Knee-jerk ruling will hurt Italian football

As knee-jerk reactions go after Italy’s dismal failure in South Africa this one is going to hurt Italian football.

With the transfer market about to swing into full-on negotiating mode, sporting directors from Turin to Palermo will have to rethink their strategies after the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) sprung a new law limiting the number of non European Union signings to one.

Up until Friday, clubs were gearing up to sign at least two players from outside the EU – and with a number of players shining at the World Cup there were pickings aplenty to be had.

FIGC president Giancarlo Abete - who unsurprisingly survived the post-World Cup purge only because there was no other viable candidate capable of stepping in - dropped the bombshell which the federation hopes will force clubs to promote local talent rather than look abroad.

Abete claimed that the decision had nothing to do with what happened in South Africa but the issue of whether to reduce the number of non-EU players from two to one is brought up by the federation every year and then quietly dropped.

Strange then that it should suddenly become a central totem of the game’s governing body – and looks rather heavy-handed when you consider the dearth of talent in Serie A at the moment.

What difference will it make if there are one or two non-Europeans turning out for clubs in the grand scheme of things and especially in a league that has traditionally been a welcoming destination for players from all over the world?

What the new ruling does is immediately cut a swathe through transfer options for a number of clubs.

Juventus, for example, have been chasing Edin Dzeko and Milos Krasic but will have to drop their quest for one of them; Inter can wave goodbye to signing Brazilian midfielder Ramires as they have already taken up their option on his compatriot Philippe Coutinho.

AS Roma have already landed Adriano and the player set to cause commentators a moment of hesitation, the Sri Lankan Panushanth Kulenthiran, but they had their sights set on Argentina left-back Clemente Rodriguez – not any more.

AC Milan have just released Nelson Dida so they can at step up their chase for Keisuke Honda who impressed for Japan and CSKA Moscow in the Champions League.

It is going to be tough though for Lazio whose transfer team decamped to South Africa to hunt down new talent while Udinese’s whole scouting system is built around unearthing young gems from the four corners of the globe.

Numerous players who made an impression over the last month will be heading to England, Spain, Germany and France rather than to these shores.

There is certainly a basis for ensuring that young Italian players have an opportunity to progress considering that the percentage of foreign players has leapt from 29 to 47% over the last three years.

However, as with most things where the Italians get it wrong the Germans have already got it right – and following the model of the Bundesliga where a team can have as many foreigners as they wish but eight players must have come through the youth ranks, makes sense.

This move, which frankly has left the whole of Italian football floored, is so short-sighted that it can only be seen as a step backwards for Serie A in maintaining its position amongst the European elite.

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