Great joy was sounded by many when the co-ownership routine in Italy was brought to an end in 2015. The decision was heralded as the end of an era, for no obvious reason by my reckoning as I was convinced that the clubs would simply continue the business behind the scenes as they have done for decades by simply finding a way around the new rules. And that whilst ostensibly the deals between the top clubs and the feeder clubs would appear different, not much would change in reality.
I was not an opponent of the co-ownership mechanism (compartecipazione in italian). For I felt that it added responsibility (and incentive) for developing a player to the smaller clubs when the other 50% was owned by a large club. It meant that both sides had invested in the player. Which differed to the loan system as in such cases there was no financial incentive to offering the player games and specialised coaching.
Juve scout and like a rising star in Serie B. Let us call him Daniele Folletto. The player is 20 years old, other decent sides are sniffing around, some of whom may well give him an opportunity in the top flight, yet for a team like Juve, it is highly unlikely the lad will see any playing time if bought outright and then inserted into the first team squad. If Udinese pick up Signore Folletto, and Juve wish to sign him in the future, his price will then have skyrocketed, if he has top flight experience and has prospered. So what is Juve to do eh?? If they must have the player, they have two options. Buy him outright, and loan him to another club, or buy him in a co-ownership routine and leave him at a club where we hope he will get games and develop further.
The former offers another club the chance to make use of the youngster’s talents, and he may well help their promotion charge or consolidation of their place in Serie B. Yet when the time comes, and the more the player achieves the sooner that time approaches, Daniele will head off to Juve, and the club who have developed him will be left with nothing but the original fee paid for his services and the value he gave on the field whilst he was playing in their colours. His development will bring no financial reward.
Now with the latter, Juve must agree to a price for the remaining 50% when they want young Daniele and this figure will take into account the development of the player whilst at the other club. So when the time comes for Juve to purchase him, the 50% has now increased in value and thus the club are compensated for the development of the player.
In short, it gave the smaller teams – I believe – added incentive to develop younger players destined to play on the bigger stage. In terms of the harm it caused to careers, it is worth noting that of our current and recent crop of players who have plied their trade in Italy before joining Juve, the following have all been involved in co-ownership routines –
Giovinco, Barzagli, Chiellini, Bonucci, Asamoah, Zaza and Berardi.
The new methods for the big clubs purchasing talented youth players and parking them at smaller clubs where there is an incentive to develop the player on behalf of both clubs, are –
- Purchase options
- the more complex Loan with right to purchase and counter the right to purchase ( prestito con diritto di riscatto e controriscatto).
We have such deals in place with many of our youngsters presently out on loan. King Udoh and Mattia Vitale have just joined Lanciano in loan deals with the right of the Serie B club to purchase and our right to counter that purchase. How we counter that purchase, I am somewhat unsure, yet I assume it means that a set price is established when the loan is made, which can be countered by Juve. Again that leads me into the haze, and can only suggest it means that we can halt the purchase and bring him home with some form of compensation due to the other club.
The most well known purchase option is for Berardi. Our 50% was sold back to Sassuolo for the value of 10m, yet given we purchased Zaza for 15m, we ended up paying 5m, and included in the deal was the right to purchase Berardi in 2016. For a set fee which is believed to be 18m. In essence, rather than lose Berardi, we simply continued the co-ownership idea, just agreed on the value of his development and future transfer in the process of ‘selling’ our 50%.
Similar deals are becoming common place like the deal you can get for Sky vegas codes. With our interest in Brazilian left back Rogerio likely to lead to a purchase ostensibly by Sassuolo, yet we will enjoy an option to purchase for a set fee. Which will be much more than the 1.5m he will apparently cost to purchase presently. This gives Sassuolo incentive to play and develop Rogerio, to ensure that they make money on their own investment. For us it means that we can – if he develops well – purchase him for our own squad, or if we have no place for him, we can purchase him and sell him for a profit to other interested parties. We retain control. The clubs continue to develop our youth prospects.
Some of these purchase option routines are hard to find in official reports. Such as in the case of Cesena midfielder Stefano Sensi, who was purchased recently by Sassuolo for around 5m, will remain at Cesena until next Summer then move to Sassuolo…where he will appear with a purchase option to Juve . Now clearly Juve have paid something for the option. They may well have paid the transfer fee which will be taken off the purchase option fee when/if we sign him, or be returned to us when he is sold, if we do not exercise the purchase option to bring him to Turin. Regardless of the finer details, it does not seem to me far removed from co-ownership.
Not much has changed in regards to investment in youth other than the wording regarding registration rights. If anything has come of this change, it is an increase in the power of the bigger clubs over the smaller, for perhaps Sassuolo receive an offer for Berardi for 30m from Roma next Summer; that offer is effectively for us, as Sassuolo have already agreed to sell Berardi to us for 18m.Who decides Berardi’s future? The player? Sassuolo? or Juve?
What I have not broached until now is the players will. Which is interesting in the Berardi case as he certainly seems to decide where he wants to be playing his football. Perhaps he desperately wants to join Roma…is made aware of their offer and interest. Yet if his will is of any weight at this juncture, we must assume it was of the same weight when the deal was made with Juve for the purchase option. So we return to the same point, namely, that he is our player and if Roma want him, they have to deal with us, not Sassuolo. Whereas in the co-ownership routine, Roma would have to deal with both clubs. Hence me stating that the end of official co-ownership routines actually adds power to the bigger clubs.
Apologies for the haphazard and mazy movement of the above. It is certainly a rather tricky subject to attempt to outline. Yet the nut of the matter is that co-ownership remains intact, in all but name.
We will continue to invest in young talent, and place that talent at other clubs where they can hopefully develop, to a point when we wish to purchase, pay the developing club for their own investment and then either sell the player for a profit on our own investment or bring them into our fold.
Appearances alter, yet the substance remains the same.