Serie A’s summer of savings: How Italian clubs avoided transfer fees

In the garden of the Grand Hotel Rimini, the sports directors came and went like butterflies among the whispers and the champagne and the stars. For the third consecutive year, Italy’s transfer window has opened on the same stretch of the Adriatic coast, where the most famous register (director) of all, Andrea Pirlo Federico Fellini, was born.

Unfortunately for moviegoers waiting for tables, any discussion of 8½ has been limited to the loan fee Inter Milan agreed to pay Chelsea for Romelu Lukaku. Amid clinking glasses, general managers like Roma’s Tiago Pinto defended their profession against comparisons with Fellini’s Vitelloni, the slackers and slackers of a dead-end city that could be Serie A. “I have reason to think the window only opened yesterday, aren’t I?’ he smiled as he introduced the club’s new substitute goalkeeper, Mile Svilar, to the media.

Svilar was at the end of his contract at Benfica and is not the only one to move to Serie A on a Bosman. The next player Pinto revealed on Monday was Nemanja Matic, a curious twist of fate if you remember this Manchester United-Benfica match at Old Trafford five years ago when his shot hit the post, ricocheted off Svilar’s back and went in.

Jose Mourinho was the home side’s manager at the time and the remnants of the last United team to win a trophy are spread across the league. Matic replaces Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who turned down the new contract Roma offered to follow in the footsteps of former captain Edin Dzeko by moving to Inter, where ‘Mkhi’ becomes the first Armenian to play for the club – unless, of course. , that you count the French international Youri Djorkaeff.

There was therefore no lack of activity. Much of the yellow ticker activity we interrupt this program has arrived in Serie A this summer with Lukaku returning to Inter for next to nothing and Paul Pogba set to do the same with Juventus, at least on a fresh , after leaving for a total of 225 million euros.

Although it is undoubtedly a coup to bring the former league MVP back to San Siro just a year after his departure and the deja vu is palpable in seeing a World Cup winner go back on a transfer free a decade after the last one that allowed him to move to Turin, it would be wrong to call either a low-cost operation. Lukaku’s lawyer Sebastien Ladure insists he does not understand where the reports came from that his client has taken a pay cut and that ‘Big Rom’ is now the highest paid player in the league. Series A.

Inter are paying around €25m between loan fee and salary knowing ‘all’ they’ll get in return are goals as Lukaku remains under Chelsea’s control, with no option to play. purchase included in the agreement. As for Pogba, the Frenchman is expected to sign for around the same salary as Paulo Dybala demanded, although he has missed more playing time at United (80 games!) than his former team-mate and good friend in the last three years at Juventus.

Romelu Lukaku returned to Inter on loan just one season after moving to Chelsea for £97.5m (Photo: Nicolo Campo/Sipa USA via AP Images)

Minestra riscaldata (warmed soup) is served. The taste test in Italian football tends to show that it’s never as good as the first time. Rather than sending it back to the kitchen, the hope is that the second servings will still be nutritious enough to make Inter and Juventus stronger. Encouragement comes, of course, from Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who may not have been as fresh as he was in 2011 but still helped Milan win the league 11 years after their first scudetto. with the club.

As the Swede recovers from the ACL repair he needed after six months of training and occasionally playing without, Milan have found another free agent in Divock Origi to compete with the team’s other forwards and deliver. some of the big goals that made him a cult hero. in Liverpool.

A tip was sometimes missing last season, which is why Milan opted to earmark a large chunk of their transfer budget for a right-winger/No.10 like Charles De Ketelaere rather than investing it in Lille’s Sven Botman, who joined Newcastle United instead. A cast iron defense is what won Milan the league rather than an attack that was only the fourth most prolific in Serie A.

The Inter cousins ​​have scored 15 more goals than them – never mind that it ultimately mattered, as substitute goalkeeper Ionut Radu’s failure to keep one at Bologna has removed the Scudetto from the incumbents. Failing to provide captain Samir Handanovic with adequate cover cost Inter even under Simone Inzaghi’s predecessor Antonio Conte, who must have been frustrated to see his side literally drop points when veteran Daniele Padelli replaced the Slovenian .

It’s a position Inter were expected to occupy more than the centre-forward role, where they faced few problems leaving Lukaku. Out-of-contract Ajax goalkeeper Andre Onana steps into the breach and, at 26, will succeed Handanovic, soon to be 38, in the not-too-distant future.

Pre-season started on Monday and while the coaches would have liked all of their most wanted signings to be signed, sealed and delivered already, the transfer market, as Pinto points out, still has nearly two months to go. Maybe it will only really take off if Roma sell Nicolo Zaniolo, Inter and Paris Saint-Germain agree a price for Milan Skriniar, and Chelsea meet Juventus’ conditions for the purchase of Matthijs de Ligt .

The biggest deal completed so far for cash, excluding options to make existing loans permanent, is the €12m Sassuolo is spending on 21-year-old Uruguay international Agustin Alvarez, presumably assuming Gianluca Scamacca is on his way.

Frugality is everywhere except for Monza, who are about to make their Serie A debut and won’t just rank survival as a successful season. Silvio Berlusconi and Adriano Galliani want European football and are showing ambition by attacking Mauro Icardi who, let’s not forget, earns 12 million euros a year at PSG.

The rest of the league keeps the powder as dry as possible.

It is a reminder of the lasting impact of the pandemic on continental European football. Juventus have recapitalized the club twice in the past three years for around €700 million; a huge amount considering their market capitalization is 892 million. Managing director Maurizio Arrivabene told Tuttosport last week: “You don’t solve a crisis by waving a magic wand overnight. The June 2022 accounts will always be blood and tears.

Inter lost a record €245.6m last year and needed emergency funding from Oaktree Capital Management. Roma was 185.3 million euros in the red and The Friedkin Group has already invested more than half a billion. Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis claims the club are €220m down from where they otherwise should be after missing out on the Champions League for a few years and acting like the pandemic is coming soon explode by making Victor Osimhen the most expensive player in their history a few months after the start of a global health crisis. The pressure is changing the landscape of Serie A.

Four top clubs changed hands last season. Another handful is for sale. The league is battling the exact parameters of a cost control mechanism called the Liquidity Index and teams preparing for Europe are wary of UEFA sanctions, even though Financial Fair Play (FFP) regulations should be applied with a lighter touch in the face of the pandemic into account.


Victor Osimhen joined Napoli from Lille for a fee of €71.3million plus additions in July 2020 (Picture: Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images)

At a time when the Premier League were in a position to renew their existing domestic television deals and make the cake even bigger internationally by signing a six-year contract in the United States worth $2.3 billion ‘euros, Serie A recorded a decline in local television. rights and is only now finishing two years without any exposure in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.

On the bright side, Serie A will soon be able to sell their international rights for longer after an amendment to the Melandri law. Why is this important? Fans in other markets no longer get lost in the shuffle as the league changes channels every three years. Broadcasters don’t have to think about renewal fees after 18 months. Instead, they can continue to grow an audience and create value. As rights become more lucrative, the money flowing back into the league should become greater and more resources will be available to reinvest in teams and hopefully infrastructure.

Until then the transfer market will look like it does today with Napoli letting Lorenzo Insigne and Dries Mertens terminate their contracts, Inter wondering if they can get Dybala for free, Juventus believing Angel Di Maria, 34, on a Bosman is a short-term fix for a side determined to be champions again, and Lazio are hoping Alessio Romagnoli will choose the club he supported as a child over a Premier club League newly promoted Fulham, who can offer him higher wages.

Similarly, Milan know, as they did with Newcastle and Botman, that Leeds United – a side that narrowly escaped relegation from the Premier League last year – can outbid them for De Ketelaere if they want to sign the Belgian international from the club. Bruges. All Milan can do is heighten the appeal of playing for a seven-time Champions League winner at a stadium as iconic as the San Siro in a Scudetto-winning team because, if it were only about power of purchase, there is no competition with the Great Premier League and its constituents.

It is reality. Of course, that didn’t make Serie A any less compelling last season. The league hasn’t missed Cristiano Ronaldo, Gigio Donnarumma or Lukaku. It still happened until the last day. Fiorentina entered Europe, Roma won a trophy and Salernitana managed a fine breakaway. Another great season awaits us. And yet, the Grand Hotel Rimini looks a bit like the Hotel California. “Mirrors on the ceiling. Rosé champagne on ice. And the sporting directors said, ‘We’re all just prisoners here, on our own.’

(Top photos: Getty Images)

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