The Udinese ModelBy: Dylan | July 13th, 2011
After a goalless draw with Serie A Champions AC Milan on the last day of the 2010/11 season, Udinese qualified for the UEFA Champions League for the first time in five years.
An extremely unpredictable result considering they were in the midst of a relegation battle the season before, eventually finishing fifteenth. They also lost key players that summer, including Simone Pepe and Gaetano D’Agostino among others. Even at the start of this season it looked highly unlikely as they lost their first four games and drew the fifth.
After that poor start however, they became unstoppable. Antonio Di Natale and Alexis Sanchez formed a devastating partnership, netting thirty-nine goals in total. Kwadwo Asamoah, Gokhan Inler and Mauricio Isla made up a complete midfield. While Cristian Zapata was holding the defensive responsibilities. Manager Franceso Guidolin acted as a calming presence for the fans, but at the same time motivated the players. The Italian press even dubbed them the ‘Barcelona B’, as there attacking style presisted even when losing.
So after such a great season, how are the team from Udine preparing for the Champions League next season?
So far it looks as though the talismanic Sanchez is on his way to Barcelona. While crucial midfielder Gokhan Inler moved to rivals Napoli. Defensive rock Zapata’s move to Villarreal was confirmed today. Back-up attackers Antonio Floro Flores and German Denis also look to be on the way out. Udinese have loaned/sold a total of twenty-four players so far this transfer window. Yet only recalled/bought seven.
So you would think that Guidolin’s team would be linked to lots of exciting talent with the money being injected. Giovanni Dos Santos, Marco Parolo and Gaston Ramirez have been the names linked so far. Not going to set Europe alight are they? Many are evn claiming Udinese might ‘do a Sampdoria’, by qualifing for the Champions League one season and getting relegated the next. The reality is very far off, as Samp was a very different and unique case. That does not mean that they will not have a bad Champions League season, as so far reinforcements have not been made in key positions.
It’s not as bad as it sounds though little Zebras. Over the last fifteen years Udinese have qualified for Europe eight times, and they have lost start players before. Udinese make a percentage of what the ‘big’ teams around them make, yet they still manage to stay up there. Ever so often they have a bad year, take the year before this, but their system brings them back time and time again.
They are the first Italian team to adopt the Spainsh way of running a club. By investing in their scouting network and not splashing out on big name players. The money they will make from the supposed Sanchez sail is not going in to an immediate replacement, as they already have the next Sanchez in the reserves. Instead it is going into a replacement for the ‘next Sanchez’ in the reserves, aka the scouting network.
In theory they should already have the ‘next’ Inler and Zapata too, but it will not always work. If the up and coming star fails, the system hits a bumb in the road. Which results in a lacklustre season, or a costly signing. Either way it is the cheapest and the best way to grow a team, the only downside being it takes time.
Gino Pozzo, son of Udinese owner Giampaolo, explained this last May in La Republica:
“People have started calling us a phenomenon. However, in reality, we have been working in a certain way for a very long time and this is now starting to pay off”.
Although it has its doubters, the ‘Spanish system’ works in the long run, even though it is 100% dependent on its scouting network. People should be applauding Udinese, not being sceptical.