The Italian Football Federation have decided to reduce the number of non-EU players Italian clubs can sign per season from two to just one. This move has proved to be highly controversial in Italy and has caused a lot of uproar, so will it really benefit Serie A?
It seems to be a move that has been made off of the back of Italy’s disappointing World Cup campaign, in an effort to produce more home-grown talent. What is also interesting about the new set of rules is that if a club does decide to sign a non-EU player then he has to replace another one in the squad. Regardless as to whether this rule is good for Serie A the timing of the announcement hasn’t been, as it has scuppered a few teams transfer plans. Lazio President Claudio Lotito has been one of the first to criticise the ruling, his club had deals on the table to sign two non-EU players already and now they will have to withdraw at least one of the offers. This will be a hindrance to Lazio pre-season as they will have to pursue other targets that could cost them more and not offer the same quality as the players they wanted to sign.
Lotito has said about the ruling: “This decision penalises some Serie A clubs who had table bids that now cannot be concluded.”
He added: “Perhaps it was better to postpone the decision until the next transfer window. This solution will not resolve all of Italian football’s problems, but now is not the moment to make trials.”
The poor timing of the decision really cannot be argued with; however as for the ruling itself to a degree it will stop clubs buying foreigners. But it is only for non-EU players so it will only deter club from signing players from Africa, Asia, America and South America and there is still the rest of Europe for clubs to choose from. However the most popular foreign export in Italy appears to be South Americans so it may have a slight effect but a lot of South Americans do have European ancestry, namely Italian and Spanish so therefore qualify for a passport from those countries. So in that respect this ruling wouldn’t have an effect on them and Italian clubs would still be free to sign them.
Although perhaps the Italian FA should have targeted a rule that is aimed at any foreign players rather than just generalising non-Europeans, at least something has been done because some form of action has been needed. The current Italian champions Inter Milan regularly field an XI with no Italian players in the starting line up and that has to change. With players like Maicon and Diego Milito in the team every week, how can their promising youngsters Davide Santon and Mario Balotelli get a game? What generally seems to happen in Italy is that these youngsters usually end up going out on loan before being sold to other clubs, when they should be breaking into the team. Juventus have a promising player called Sebastian Giovinco who is very highly rated in Italy; however they signed Uruguayan Jorge Martinez who plays in his position just before this rule came in. As a result he is probably going to depart the club and it’s sad as he could have had a great future at Juve.
Whilst the timing of this rule isn’t the best and it’s been very generalised, it is a step in the right direction for Italian football as Italian sides have always seemed very reluctant to give young players a chance. So perhaps this rule will force their hands a little, it won’t change things completely by any stretch but it’s a start.