Powerlessness. As Sandro Tonali prepares to pack his bags and board a plane to Newcastle upon Tyne, that’s the feeling most calcio lovers are left with, not to mention Milan fans.
The first transfer market hit of the summer was a brutal reminder of the immense power that Premier League clubs hold in the market arena, and of how Serie A teams can only accept that. And take advantage of it, where possible, to at least shore up their depleted balance sheets.
It all happened in the space of 48 hours. Newcastle United, who is backed by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, set their eyes on the 23-year-old Tonali and identified him as their target to bolster the midfield department ahead of their return to the Champions League after 20 years. Director of Sports Dan Ashword flew to Milan, got the player’s buy-in, and came to a lightning-fast agreement with the club. Game, set, match.
Milan were offered some whopping €70M to part ways with his jewel, while Tonali will get a €8M salary plus €2M bonuses for six years. Any club would be foolish to refuse the offer. As for the player, who has been a Milan fan since childhood and was bound to become the club’s captain for the foreseeable future, suffice to say that he is going have his salary more than doubled. So long to the eternal love he swore to the Rossoneri just a few months ago.
But that is not the problem. In today’s football, pretending that a player – any player – will just put his heart above the cash and the possibility to play in a more shimmering stage is just pure utopia. The problem is that, in the case of Tonali, this has come so fast, unexpectedly, and abruptly.
The problem is that, once again, the Serie A sees itself deprived of one of its most talented players and a household name in the league as soon as he had started to flourish. And, it cannot do anything to stop the bleeding. On the contrary, this is just the beginning. Because, if one can tell a bad day from the morning, this is going to be a painful summer for those who genuinely care about calcio as the shopping spree from the Super League, pardon Premier League, seems far from over.
The up-and-coming Empoli goalkeeper Guglielmo Vicario, a new Italy call-up who was rumored to be on Inter’s radar, is about to be snatched by Tottenham. On the other hand, Inter had set their sights on Vicario because their starting goalie André Onana is not likely to last any longer at La Pinetina, with Manchester United determined to bring him beyond the Channel.
Onana joined Inter only one season ago, achieving international relevance as he led his club to an unexpected Champions League Final. Just one season to shine, before the Premier League vortex phagocytized him. His parable in the Italian top-flight is exemplifying of the general trend.
Who will be next? Mike Maignan? Victor Osimhen? How long will they last in Italy until some Premier League club comes to talk money?
Make no mistake, the English elite division has built its predominance and attractiveness across thirty years sprinkled with right and forward-thinking choices and decisions – which the Serie A has not done. Still, it hurts to see a player like Tonali leaving one of the top three Italian clubs without batting an eye, for a team whose history is nowhere close to the Rossoneri‘s – with all due respect to the Magpies. Or, to see a good, promising striker like Gianluca Scamacca plying his trade at mid-table West Ham simply because the Hammers can offer more than any top Italian club.
Is it legitimate? Of course, it is. But don’t ask us calcio lovers to be happy about it.
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