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  Thursday, 1 August, 2002, 07:30 GMT 08:30 UK
Italy riding a financial storm
Rivaldo made the move from Barcelona to Milan
Rivaldo moved to Milan on a free transfer
BBC Sport Online's Stuart Roach

The summer transfer market in Italy's Serie A has never been so sedate.

Normally as frantic as the trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange, it has come to a virtual standstill.

Just 12 months ago, Italian transfer turnover topped 200m, with nine deals in excess of 20m.

Zinedine Zidane headed the export sales list as he moved from Juventus to Real Madrid for a staggering 47m, taking the sting out of the Turin club's own 80m summer spending spree.

But this season Massimo Maccarone's 8.15m move from Empoli to Middlesbrough is the biggest cash injection received by any Italian club.

Marcos Assuncao netted Roma 4.5m from Real Betis but Maccarone's move is most symbolic of the state of the Italian market.

That a mid-table English Premiership club can snatch a rising Italy Under-21 star from the grasp of his nation's biggest clubs underlines the financial crisis facing Italian football.

And the bigger they come, the harder they fall.

Massimo Maccarone (right) at his first day's training with Middlesbrough
Maccarone (right) is Italy's most expensive export

Roma, Serie A champions just two seasons ago, and their capital companions Lazio are suffering more than most.

The Rome duo were among 23 clubs whose financial struggles left them facing possible exclusion from the league, due to start on 1 September.

A possible one-month postponement was discussed as a number of Italian clubs found themselves unable to agree television contracts.

As is the case in England, Scotland and Germany, television is proving to be the downfall of Italian football, just as it was their leg-up to the stage of super-stardom.

Clubs have gambled heavily on reinvesting massive incomes generated by inflation-busting television deals.

But as the TV agreements have dried up, so have the club budgets.

Wage bills have been slashed, with Lazio desperately trying to offload five players whose incomes are dragging their club deeper into the financial mire.

Hernan Crespo was reportedly offered to Manchester United in a bid to wipe out the debt still owed to the Old Trafford club for Jaap Stam.

Stam himself, along with Alessandro Nesta and Claudio Lopez, was touted to other clubs in a bid to get him off the wage bill, as was Gaizka Mendieta, reported to be earning about 3.5m per year.

AC Milan have bucked the trend by signing Rivaldo from Barcelona.

Jaap Stam moved from manchester United to Lazio
Lazio have not completed payment on Stam

Officially a free transfer, Rivaldo's massive wage demands mean, in reality, he is anything but - and were well out of Tottenham and Newcastle's reach when they had the chance to sign him.

Italian clubs are well known for sending their young players out on loan in a bid to secure them vital experience.

Now the senior players are the ones on offer as clubs aim to keep their assets but relieve the wage bills.

But, with little cash available to change hands, swap deals are becoming the new Italian fashion.

Umit Davala and Francesco Coco have moved across the city from AC to Inter in exchange for Clarence Seedorf and Dario Simic.

Umit was immediately sent out on loan to Galatasaray as Inter look to balance their books, with three of their costliest players already having taken pay cuts.

Christian Vieri, Ronaldo and Alvaro Recoba, reported to be the world's highest-paid player, have all accepted 10% reductions in their wages.

The high-profile trio were sensible enough to know that 90% of their pay packet was preferable to a bouncing cheque should the Italian football bubble fully burst.

Links to more Europe stories are at the foot of the page.


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