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Page last updated at 14:16 GMT, Tuesday, 1 April 2008 15:16 UK

English sides labelled 'pirates'

Trevor Brooking
Brooking fears opportunities for English youngsters will be restricted

Two Italian clubs have labelled English Premier League sides "pirates" who "pillage" their best young players.

Palermo and Reggina say English sides are poaching foreign academy players who are yet to sign as professionals.

The moves are often made with little or no compensation and Palermo president Maurizio Zamparini likened the practice to "pirates taking treasures".

His comments follow Uefa president Michel Platini's pledge to stop the "transfer of minors" between clubs.

The former French international says he will work with the European Commission to try to limit the influx of foreign teenagers, adding: "The first contract a player signs should be with the club who trains him.

"I really don't like it when a club like Lugano, Geneve, Brescia or Nancy train a player and then when they are 16 they are bought by much richer clubs. We're going to fight it."

Once upon a time there was pillaging, and this is something similar

Lillo Foti
Reggina president

Those sentiments were echoed by Zamparini, who told BBC Radio 5 Live: "It's a shame they try to speculate on youngsters when they have the means to buy them when they're fully developed.

"These clubs already have the best players in the world. To try to speculate on young players, robbing them from other clubs that live off young players, is wrong.

"It means a club like Palermo take on a boy when he's 12 years old, he progresses through the youth academy, then when he gets to 16 or 17 and he can sign his first professional deal, he gets taken away.

"And the club that raised the player gets nothing. This is profoundly wrong.

"First of all you're harming the boys, who are not ready to go to a different country.


"Secondly, economically they are seriously harming the clubs who raised the players."

Reggina president Lillo Foti agreed that the ploy of Premier League sides cherry-picking top youngsters had become a big problem for Italian clubs.

He said: "It's a barbaric attitude that shows no respect to other clubs who work with dedication to develop young players.

"Once upon a time there was pillaging, and this is something similar, in that there are still wild people who use their power to reach their objectives.

"In some respects it's a type of corruption - they've corrupted the family, they've corrupted the boy."

Meanwhile, Sir Trevor Brooking, the Football Association's development director, believes the practice could further hamper opportunities for homegrown youngsters.

"When we set up the academies, we understood the challenge (posed by clubs) bringing in the best overseas talent in the older age groups," Brooking told BBC Radio 5 Live.

Clubs would much rather be picking up players 10 or 20 miles up the road rather than scouring Europe

Dan Johnson
Premier League spokesman

"What we didn't quite understand is that that would start to fill up the academy areas and stifle the growth there.

"Longer term it is extremely worrying."

And the former England international says the answer is to improve the technical ability of young English players.

"What we've got to do... is invest in a coaching infrastructure that will really put something in place long term," he said.

"In five or 10 years time we have to start seeing better technical youngsters emerging at all the different age groups and not just look for a short-term fix.

"To be fair to the clubs, their obvious solution to the problem is the short-term fix of bringing in overseas youngsters.

"But we have to make our English youngsters better."

Premier League spokesman Dan Johnson agreed that the solution was to produce better-quality young English players - and said that the FA had a crucial role to play.

"What needs to happen, and the FA's role is critical, is that the grass roots of the game produce sufficient numbers of quality youngsters who can come through the academy system and make it as Premier League and international-class footballers," he told BBC Sport.

"Clubs would much rather be picking up players 10 or 20 miles up the road rather than scouring Europe."

see also
Brooking challenge for youngsters
19 Mar 08 |  Football
Academies are not working - Bruce
25 Jan 08 |  Wigan Athletic
Scudamore rejects Blatter plans
14 Jan 08 |  Football
FA backs National Football Centre
21 Dec 07 |  Internationals
Brooking urges coaching overhaul
18 Dec 07 |  Football

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