Had a great conversation a few posts back with Caleb_d on Milan's youth players. I mentioned a rate of return of say 1 out of 3 youth players coming good was great, he put me closer to Earth on say 1 in 5. The point being is not every youth player is the second coming they are made out to be, either by management or overzealous fans who play with them on FIFA and turn them fullbacks intro strikers!? Simply put for every bit of hype heaped on their shoulders the chance for failures gets all the more realistic. A few years back I had the pleasure of attending an AC Milan Primavera training session, at that time I was Coaching boys around the same age group and the level at which the Milan youth were playing was incredible. But stacking them against the big boys really puts it into perspective and guys like Calvano and Verdi were bossing their peers and getting destroyed at the First Team Level. So to further drive the point home, let's take a drip down memory lane shall we...
Adiyiah, Dominic - GHANA
When I saw him at the U20 World Cup all I could think of was Obafemi Martins. Fast, strong, and while a bit short for a striker he looked the incredible hulk at just 18. Well, tactically he was man among boys at that age level, but from a first team perspective he was merely a child. Not big enough to work a CB, not smart enough for the wing. He was loaned out to Reggina, Partizan, Karsiyaka, and then Arsenal Kyiv racking up 31 appearances in 3 years and brace yourself, a SINGLE GOAL. Arsenal Kyiv is where he now resides after signing a three year contract with them.
Grimi, Leandro - ARGENTINA
Someone on this very blog's comments proudly proclaimed, he was the Argentine Paolo Maldini! I remember not so politely "discussing" Grimi's merits with the guy and why I believed he was actually an awful footballer while the commenting gentleman chastised Carletto for not playing him in the 2007-2008 season. He was loaned, loaned again, and actually continued to be loaned all the way home to Godoy Cruz, the 14th place team in the Argentine league where he does actually start as a LB, so kudos for that I guess. Grimi took quite a round about way to get back to where he started.
Cardaccio, Mathias/Vuidez, Tabare - URUGUAY
I put these two together because in my mind they are inexplicably linked. Signed as the Uruguayan wonder kids in 2008, it seemed someone in the Milan Brass had gone to Uruguay for a "scouting" trip, treated it like a vacation, and didn't want to come home empty handed so he got this sweet 2 for 1 deal. Players like Gargano and Cavani were there at the same time, but Milan signed these two. Not a week went by where one of them didn't make the team sheet and everyone was questioning Carletto. Even Avia fell into this Uruguayan trap. By 2009 Cardaccio was completely out of football, he did return in 2010 but has made 31 appearances for various Clubs in three seasons. Viudez went back to Uruguay only to then land in the Turkish first division where he does in fact play and score an occasional goal. Neither has a National Team Cap to their name since 2008.
DiGennaro, Davide - ITALY
At one point, I said no worries about losing guys like Rui Costa or Kaka, we had DiGennaro coming through the ranks. He could play attacking mid in the XMAS tree! Just a matter time, boy I got that one wrong! He had good feet, great pace, and a knack for blasting shots! Before I really studied Serie A and Serie B, I just did not truly understdd how 10 goals in 30 games for Modena in Serie B couldn't translate to Serie A. He is in Serie B currently, this time with Palermo, where he has 11 appearances and 2 goals, and while Serie A could be in his future, it is more likely he drops back to where he plays at his best with a newly relegated side.
Verdi, Simome/Calvano, Simone/Valoti, Mattia - ITALY
Like the dynamic duo from Uruguay, the three stooges of the Milan youth system are forever linked in my mind. These three carry about an average height of 1.75M (5' 10") and weigh about 100lbs (50 kilos) soaking wet. Verdi, a second striker, Valoti an CAM, and Calvano a CDM. All three of these guys usually play through the spine and their size, or lack or thereof at the time, proved a bit of an issue. In 2011 I had the pleasure of watching them train and engaged in the training session as part of one of my USSF Coaching rotations. It was an incredible experience and I was Coaching the same age level boys 16-18, seeing these guy play was pretty amazing. The problem is while they had talent, you could see the glaring problems with their game at the Senior Level when they left their training session and joined the big boys.
Calvano now plays in Serie C, but is owned by Hellas Verona, a team with a progressive youth policy but for GOOD players. Verdi has 32 senior appearances since 2011 and not a goal to his name. Valoti rides the pine for Albinoleffe, where his Father is the Director of Sport.
The reason for this trip down memory lane is a reminder that for every successful youth player to make it through the ranks such as Abate, DeSciglio, or SES, there are failures along the way. It is also serves as a reminder that while at this moment time every youth players seems like a "good idea" one must be careful as I only touched on a few who turned out to be garbage, there were many more! I own up the fact that I ate it with DiGennaro and Adiyiah, and I wonder what Avia has to say about his Uruguayan buddies!? But will those claiming Niang or Cristante are the second coming if they don't pan out? Probably not, look at the Gourcuff and Pato zealots still lurking, but then again I can't force accountability. It sure doesn't help that the Milan youth system is not what it used to be and while we are all expecting the next Maldini, the 2000-2010 era was a youth team disaster that is actually not getting any better from a home grown talent perspective. This needs to change, but until then, be careful where you pile your hype because it may become a pile of entirely different variety.