Riccio on Serie A: Sale of stars not a sign of decline

Edinson Cavani in action for Napoli. (AP/Salvatore Laporta)

In the space of a few of days last week, three Serie A stars were sold for a combined 125.5 euros.

Edinson Cavani went from Napoli to Paris Saint-Germain (64 million euros), Marquinhos moved from Roma to PSG (35 million euros) and Stevan Jovetic left Fiorentina for Manchester City (25.5 million euros).

This has been a growing trend for Serie A as clubs continue to deal with trying economic times in Italy. Is it a sign of weakness? Or is it a sign of good business? In years past I would have said the former, but if you were to ask me now I say it’s the latter and I’ll tell you why.

The easy answer would be to say these things are cyclical, and even though that is a cliché, it is the truth. But there’s more to it than that.

In terms of Cavani and Jovetic, they have been involved in transfer sagas for the better part of two years. In both cases, their respective clubs set a price tag which was un-negotiable, and in both cases they got what they wanted for each player.

Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis was adamant in not selling until Cavani’s release clause was met. Napoli firmly held its ground, forcing PSG to finally pay a somewhat exorbitant transfer fee.

Fiorentina was in a similar boat with Jovetic. It seemed a foregone conclusion at times that the talented Montenegrin would end up at Juventus. It turned out the Bianconeri were unwilling, or unable to pony up the big dollars for Jovetic, and in turn it worked out best for La Viola, who not only got the price they wanted from Manchester City, but also avoided selling him to their bitter rivals.

And as far as Marquinhos is concerned, PSG made Roma an offer they could not refuse. The 19-year-old central defender does look like a star in the making, but to pay that high a price for a player who has made just over 30 appearances at a professional level is borderline ridiculous.

Good business for all Italian clubs involved, wouldn’t you say?

PSG has made several Italian clubs rich. If you look at their squad, almost the entire starting XI consists of former Serie A players: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thiago Silva, Ezequiel Lavezzi, the list goes on and on. Their spending on players from Italy’s topflight has reached over 200 million euros with these latest signings.

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To their credit, Napoli, Roma and Fiorentina have all re-invested their transfer windfalls, adding depth and talent to their squads.

Mario Gomez can be considered to be one of the most high-profile signings in Fiorentina history. This was evidenced by the more than 30,000 fans that greeted him at Stadio Artemio Franchi upon his arrival. If they can add to their midfield and defence with the remaining Jovetic profits, Fiorentina will have a squad with the ability to improve on last season’s fourth-place finish.

With Napoli in heavy pursuit of Real Madrid’s Gonzalo Higuain, they seem to already know who they want to replace Cavani. They have already added Dries Mertens, Jose Callejon, and Raul Albiol into the mix.

Meanwhile, Roma have quietly assembled one of the most talented squads in Serie A beyond Juventus, as the sale of Marquinhos aided the purchases of Kevin Strootman and Mehdi Benatia.

This does not even include the improvements made by Lazio and Milan who have also bolstered their squads in an attempt to catch Juventus. In a market where teams are spending beyond belief, Serie A clubs are making transfer savvy purchases, while cashing in on the bottomless accounts of Europe’s big spenders.

Serie A has always been a league that breeds special players. But now they also seem to be leading the pack at a time when other leagues are ignoring the possible consequences of Financial Fair Play in the coming years.

There is no doubt that teams in Italy can’t keep up with the spending of the likes of PSG or Manchester City. However not many can, and Serie A clubs are using it to their advantage in hopes of returning the league to the prestige it once enjoyed.

Dan Riccio is the host of the European Football Weekly podcast on Sportsnet 590 The FAN. Listen to the podcast HERE and follow Dan on Twitter.

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