The new bromance between Serie A and Scots

Up until recently Scottish players were as rare as cafes without espresso in Italy. The Serie A arrivals of midfielder Lewis Ferguson at Bologna and defender Josh Doig at Hellas Verona hardly represents an influx but it is an indication of changing times and attitudes, writes Stephen Kasiewicz. 

Few Scots have played in the Italian top flight, although a brief list does include such luminaries as Denis Law (Torino), Graeme Souness (Sampdoria) and Joe Jordan (Milan and Hellas Verona).

Yet it took a few decades before unlikely trailblazer Aaron Hickey convinced Italy’s sporting directors that the often overlooked Scottish market was worth analysing more closely.

Midfielder Liam Henderson had been a consistent performer in Serie B for Bari, Hellas Verona and Lecce before becoming a regular at Empoli in Italy’s top division last season.

However it was Hickey’s breakout 2021-2022 campaign which played a significant role in the recruitment of Ferguson and Doig. 

The Glasgow-born defender joined Bologna from Hearts in September 2020 for €1.7m, and after a first season of adaptation proved his worth last term at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara.

Hickey won international honours as he established himself as one of the best full-backs in Serie A. Whether deployed on his favoured left or right flank the 20-year-old excelled, scoring five times in 36 league games. It was enough to convince English Premier League club Brentford to shell out an initial €16.5m for him last week.

Bologna made a sizeable profit and immediately invested €3.5m of the fee on Aberdeen’s Ferguson, who was sold on a move to the Rossoblu after receiving a glowing recommendation from Scotland teammate Hickey.

It could prove another shrewd investment. The 22-year-old has enormous potential and showed both ambition and courage in taking the largely untrodden path to Italy.

Scottish players rarely turn down the opportunity of joining clubs in the second tier English Championship or those who perpetually reside in the bottom half of the English Premier League. There is no language or culture barrier and the financial rewards are usually too good to resist.

Ferguson, who spent four seasons in the Scottish Premiership with the Dons, could probably have made more money elsewhere but instead chose to make the considerable step up to Serie A. Not that he will be earning a pittance in Italy.

A tenacious goalscoring midfielder with four Scotland caps, he has the stamina and drive to provide a dynamic alternative in the Bologna midfield.

It’s a curious anomaly that Scotland continues to produce more high quality left-backs than players in any other outfield position. Doig, 20, follows Andrew Robertson (Liverpool), Kieran Tierney (Arsenal) and Hickey as the latest to emerge on the left flank.

A standout for Hibs in the past two seasons it seemed inevitable he would head to England.

Perhaps it was the Hickey factor which persuaded the Scotland under-21 international to join a Hellas Verona side which played a brand of dazzlingly offensive football last term.

A versatile, attack minded full-back who has the pace to initiate on the transition, Doig possesses all the attributes to make the grade in Serie A.

In a climate of never-ending transfer sagas and spiralling prices the Scottish market is an untapped area which offers relative value for money – Hellas Verona paid €3.5m for Doig. Deals don’t take forever to be finalised as Scottish Premiership teams readily accept decent fees for players after years of being ripped off by clubs in England.

Regardless, there will be at least three Scots in the Italian top division next season, a record number likely to be bettered in future years. 

One Comment on “The new bromance between Serie A and Scots”

  1. This is so sad, clubs are now signing young scots.. Isn’t there any good italian young players now?!! No wonder the national team is failed

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