PRATO – Inter have set out on a new path. One that stretches from Milan to Prato and has one goal in mind: youth. FC Internazionale and AC Prato outlined the details of their technical agreement at a media conference today. The three-year partnership, which involves the clubs’ first teams as well as their youth academies, offers Inter the opportuity to set up a Nerazzurri outpost in Tuscany.
Inter sporting director Piero Ausilio and youth academy head Roberto Samaden were joined by AC Prato chief executive Paolo Toccafondi, Lega Pro president Mario Macalli, Tennis Club Prato president Francesco D’ambrosi and the mayor of Prato, Matteo Biffoni.
Piero Ausilio began the proceedings: “I’d like to start by saying this: I was looking through the press pack and noticed the names of people like Balotelli, Destro, Bonucci, Caldarola, Santon, Obi and Biabiany. I mention these names because they are all players who came through our academy and because they are exceptions – lads who went straight into Serie A or Serie B teams. There are, however, many others who need to take a different path, and we believe that we’ve found that path right here, in Prato.
“Players coming out of youth football aren’t used to the sort of pressures you find elsewhere, when real points are at stake. There are some who need a bit more time before they’re ready for top flight football and now we have the opportunity to help those players continue their development with coach Esposito, whom we know very well. In the past we’ve lost a few players along the way and we’d like to make sure that doesn’t happen again.
“So why Prato? For a start, they were the only club that didn’t ask us for money but instead looked at the project, and that’s something we appreciated right from the off. We’ve shared our views on technical matters and on how to develop these players. Obviously there will be incentives and other possibilities but the main advantage for them is that they’ll have players who have come through Inter’s youth ranks.
“I think that by exchanging our ideas and and our experiences everyone will benefit. Prato will continue to be autonomous: we’re not coming here to tell them what to do. Our aim is simply to improve these youngsters.”
Prato’s managing director, Paolo Toccafondi: “It’s great to see so many people here. It’s nice to see the completion of work which began a year ago. I was keen to find an intelligent alternative based on an idea. I really am proud to have succeeded, thanks to the decisions made by Inter, in realising what is a dreamf or me: to be able to give our club, our team and our city a partnership with such a big club. This was definitely an opportunity which was too good to miss. I thank Ausilio, who did everything to be here. There will be some tough times, but perhaps one of the main reasons we agreed a deal with the Inter management was because we all want to work. Without forgetting that we all think very highly of each other. Piero knows our club. We’ve known each other for more than 15 years. I was lucky enough to meet Samaden last year. We’re talking about two clubs who really work on their academies. You can see the results when for example you see Inter Allievi’s win over AC Milan and our success over Carrarese.”
Youth academy director Roberto Samaden: “I think now’s the time to thank Ausilio and Inter because this is a huge opportunity to focus on our academy. Earlier, I spoke to a friend here today who congratulated me on the trophies we’ve won in recent years. I think that results are definitely important but above all it’s about developing our youngsters. That’s what this deal is all about. Watching the match from the stands the other day I thought of two words in particular at the base of this project: harmony and signs. A month ago Toccafondi said to me: “Think about how great it would be if we met each other in the Super Cup final.” We already have massive resources here in Tuscany. Here today is Gladis Conti and the heads of our satellite academies. I believe there will be huge scope for growth if we also make our resources available.
The mayor of Prato, Matteo Biffoni: “As mayor I can only hail this deal because it will bring benefits not only for AC Prato 1908 but also for the city as a whole. It’s something our city can give to the outside world. Besides being mayor, first and foremost I’m a Prato supporter and I’m doubly happy because this partnership is forward-thinking. At a historic time you need intelligent deals. It’s a huge, ambitious prospect. I’d like to thank everyone who’s worked on it, this morning marks an important step.”
President Macalli: “I’d like to thank Prato in particular as they wanted to invite the Lega. I’ve known Prato and their management for a long time. Not everything in life is straightforward, but even when we didn’t agree we’ve always respected each other. In today’s game it’s not that common to have a president with such experience. People struggle in Lega Pro, we change presidents every six months. When there’s a great club with great management, things like this happen. I’m firmly against second teams and I’ll keep on opposing them. Football can do things like we’re doing today, we can create an academy and the Lega has always looked on things like these favourably. In Italy we want to have our second teams play without a league table, then we change our minds and want a table. But if a second team is relegated, are the players yours? There are a number of things people here don’t think about. I’m with Abete and I will defend those who want to put the FA in the hands of politics. Seeing what’s happening today is music to our ears. Other clubs can one day do what Inter and Prato are doing today. I’m very happy to be here this morning and I hope that Prato can achieve what they’ve set out to.”
After their statements, the floor was open to the press.
What will Prato gain from this?
Toccafondi: “This deal has 3-4 main points that will be very beneficial to both Prato and Inter. First it’s prestigious, as Macalli said, regardless of the relationships involved in what is essentially a technical partnership. Inter is one of the biggest clubs in the world, and before we made a decision like this we assessed certain things. Working with the best in your field in terms of know-how will be positive, because there will be countless opportunities. The second important feature is the technical value. We also proposed having young players from our academy play at Cesena or Empoli but obviously offering this to Inter is something else entirely. As Piero Ausilio pointed out to me, over the last 10 years Inter have reached something like 23 or 24 finals with their youth academy. Looking at the product Inter have put together over the last few years, Prato can only benefit from it. I would never have succeeded in bringing all these quality young players here, at best I could have brought one here due to a good friendship. Inter feel a certain responsibility to make sure this project goes well. Absolutely, but that’s a minor thing as, if we work well, there will be an economic return.”
Can you give us a few names?
Ausilio: “It’s early, in the sense that only last Friday we had an idea of who the players will be. We already have a clear idea on what our needs are and the positions we want to strengthen. Whoever comes here will come to be a part of a project, Prato’s project. We need around 10 days to have some names for you. There will be a friendly on 20 July, the first of the new Inter.”
What can Prato aim for now?
Toccafondi: “Piero will have the biggest responsibility. We’ll try to make the most of this, to really effectively use the opportunity that president Thohir is giving us.”
I think we get quite a clear idea of the plan from the above.