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Silvio Berlusconi Wants Mandatory Italian Minimum In Serie A Squads

AC Milan president and noted scoundrel Silvio Berlusconi wants a mandatory minimum number of Italian players in Serie A squads. Does it make sense? Could it work?

There are absolutely no Italians in this picture. Except for all the Italians in the picture. Your move, Silvio.
There are absolutely no Italians in this picture. Except for all the Italians in the picture. Your move, Silvio.
Paolo Bruno

One of the most frequent complaints about Napoli from certain sections of the fanbase is that the team isn't "Italian" enough any more. I suppose it's easy to see why; the first non-Italian manager of the club in over a decade, an influx of Spanish and other non-Italian players, and several older Italian stars getting phased out would leave that impression.

It's a common sentiment among a number of Italian fanbases over the last few years, and now those disillusioned, let-down, and betrayed purveyors of Italian superiority have a voice representing their cause. Their hero? None other than Silvio Berlusconi, president of AC Milan, former PM, and, erm, criminal.

Apparently he was rather upset that in the Coppa Italia final, "there was only one Italian out on the pitch." Except, erm, three Italians started the match (Lorenzo Insigne, Manuel Pasqual, and Alberto Aquilani), two more subbed in (Giuseppe Rossi and Alessandro Matri), four more were on the bench, and another is an Italian youth international by choice after living in Italy for most of his life (Jorginho). But yeah, only one Italian on the pitch. You've got quite a point there, Silvio. 

*sigh*

Anyways. Berlusconi used the opportunity of his mistaken impression of the Coppa final to bring up an idea of his that he's presented before: a mandatory "obligation" for Italian clubs to field a minimum number of Italian players. Presumably he means a minimum number registered in the squad, not actually forced to play a certain amount every match, but who knows with him.

It's a tricky proposition from not just a logistical standpoint, but a legal one as well. As in, if a so-called "Italian minimum" were put in to place and were challenged (which the player's association almost certainly would), a European Union court would take one look at it and throw the rule out. The EU doesn't so much like nationality-specific restrictions like that.

What could work is a "homegrown" rule, like those used in England and in UEFA competitions. In England, teams must register at least eight players who were "developed" in the country for at least three years before their 21st birthday. In UEFA competition, the same requirement exists, with the added wrinkle that at least four of those players must have been at that club for three years before their 21st birthday as well. Some Italian clubs have had issues with the UEFA requirements in Europa and Champions League play in the past, so having local regulations built along those lines should help prevent those issues in the future.

While that doesn't sound terribly Italian-specific for the purists out there, Italy's academy system is very Italian-heavy, with a very low percentage of players born elsewhere. Plus, if an academy player is foreign-born, by the time they'd be breaking in to the first team odds are they'd at least be close to qualifying for a secondary citizenship. 

Such a measure would also help encourage Italian clubs to make better use of younger players, which would be a nice shift from current trends and could help Italian teams to compete with their European peers in the long run.  It might not be a perfect solution for those crying out for their clubs to be "more Italian", but it's a good compromise that should help make things better for everyone.