red and black on their chest. When players put in the hard work to get promoted the first team, they have a deeper appreciation for the club and will not budge when a club offers a few more green pieces of paper.
Paolo Maldini is the greatest defender to ever step on a pitch. He played with Milan for 25 years legendary and unforgettable years. His worth on the market: I won’t even try to come up with a number. The amount Milan paid for him: pennies, if that. The return on investment is just about the transfer budget of Manchester City and Real Madrid over that the last 4 years combined. Now it’s unrealistic to expect many youth players to have the effect that Paolo did, but he does have 2 kids coming through the youth system. The overall return from the youth system will allow the club to save funds that can be spend on top youth talent or into players that can be directly inserted into the first team (Zlatman and Robinh-esque purchases if you will).
Milan’s investment in the youth is starting to pay off. Patience, good coaching and confidence in the youngsters will start a Milan era that will continue to reap benefits far into the future. I dream of a team that would rival the greatest club team of all time. I’m not talking about today’s Barcelona. I’m talking about the invincibili, the Milan of the early 90s. The only way to achieve this is through the youth academy.