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Why there may be no more Machedas

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Gordon Farquhar | 16:48 UK time, Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Federico Macheda is the (young) man of the moment, the latest teenage prodigy from a long line Manchester United have nurtured, or simply acquired.

Talent knows no borders at Old Trafford. Lazio have long objected to the way United spirited Macheda away, but the Premier League champions broke none of Fifa's complex rules in doing so.

However, the regulations in Fifa's statutes for the transfer of players under the age of 18 are currently under review, and there's a strong lobby from Uefa, led by Michel Platini with support from the Fifa president Sepp Blatter himself, to introduce changes that would mean an end to transfers of under-18s altogether.

At present, there are a series of exceptions to the stated rule that under-18s shouldn't be traded:

"Within the European Union", being the salient one in Macheda's case, because European labour laws wouldn't permit the restriction. Uefa and Fifa's target isn't the prevention of the occasional spat over a European wunderkind.

Man Utd's Federico Macheda hugs his manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Of greater concern is the exploitation of young teenagers, often from Africa, through the kind of highly questionable unlicensed football 'academies', that exist largely to serve their owners, not their graduates.

Some are trafficked to Europe on the false promise of getting trials at top European club sides, only to be abandoned on arrival, their families often having paid thousands of dollars for travel costs and "expenses" to the crooks who promise them the earth and leave them with nothing.

It's a stain on football's reputation that this is allowed to continue: Fifa and Uefa have moved the issue to the top of their agenda, recently confirming their intent to go back to the European Commission with a, 'unanimous desire', to seek changes to the rules.

There are signs they'll get their way: Recently, the EU Sport Commissioner, Jan Figel, said he was prepared to ask the EU's 27 governments to support the Platini plan if evidence could be provided that it would stop the exploitation of young players.

The agreement was also signed by the European Club Association, of which Manchester United is a member... so presumably there'll be no complaints from Old Trafford if Macheda is one of the last of the overseas under-18s to steal the headlines in future.


  • Comment number 1.

    "Some are trafficked to Europe on the false promise of getting trials at top European club sides, only to be abandoned on arrival" - well that's not exactly the clubs' problem, is it?

    Trafficking people from across the world to Europe on false pretenses of working here is a persistent problem, but in no way is it the responsibility of the employers that the traffickers claim they are going to work for.

  • Comment number 2.

    I'm sure if Lazio were in a position to take youngsters from Chelsea, Man U, Aston Villa etc they would.

  • Comment number 3.

    "Within the European Union", being the salient one in Macheda's case, because European labour laws wouldn't permit the restriction."

    that is exactly why this restriction will not become a footballing law, EU laws which take precedent over football laws allow the populous of the EU countries to freely move from one country to the other looking for work. Being under 18 does not change that.

  • Comment number 4.

    I'm sure it won't be long before we some sort of indignant post about how disgraceful it is that Man Utd "stole" Macheda from poor little Lazio, ignoring the fact that plenty of clubs are doing the same thing.

    Whether people like it or not, football is a global game now and the big clubs are going to cast their nets as wide as they can in search of talent for the future. Indeed, given the demands on them for success, it would be irresponsible of them not to look as far as they possible can for the best young players. As long as they operate within the rules, this is a reality we will have to live with.

    The important thing is to get rid of the exploitation of often African youngsters who really are "spirited away", to the genuine detriment of their home club and home league.

  • Comment number 5.

    I think that getting all the youngsters from from stop the young english talent coming through - Any one agree?

  • Comment number 6.

    Platini should stop trying to change everything. Bad idea, many current players have been bought like this, Fabregas, Messi. Its exciting for the fans to see their young foreign player develop into one of the best in the world.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 8.

    So, its ok if your name is Arsene Wenger and can take Aaron Ramsey, a promising 17 year old from Cardiff is it? Lazio got £35,000 for a teenager, his father was given a job by Manchester United. If they didn't pay for his fathers services, then its slavery, but since they do, it isn't thus not breaking any rules. All because he scored a crucial goal in the EPL, everyone is crying foul and saying that he was pinched.

  • Comment number 9.

    The under 18 ruling will be a prevention but clubs will probably find a way around it.

    For example, paying £1 million up front for a 'first refusal' on a promising 15-year-old. The buying club could then probably deduct that up front payment off any transfer fee when the player turns 18.

    Would the rules prevent this?

  • Comment number 10.

    Man.U. take because they can, like a play ground bully at school. No doubt the Man.U. executives will point out the millions of pounds that they will pay Lazio, IF the lad fulfills his potential.

    If FIFA and UEFA manage to set a system in place to prohibit the transfer of kids, the BIG clubs will find a way around it, after all, without the top sides, UEFA have nothing to claim to control.

    My only hope is that football follows the finacial world, with those at the top taking and taking until the brown stuff hits the fan, unfortunately it will be the football fan that gets covered in the fall-out, but at least we may get our game back.

  • Comment number 11.

    That Macheda's not 17...look at him!

    He's got the face and body of a 30 year old.

    Something smells fishy in Lazio...

    Crackin' goal though, should have played last night.

  • Comment number 12.

    Platini may try and make this an issue but European law won't allow it. Is he seriously suggesting that if a family want to move to another country their son will not be allowed to leave a club he is signed up to as a school boy????

    I know Fabergas has been mentioned as an example with Arsenal picking him from Barcelona as well as Pique from Barca to Utd in the past. At the time I think Barca kicked up a little fuss but me thinks taking a kid like Messi from a different continent at the age he came to Barca is far more serious than anything English clubs have been accused of.

    Again, I think this smacks of jealousy of the success of English clubs. the talk of clubs like Utd being 3600 million in debt and buying success when raising money against capital is a legitmate business model and in Uts case one that is succesfully paying back the capital. Compare this to some of the big clubs in Spain/Italy where the stadia are owned by local government and leased out at very favourable rates to the club. At least in England clubs own and pay for the upkeep of their stadia without receiving grant aid from local government. Man City might be an exception to this considering they got a new stadium on the cheap but even that was the best way of the government clawing money back after they had built it for the commonwealth games.

    If Platini wants a level playing field then it should be alevel playing field on all aspects of football management and not just cherry pick the juicy nit bits he think he can have a go at the english game!

    And anyway English clubs are going through a successful period at the moment in Europe but all that can change because previously we have had German, Dutch, English, Italian and Spanish dominance over a period of years.

    Gone slightly off track there but with Utd signing Macheda they have worked with him, brought him on in the last 18 months and have every right to be proud in their part of his development.

  • Comment number 13.

    Waiting till the player is 18 will cause inflation in the transfer market, prices for players will rise to new heights. There should be stricter laws on U18 sales but not a ban completely.

  • Comment number 14.

    This is getting ridiculous. He's played 25minutes first team football. Us brits don't have overhype the talent playing in our country.

  • Comment number 15.

    "2. At 5:48pm on 08 Apr 2009, Shetland_James wrote:
    I'm sure if Lazio were in a position to take youngsters from Chelsea, Man U, Aston Villa etc they would."
    Even if this was the case, which there is absolutly no evidence to suggest it is, two wrongs don't make a right. These big clubs need to be restricted from 'picking off' foriegn and domestic talent for that matter, when other clubs have invested an awful lot of time and money in their youth players. Its nothing to do with "poor little Lazio" as some are sarcastically refering to them, they have every right to feel aggrieved when they have basically had a player they nurtured stolen from them. You would soon hear Manchester United etc kicking and screaming if the same was done to players from their acadamy, yet they still proceed to act in a underhand manner and with absolutly no respect for the 'smaller' clubs.

  • Comment number 16.

    If a bright young player rose from somewhere such as Australia or China and that was there nationality, with all due respect to those teams but there not as big as teams such as Chelsea and Man UTD so its more difficult to get spotted, if they are making a name for themselves in the youth team and then teams are looking at bright young talent that they create in there own image, there going to want players that are 15, 16 and 17 because then they still have time to create them into a better player before playing in a big league such as the English Premiership.

  • Comment number 17.

    Totally disagree with FIFA and Platini - they are continually looking for ways to stop players leaving clubs in continental Europe and joining Premiership sides. This is in the same vein. 10 years ago you had many top Italian sides buying players luring them to what was then the richest league - a rather ironic example is Cragnotti's Lazio pre-implosion.

    To be frank, Platini knows little about management especially of an umbrella organistion like UEFA and he should be replaced immediately by someone who knows what they are doing. Just because Platini was such a successful individual player, it does not mean he knows how to run an organisation - he plainly does not. He should quit bleating at the minimum and encourage other leagues to learn from the Premiership to raise their own competitiveness. In short, he is not constructive in the slightest.

    Blatter is exasperating in his silly aims and should also be replaced.

  • Comment number 18.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 19.

    what about the opportunities for young players to train with the best coaches with the best facilities and with the best of their peers? excuse my ignorance if i'm wrong, but i don't suppose africa has anything close to the opportunities that exist in europe (lazio, man utd, wherever).

    controlling the international mobility of players, whether it's inter-european moves or from africa to europe, is surely to put talented young players at a disadvantage and to stunt their potential?

    imagine if our brightest young minds didn't have the opportunity to go to the best schools and universities because of some bonkers international (or even regional) catchment-area bureaucracy?!

    "sorry, timmy, i know you're the new einstein and your development is stunted because you have to walk for 3 days to get to the nearest school in your poor african country, but we can't have you at oxford because man utd stole some football player from lazio."


  • Comment number 20.

    I think this would be a bad move for fifa, because I enjoy watching football. When youngsters come along and start performing well (especially for your favourite club) it makes you feel good. Personally, I don't care how these youngsters come, as long as they are happy with the way they are being treated.

  • Comment number 21.

    Probably a sensible rule to introduce but it does feel as if Platini is only doing this as a way of undermining the English clubs.

  • Comment number 22.

    "So, its ok if your name is Arsene Wenger and can take Aaron Ramsey, a promising 17 year old from Cardiff is it? Lazio got ?35,000 for a teenager, his father was given a job by Manchester United. If they didn't pay for his fathers services, then its slavery, but since they do, it isn't thus not breaking any rules. All because he scored a crucial goal in the EPL, everyone is crying foul and saying that he was pinched."

    Ramsey was paid for, Macheda wasn't. Not that I disagree - United had every right to offer Macheda terms, and that he decided he would rather go to Manchester than stay in Rome was his (and his family's) decision entirely and fairly done.

    As far as poaching foreign teens go - if they want to move, then fair play to them; actually I think a lot of young English players should think about being a bit more adventurous and moving to foreign leagues - they'd probably become better footballers learning in the technical Dutch academies and getting serious pitch time than they would by staying at the academies of most hoof-it-and-hope English teams before graduating to the bench, making a dozen sub appearances over a few years and finally dropping down a league or two to get some pitch time, never having fulfilled their potential.

  • Comment number 23.

    Everyone is getting worked up about Macheda...

    ... but does anyone remember Rhain Davis.

    If you don't, watch him in action at

    He was 9 years old at the time, and his whole family was flown over from Brisbane, Australia in the hope that one day he'd make it professional.

    Now THIS is what needs stopping.

    But what a player....

  • Comment number 24.

    hmmm I am shocked my previous comment has been referred to the moderators! Was it too political?

  • Comment number 25.

    Platini is basically saying that young players cannot play for the team they want to play for,they are not tied down long term contracts so there for have not made a commitment to certain clubs,what is going to happen to the future of world football if a world class teenager is being forced to play for a mediocre,say,Italian or German team?

  • Comment number 26.

    There was an article on the BBC a while back about a wonder-kid from Australia - Rhain Davies. His dad sent a tape of Rhain's football matches/skills to all the clubs in the PL and United said that they'd have him. Rhain's family moved to England so he could train in United's academy.

    In a way football is like every other profession, parents want to see their kids succeed at whatever they do and will do a lot to support them, whether it's pay for University or move so their kids can play football with the team they want to play for.

    Human Rights and EU Laws prevent Platini from stopping people moving abroad to work so as already stated, it shouldn't happen.

  • Comment number 27.

    While I understand how frustrating it is for teams to lose young prospects (and as a Man.Utd fan, I'm happy right now, although it was one goal, lets not go to too crazy here) But on the other hand, these rules shouldn't be put in because who are the rules to deny Macheda, if he really wanted to stay with Lazio he would have, but these young players should be free to go wherever they think gives them the best opportunity to be the best player they possibly can be...

  • Comment number 28.

    i think the comparsion between Macheda and human trafficking from Africa is off the mark by a good distance.
    I don't think teenagers in european football are being exploited as the article appears to make out. Ask anyone from Beckham to Messi, Ronaldo, Rooney, etc; even Pele played as a teenager. The point is there will always be a wunderkind.
    Human trafficking on the other hand is all our responsibility. If football can do something to lessen it then we should all support it. There will be another Macheda next september and probably next January as well.
    I wonder if you ask the Italians, how would they feel about your comparison of Lazio's carelessness in letting a player go and human trafficking from Africa?

  • Comment number 29.


    You clearly know nothing of the Messi situation. He was at a club in Argentina but was considered too small and too brittle to play football. Barcelona brought him and his family over at the age of 12 and paid for all the treatments he required in order to ensure that he could play football. Without Barcelona, Messi would be another kid who did not make the grade. Why do you think he loves the club so much? They have allowed him to play football for a career.

  • Comment number 30.

    2 words - Lionel Messi.
    If Barcelona had not taken him from Argentina at the age of 14 [or however young he was] he would not have recieved the growth hormone medication he required and consequently football would have been robbed of perhaps [I certainly think he is] of its greatest ever talent.
    These new regulations quite simply should not be allowed, all professional in every walk of life want to work for the best firms. Football is no different.

  • Comment number 31.

    Some are trafficked to Europe on the false promise of getting trials at top European club sides, only to be abandoned on arrival, their families often having paid thousands of dollars for travel costs and "expenses" to the crooks who promise them the earth and leave them with nothing.

    An easy way to stop the trafficking is to have the clubs who want to give the kids trials fly them over themselves.

    Its not the fault of clubs or young players to want to be the best and have the best. Macheda left Lazio as he believed it was better for him to leave to learn his trade at Man Utd. Likewise with Fabregas at Arsenal, he left Barca to have a better chance of a future in the game as at Barca he would still be five years behind in his development.

    Think of all the great players that the game would lose if such stupid laws become a reality.

    Either way the players U18 can just leave as there is no law saying they have to live in or near a certain city or their club. What could Lazio do if Macheda ups and moves to Manchester, he has no legal contract at Lazio?

  • Comment number 32.

    The guy scored a great goal. Let's see where his career goes from here before we hail him as a great.

  • Comment number 33.

    number 5 . . . what english talent?

  • Comment number 34.

    Someone mentioned the English "talent" going abroad to play...What a joke. They are not technically gifted enough to play abroad. Thats why we import them. If you thought they in plenty of supply enough to export, why do you think we are importing them??

    The coaching set up here is all about playing games and not about teaching the technical side and whilst the premiership is the best for excitement and goal mouth action, it has only got this way because of the current blend of British blood and thunder, 100 mph football and the technically superb foreigners who ply their trade here.

    Abroad they have the technique but not as much passion and speed on the pitch. Here we have the opposite. The blend is what makes our league the best. If the law changes on this and the laws governing how many foreigners can play here in a side watch the slide of popularity of the will happen if Platini and Blatter get their way. It would be a travesty.

  • Comment number 35.

    Couple of comments here. Please explain why there should be no English talent coming through, you can't tell me that with the number of youngsters playing the game that there is no talent. Maybe the coaches are the ones who have been playing this 100 mph stuff and are unable to see beyond that style of play or have we as a nation fallen into the trap and as parents cannot coach our children any other way. There surely are plenty of us who teach our children to kick a ball properly, play with both feet and are able to look up and pass a ball. No English talent - rubbish.

    Also, nobody seems to have mentioned that Lazio were unable to offer Macheda a contract because he was too young under the rules that prevail in Italy.

  • Comment number 36.

    I am 52 and I still play football. But the professional game is a corruption; an unaccountable Football Nostra run for the benefit of a powerful egos at Man U, Chelsea, Barca, Real, Liverpool, Arsenal, the Milans. And the fans can't be excused. If you follow these clubs are you really happy to sign up to the principle that the ends justify the means.

    Good luck to Platini but he looks increasingly like Don Quixote. Does he really think he can stop this. Democratic institutions have never been an obstacle to Sky, and the fans have been never been happier - even if they are ripped off at every corner. Sadly, the comments on this page show that the ruined lives of a few Africans is a price that many "fans" are willing to pay. Don't expect improvement any time soon.

  • Comment number 37.

    As usual with English football, we want the best of both worlds, particularly with us wanting the league football that we have (the best league in the world as we proclaim) but we also want/expect to win major tournaments. We cannot win major tournaments when we have the league and style of football we have ! Same now with foreign players. we want our clubs to have the best world players, and we claim that playing alongside the best - Ronaldo, Torres, Fabregas etc.. (fill in your own favourites) is improving the skills of our own players. Valid argument. But, when clubs fill their entire squads and academies with foreign players, then any British talent out there is going to struggle like hell to make an impact. Add to this, the EU rules regarding the plying of ones trade, then the whole thing is a mess. If we want English talent to come through, so we can win things at international level, then we need to change systems, not just here but across Europe.

  • Comment number 38.

    This is no new issue. This has previously occurred when Arsenal snapped up Fabregas and there are plenty of other examples. I don't understand how ANY football fan can condone that kind of behaviour. It's unethical and it completely undermines clubs that actually make an effort to produce their own talent. What makes matters worse is that Man U, Arsenal, etc are then claiming to be proud of "their" young talent when they have in many cases not been at the club a full 2 years!!

    A club that invests in a decent academy should be allowed to enjoy the fruits of their labour without having to worry about clubs swooping in for their youngsters particularly as these are particularly vulnerable to financial incentives. I know that fair play and honest competition are old fashioned concepts, but I sincerely hope that they succeed in cutting out these kinds of deals in future.

  • Comment number 39.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 40.

    The huge ommision from this debate is the new 6+5 rule UEFA are thinking of bringing in.
    to qualify as 'home-grown' the player must have spent 3 years at the club before his 21st birthday (I think), so the clubs are now looking to get the kids at 17/18 so they can spend the 3 years and qualify for the new laws when they come in.

    This whole thing is a new law to fix the loop-holes in the old law.

  • Comment number 41.

    So much for the great western ideal.

    He just happened to live in Rome and was picked up by Lazio. He hadn't sold them his soul or anything! He and his family have every right to try and improve their lot in life - Platini/UEFA has no jurisdiction to dictate terms and try to hold him back.

    Football politicians really are annoying!

  • Comment number 42.

    who cares..we won, and it wasn't all to do with him! ronaldo got 2 after being bought young from sporting for a much higher transfer fee than macheda. it all evens out. i mean look at nani. 17 mil given to sporting for that joker

  • Comment number 43.

    It’s up to the player, if Kiko had been told he couldn’t play for Utd and had to stay in Italy would that have been fair to him? Because he is a talented footballer that makes him Lazio's property so he has to live his life the way the club want.

    Ridiculous, Prattini at his best

  • Comment number 44.

    The fact most have missed here, and I think someone touched on it further up, is that Lazio were prevented from offering pro terms to players under the age of 18 by local Itallian FA rules. The uproar should be in Italy, and they should change their own laws to rectify this.

    Whilst this is not an ideal situation we are in with big clubs raiding smaller teams of their youth talent, the onus is on the smaller clubs to tie the players into a contact so the larger clubs have to buy that out to take the player, and then ensure further performance related payments are included in any deal.

    I think the days of a Matt LeTissier type player staying loyal to a smaller club are gone, as the lure of big cash and potential success is to much for young players (and their agents....all of which need hanging.....) to resist these days.

  • Comment number 45.

    After reading most of these comments, it is obvious that 99% of the people here do not have a clue what they are on about.

    the only reason Macheda left Lazio is because the Italian FA has rules that do not allow Italian clubs to give professional contracts to 16 year olds.

    That is why he left Italy and joined Man Utd, the english club only went and picked up a player that could not be contractually attached to a club in his own country. What do people expect this kid to do? Stay in Italy earning about 50GBP a week or going to any other EU nation where 16 year olds are allowe dto sign professional contracts and earn 1000GBP instead?

    Please do not comment if you do not know what you are tlaking about!

  • Comment number 46.

    Lazio would probably have kept Macheda if they had been prepared to pay him a reasonable wage. Their policy is to pay young players at the club youth rate whether or not they play for the first team. That strikes me as most unfair and dishonest so who can blame the player and his family for wanting a lot better. The fault was with Lazio so hopefully the rules won't be changed to allow them and other clubs to exploit youg players.

  • Comment number 47.

    Tricky knee 59:

    Perhaps you could point out where the English talent is? The ultimate test of English talent would be most visible at tournaments....but wait a minute...oh yes....almost 50 years since the last success and a good half dozen tournaments not even qualified for. Whereas all the other major European countries who do teach technique over passion have had success, Germany, Italy, France, Holland, Spain, Denmark, hell even Greece have managed it. Point proved I think....

  • Comment number 48.

    Surely the way to sort this out is to let the Spanis/Italian/other clubs offer professional contracts at the same age as in the UK. They try to villify English clubs in this (as Platini loves to do) but really their problem is with their own leagues and employment laws within their own countries. Instead of restricting free movement within the EU (which is illegal anyway) why not just give everyone a level playing field?

  • Comment number 49.



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