I want to talk today, in light of the rumours floating around at the moment, about the dangers of a youth project, the pit falls and risks. It seems the point I really want to hit on, in particular, is missed at Inter at the moment.
One of the important parts of any youth project is the ability to trust in players and let them develop. This can take a year or more on loan, before they really reach the potential required to feature even as a rotation player at the parent club. But this, on the flip side, has another caveat. It is easy to hang on to players for ‘too long’, past any reasonable potential for them to develop into someone useful for the parent club, and hinder their own careers as well as investing vast sums of resources for young players who are never going to make it.
One attribute I feel we lack at the moment at Inter is ruthlessness. We are fairly ruthless at the youth level itself, rarely promoting players all the way from U-10 to U-18, but once they’ve starred well at the youth level, our youth project dictates we must clutch on to them at almost all costs. My current examples of this are Samuele Longo – a player who has flopped so badly at professional level that I wouldn’t keep him at any price at the moment, and the little value he had when he starred in the Primavera is undoubtedly long gone. Historically, too, other youth project examples like this could easily feature Aiman Napoli – a player who finally left Inter aged 23, after far too long on the bench and not developing. Andrea Mei also stands out, a player who has been unemployed since Jan 2013, he too was left to rot on our bench, leaving aged 23 without any significant first team experience.
Whilst it is important to have patience with youth players, to let them develop and grow, it is also important to be able to look analytically and realistically at their potential levels of achievement. Most of our current crop I would be happy to keep for time being, but players like Vid Belec, Simone Benedetti, Jacopo Galimberti, Spendlhofer, sadly even Bessa, Djumo, Longo and Mella should have their situations very carefully considered. That is not to say that I am in favour of cutting each of these from our youth project – not by any means – but is it also obvious that they all can offer something in the future? Monetising these players might bring in a few precious million to our youth team, I would be far keener to see that money reinvested in the academy (for example) than in continual expenditure on players who may never make it.
Consider, momentarily, that we have 25 players on loan (approximately) at the moment, before including youth players variously on loan to Livorno, or Varese (for example). Add to that some of our co-ownership players too, and the squad clearly starts to look very bloated. A youth project should be exactly that – focus on the best youth players, giving them the chance to develop and blossom. What we can’t do is host something bloated, destroying young players’ careers for fun, and cling on to young players until it is far too late for them or ourselves.
It is precisely in a team's ability to separate good from bad youth players that an administrator can make a fortune - and not without good cause. The ability to separate Messi from Pacheco, Balotelli from Napoli, Fabregas from Giovani. It's something I have yet to see a real recent Inter track record, either.