Categorized | Jason Parker

Don’t Let ‘The Duck’ Walk

This is how many titles AC Milan will win if they sell Pato.

This is how many titles AC Milan will win if they sell Pato.

Monday is the day AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi will announce to the world where superstar Kaka will be playing next season. With reports already circulating that he has reached an agreement with Real Madrid, and with Chelsea submitting a very hefty last-minute bid, it seems eminent that the Rossoneri talisman will be playing outside of Italy next year. And the reason for his departure is, as AC Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani himself admitted, ‘solely economic.’ This transfer is yet another blow to the once dominant Serie A. But the move that could damage the Italian top flight even more is if Milan lost teenage sensation Alexandre ‘The Duck’ Pato to Chelsea.

While Milan supporters may be, and rightfully so, angry and disappointed by the departure of Kaka, it’s a harsh reality of today’s world that there are few clubs who can afford to turn down €70m for a player. And the fact of the matter is that Kaka is 27-years-old and spent much of the past season injured. It’s true that he’s only two years removed from being named FIFA World Player of the Year, and he still has some very good years ahead of him, but it wouldn’t be blasphemous to say that he’s on the downside on his career. And what AC Milan, and all of Serie A, desperately need is a massive infusion of youth. And €70m can buy a lot of talented youth.

That’s why losing Pato would be a massive loss, to not only Milan, but all of Italian football. The 19-year-old has a more than respectable tally of 23 goals in 51 appearances for Milan and is becoming a Brazilian national team regular. ‘I have seen him in training and on the pitch,’ says David Beckham, ‘He is only 19 years of age and I think he can become one of the greatest players in the world.’ Not small praise from someone who has played with the likes of Zinedine Zidane and Eric Cantona. The Duck is exactly the type of player that you build a team around, not sell—especially if you’re AC Milan.

The Serie A may not have as much money to throw around as it did in the late 80s and early 90s, but it’s far from broke. In fact, according to Deloitte’s Annual Review of Football Finance 2009, Serie A enjoyed the highest one year growth in revenue of all the big five European leagues. But its wages/revenue ratio was 6% higher than that of clubs in England and Spain. If you combine that stat with the fact that the Serie A generates less total revenue than its English counterparts, it means that English clubs have €27m more to spend on players. If you have less money to spend you need to make shrewd purchases. Instead of spending €24m on a flop like Ricardo Quaresma, wouldn’t it make economical sense to find, develop and play less expensive youngsters?

Milan has already lost one talented youngster in midfielder Yoann Gourcuff. After appearing in just 18 games (14 of those as a substitute) for the Rossoneri in 2007/08, the 22-year-old was loaned to Bordeaux. He went on to start 35 matches for the Ligue 1 champions this season, and all he did was score 12 goals and assist on 11 others. Fed up with his lack of playing time at the San Siro, he recently made his loan move permanent and signed a four year deal with the French club. He only cost Bordeaux €10m. That’s the same amount AC Milan paid the LA Galaxy for 32-year-old David Beckham.

If every player were Gary Neville or Paolo Maldini, fans wouldn’t have to deal with their heroes leaving their club for another. But the reality is that player’s move around—a lot. And at 27, you can’t blame Kaka for wanting to play in another country or make more money. He’s also helped to bring many trophies to the San Siro, and fans should appreciate him for that. He should be allowed to leave if that’s his wish, but to let The Duck walk would be a devastating mistake. If Milan and Italian football want to be back on top, it’s talented, affordable young players like Pato that will lead the way.

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