Federation hopes to stop Serie A breakaway

ROME - The Italian football federation (FIGC) hopes its mediation can help prevent Serie A breaking away from Serie B, vice-president Demetrio Albertini said. Last month all but one of the top flight's 20 clubs said they had held discussions about starting a 'Serie A League' after failing to reach an agreement with the second tier Serie B over financial arrangements.

Some club presidents said the move is now just a matter of time, but the split has not yet been made official and threats of a breakaway in the past did not come to fruition.

"The federation is seeking to maintain the current situation," the former Italy midfielder told Reuters.

"Whether the decision is to split or stay together, it will be a legitimate one. But at the moment the federation must do all it can to make Serie A and Serie B have dialogue and it is."

Several Serie B sides have recently encountered financial problems and a split may make their situations worse.

For their part, the top-flight clubs have watched enviously as the Premier League, which has prospered since breaking from England's three other professional divisions in 1992, has enjoyed more success with transfers and in the Champions League.

But Albertini said Italy should not try to import foreign football models wholesale.

"The characteristics of football are different in every country. You cannot just take the English model and apply it to Italy, where we have always done well," he said.

"I think the national identity should be maintained. We are in the European Union so there is the free circulation of players. We have lots of good foreigners in Italy. We have just as many very good Italians and we are still world champions.

"So I think our football model is one to defend and, above all, exploit to the full."


However, the former AC Milan player acknowledged the failure of Italian clubs in the Champions League this term was worrying.

"If a nation that is used to going all the way does not have a team in the quarter-finals, it's an alarm bell," he said. "But in the last 20 years Italian teams have reached the final 13 times and two years ago Milan were European champions.

"It's true that, in my opinion, English teams are playing more advanced football than us, but we're not so far behind."

The 37-year-old, who also played for Atletico Madrid and Barcelona before retiring from the game in 2005, would like to see Serie A coaches follow the lead of their English and Spanish colleagues by giving more chances to young players.

"It's one of our faults," said Albertini, who made his Milan debut aged 17. "In Italy they often want the already formed, perfect player immediately, while abroad teams have lower average ages.

"Sometimes we view them as youngsters when really we should evaluate them as players or for the potential they can express."

He would especially like to see Milan rejuvenate.

"There's a lot of talent at Milan, which was shown by the 2007 Champions League victory," said Albertini, who was part of the Milan team that destroyed Barcelona 4-0 in the 1994 final.

"But it's also true they have almost never been in the Serie A title race in the last three or four seasons. So they are less consistent, perhaps because some players are a few years older."

Albertini, though, was enthusiastic about 34-year-old England midfielder David Beckham's arrival at the San Siro.

"Beckham has had a very positive impact," he said. "It was sometimes portrayed as a media move but, with great humility, he has shown he is still a good player."