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Soccer: Italy boss backs Inter, Milan's youth drive

Prandelli says patience needed with emerging talents

05 October, 15:00
Soccer: Italy boss backs Inter, Milan's youth drive (ANSA) - Rome, October 5 - Italy boss Cesare Prandelli on Friday backed the drive by some top Serie A clubs, including giants Inter Milan, AC Milan and AS Roma, to bank more on promising young talents and less on expensive big names.

Milan are rebuilding after selling their best players, Sweden striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Brazil defender Thiago Silva, to Paris Saint-Germain in the close season.

They also bid farewell to several long-serving veterans, including centre back Alessandro Nesta and midfielders Clarence Seedorf and Gennaro Gattuso.

They have endured a tough start to the season and are 11th in Serie A at the moment with seven points, nine points behind front-runners Juventus and Napoli.

But they may have put the worst behind them, having won two of their last three games in all competitions with the help of 19-year-old forward Stephan El Shaarawy, who has scored five goals in the last four matches. Likewise, Inter have a more youthful set-up after selling some veterans of their Champions League-Serie A-Italian Cup treble in 2010 such as Brazilian defender Maicon and his goalkeeping compatriot Julio Cesar.

This has made more playing time available for the likes of Brazilian midfielder Philippe Coutinho, who is 20, and 24-year-old defender Andrea Ranocchia. Despite struggling at home, they are third in the Italian top flight with 12 points.

AS Roma, meanwhile, started putting greater emphasis on emerging talents when they were taken over by an American consortium last year. First-team regulars include 21-year-old striker Mattia Destro and midfielders Erik Lamela and Miralem Pjanic, who are 20 and 22 respectively.

The big Italian clubs have been forced to change policy by the global economic crisis and UEFA's new financial fair-play rules, which penalises sides who spend more than they earn.

"I'm convinced that the clubs who started to invest in young players again have made the right choice," Prandelli told Rai television on Friday. "You need patience but the quality is there".

Prandelli has been praised for the way he has rejuvenated the national team since he replaced Marcello Lippi after the Azzurri's poor display at the 2010 World Cup. Under him a team of few stars finished runners-up at Euro 2012.

He said that the process of renewal is set to continue, but stressed that 33-year-old Juventus playmaker Andrea Pirlo, who has not been at his best in recent performances, still featured in his plans.

"I had a talk with him recently and he still feels that he wants to be a point of reference for this team," Prandelli said.

"He wants to go with us to the (2014) World Cup and he'll still be an important player for us".