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Italian football in stars and stripes: Calcio speaks English

In the last 10 years, many Italian football clubs have changed ownership, passing from a guide almost at the family level to the managerial one “Made in U.S.A.”

777 Partners (Genoa)
777 Partners (Genoa)

United States of America and football

The love of the U.S.A for football comes from not too far away, unlike the Latin people who have always been “ball-fed” since the beginning of 1900, if not before. In 1988, Henry Kissinger, then a member of the Long-Term Integrated Strategy Commission of the National Security Council and the United States Department of Defense, announced to the nation that the 1994 World Cup would be held at “their home”. Until then “soccer” is practiced only by those few students who in college cannot practice top sports, such as American football or baseball.

The U.S. does not even have a professional championship and to maintain the organization of the World Cup, must enter into a pact with FIFA that provides for the creation of a national tournament. In January 1994, the first seven teams to be part of Major League Soccer (MLS) were announced: they were New Jersey, New York, San José, Boston, Columbus, Los Angeles and Washington. The first professional championship “Made in U.S.A.” officially starts in 1996.

The title is won by D.C. United who beat the L.A. Galaxy in the final 3-2, in the frame of the Foxboro Stadium, in front of almost 35 thousand spectators. The “palm of the best player” is won by the Colombian champion Carlos Valderrama of Tampa Bay Mutiny, while he graduated top scorer with 27 goals, his club mate, the striker Roy Lassiter, who is then purchased by Genoa, but where he will not find luck, returning to “the shadow” of the Stars and Stripes flag after only 2 games with the Grifone w/out goal. Since then football has become more and more present in the lives of American households so that in the world ranking of FIFA, the U.S.A. in April 2006, they have reached the fourth position, while currently, they are at the 12th place.

Once upon a time there was romantic football

Who hasn’t once heard the expression “romantic football“? It is an expression that is compared to the football of the ’70s, until the end of the ’90s, when the Presidents of Italian clubs came to spend, regardless of expenses, billions and billions of old Lira to buy a footballer and make happy their fans who once at the stadium manifested their love and appreciation with customized choirs and choreography. How not to mention Corrado Ferlaino and Diego Armando Maradona, at Napoli for 13.5 billion lire from Barcelona in 1984, or the Dutch Milan of Arrigo Sacchi, Marco Van Basten, Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard. How not to mention the Ronaldo phenomenon snatched from Barcelona by Massimo Moratti and brought to Inter, paying the 48 billion “rescissory” clause.

Our Serie A, has thought too much about the aesthetics and little about the substance, so while in the other European Championships, especially in England, football little by little became a corporation in the true sense of the word, the owners of many teams in Italy, experience more and more financial problems, which in a short time led to the change of ownership of numerous historical clubs of our Calcio.

Ronaldo
Ronaldo

Football Made in U.S.A.

The first Italian company to change ownership and pass under the flag flying “Stars and Stripes” was Rome, which in the summer of 2012, is purchased by James Pallotta, an Italian-American entrepreneur. He wanted to build a new stadium for the Giallorossi and win, but that’s not what happened. In the summer of 2020, he sold the shares to his compatriot Dan Friedkin.

In 2014 it’s the turn of Bologna that is bought by Canadian Joey Saputo and New York lawyer Joe Tacopina, the latter after only two years leaves. In 2015 he became a key shareholder of Venezia. In February, five years later, he sold the shares and office to VFC Newco 2020 LLC, a group of US investors. Duncan Niederauer is currently the President of the Lagunari, back in Serie A after 19 years of waiting. Joe Tacopina, after trying to pick up Catania in August of this year, became the owner of Spal.

In 2018, Milan took the American passport. After moving from Silvio Berlusconi to Yonghong Li, which in 2017, through a Luxembourg company “Rossoneri Sport Investment Lux”, had acquired the 99,93% of the shares, due to the default of the bonds to the American investment fund by the Chinese President, Elliot Management Corporation, in the person of Paul Singer, becomes the owner of the club.

Another company passed into “American” hands is Fiorentina. In 2019, the Della Valle brothers sold their shares to Italian-American Rocco Commisso, number one of the Mediacom Communications Corporation. In September 2020, the Parma owned by the company “Nuovo Inizio” (a group of Parmesan entrepreneurs who acquired the club in 2015), passes to Krause Group, of Kyle Krause, an American with Italian origins, with over 2.8 billion dollars in revenue in 2019.

In January 2021, Pisa passed 75% to Alexander Knaster, an entrepreneur with an American passport, but born in Russia: personal wealth estimated at about 2.2 billion dollars. The next month is the turn of the Spezia. The oil tycoon Gabriele Volpi, sold his shares to financier Robert Platek, already in possession of two other football teams: Sonderjyske Foodbold, Danish club and Casa Pia Ac, which plays in the Segunda Liga, the Serie B of Portugal, 2 billion dollars Evaluated net worth. The latest sold of the property is that one of Genoa. On September 22nd, with the payment of the first “tranche” of 20 million euros, the Grifone passes from the President Enrico Preziosi to the American investment fund 777 Partners.

Not only finance: Americans who played in the Italian game fields

From 1994 to the present, only 10 footballers have trod or are still doing so on the Italian football fields. The first-ever was the defender Alexis Lalas, purchased by Padova in 1994. In Biancorosso only two championships played. In the 1996/97 season it was the turn of the first MLS top scorer, Roy Lassiter, he came to Genoa, to replace Montella, but took the field only on two occasions. In 2008, Brescia acquired Polish-born midfielder Danny Szetela: after a year and a half and 26 appearances, he returned home without leaving a mark.

In 2009, AC Milan bought the central defender Oguchi Onyewu, 198 cm per 100 kg, from Standard Liège. No presence in Serie A and a fight in training with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Chievo Verona, in 2011 buys from Aston Villa midfielder Michael Bradley, that in the following year passes to Pallotta’s Roma. Two seasons in the Giallorossi, 41 appearances and two goals. The American with the most appearances in Serie A.

In 2013, Fiorentina decided to bet on the young Joshua Pérez and join him in the spring, but the striker does not meet expectations and after a single appearance in the Viola, against Inter and 23 in Livorno passes to Los Angeles FC.

Frosinone brought in Italy in 2019, striker Andrija Novakovich, taken from Reading. Still in the ranks of the Ciociari with whom he has combined 67 appearances in the Cadetta series, “seasoned” by 15 goals and 14 assists.

In the summer of 2020, Juventus decided to focus on the midfielder of Schalke 04, Weston Mckennie, costing 20, 5 million. After a more than promising start with the Vecchia Signora jersey, the American stopped a bit.

McKennie (United States)
McKennie (United States)

The last two Americans to perform on the Italian green “pitches”, both arrived in the last transfer market session at Venezia. These are Tanner Tessmann, a midfielder purchased from Dallas FC and Gianluca Busio, from Sporting Kansas City, clearly of Italian origin, also a midfielder who in this start of the season “has booked” an important space in the 11 of Paolo Zanetti.

What future for Italian football?

The feeling is that the changes of ownership of the clubs in our Country, will be increasingly frequent also because of the pandemic of Covid-19, which has modified the financial balance of each sector, especially that of football, already put in troubles in previous years, with insane financial management, huge salaries of football players and high management costs. If We do not decide to intervene decisively, the risk that this “beautiful toy” is definitely broken is very high.

What do you think?

Written by Editorial Board

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