As Europe's biggest clubs eye up Alexis Sanchez, Javier Pastore and Marek Hamsik, Scott Fleming warns of the dangers of driving too hard a bargain.
Clubs like Udinese, Palermo and Napoli are the foster parents of the Italian game. They search out the youngsters no on else knows or cares about, nurture and develop them, shower them with love and attention, then just as the kids are about to reach maturity and fulfil their potential, they have to let them go.
That's the situation all three clubs find themselves in at present, preparing to cut the apron strings and lose star pupils Alexis Sanchez, Javier Pastore and Marek Hamsik, otherwise known as The Wonder Boy, The Skinny One and Sonic.
It must be difficult to watch their carefully sculpted prodigies move on, to watch bigger teams reap the benefits of their hard work – the football equivalent of gazing longingly at an ex-girlfriend across a dance floor.
This isn't a case of Cruella de Vil stealing puppies however, the aforementioned clubs knew this day would come and appear perfectly willing to sell, with the exception of Napoli and President Aurelio Di Laurentiis, who seems ready to dig out his boxing gloves and give Hamsik's suitors the same clobbering he supposedly gave Lazio President Claudio Lotito at a recent Lega Calcio meeting.
The problem is striking the right balance, between making as much profit as you possibly can and scaring the suitors away with exorbitant asking prices. In attempting to secure the maximum monetary return, the Presidents in question risk holding on to their prize assets for another season, and believe it or not that could be a bad thing.
For teams outwith the elite in Serie A, knowing when to sell is of paramount importance, and that time is now in the case of both Sanchez and Pastore. As extraordinary as they were last term, you could reasonably argue that they are both one season wonders.
Up until last season the two young South Americans had great difficulty adapting to Serie A, finding their best position and coping with the physical demands. The part played by tacticians Francesco Guidolin and Delio Rossi simply cannot be underestimated. If it wasn't for the time, patience and wisdom both men dedicated to their charges Sanchez and Pastore would still be bit part players, never mind Europe's most wanted.
There's no guarantee that El Nino Maravilla or El Flaco will be able to reproduce that dazzling form next year with the crushing anti climax of a collapsed transfer fresh in the memory. Fruit left on the vine too long becomes rotten, as Udinese discovered to their cost with Dias Felipe, once touted as one of the best defenders in Europe, barely able to break into Cesena's first XI last season.
As of now the situation is about as clear as a steamed up mirror. Manchester City met Udinese's €40m asking price only to withdraw it when it became clear Sanchez preferred Barcelona, who have now launched their own bid. Hamsik confessed in Pravda that he would like to join Milan, but Adriano Galliani has strenuously denied a deal will take place. A €50m bid for Pastore has supposedly landed in Palermo's inbox, but no one knows who from or if it will be accepted.
Stay tuned, as there are bound to be more twists and turns to come in the adventures of this Serie A trio.
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