Friday, 1 February 2019

Primavera Problems

One can argue that no team in the history of Italian football has a stronger bond between their first team and their Primavera (youth) team than Torino FC.

The main reason for this is, after the Superga disaster of 1949, that resulted in the death of the entire ‘Grande Torino’ team who had won five consecutive Serie A titles, it was the Primavera squad who had to fulfil the Granata’s remaining fixtures.

Despite this inextricable link between the youth team and the first team, in recent years, Torino have not managed to have many youth team products breakthrough and become regular first team players.

One of these reasons is of course the fact that in 2005, Torino were declared bankrupt, and as a result, all players were released from their contracts. These included players who began their careers at Toro, and have gone on to have successful Serie A careers elsewhere -Stefano Sorrentino, Federico Balzaretti and Fabio Quagliarella (who would later return to the club).

If not for bankruptcy, one of these players could have stayed at Torino for their entire careers, and been a bandiera, much like Francesco Totti at Roma.

In the years since bankruptcy, only one player who came through the Torino academy has gone on to make over 100 appearances for the first team - Angelo Ogbonna. Whilst the majority of these appearances came in Serie B, Ogbonna then made the move to cross city rivals Juventus after his first full season in Serie A, much to the dismay of Torino supporters.

In the current first team squad, both Vittorio Parigini and Simone Edera were born in the city, starred for the Primavera and then impressed whilst out on loan. However, neither player has made more than 2 starts in Serie A this season and therefore been unable to force their way into a regular starting birth.

With Torino still fighting for Europa League qualification this season, it would be a surprise to see these statistics change dramatically. However, should Toro fall out of the race for Europe, one would hope that Walter Mazzarri looks to the future when picking his starting eleven for the rest of the season. However, with Simone Edera completing a deadline day loan move to Bologna this now looks a remote possibility, although it is hoped he will finally manage to get regular game time in Serie A.

Torino’s proud history extends to it’s Primavera team, and no team in Italian football has won more League titles (9) or Coppa Italia’s (8) than Toro.

Much is expected of the latest star of the Torino Primavera team, Vincenzo Millico, who has scored an incredible 22 goals in 15 league appearances. The day after being named on the bench for the first team’s 1-0 victory over Inter, Millico captained the Primavera team to a 4-0 win over Palermo.

Vincenzo Millico
After a goalless first half, Millico produced a piece a magic that belied his inexperience by taking a quick free kick and delivering an inch perfect assist to find substitute Luca Petrungaro to open the scoring. Whilst Petrungaro went on to complete his hat trick, it was Millico who was the catalyst for the Granata, and he deservedly got on the score sheet himself in injury time. This impressive victory took Torino to the top of the Campionato Primavera 1 standings.

This past Saturday marked the 100 year anniversary of the birth of Valentino Mazzola, captain of the Grande Torino team. As part of the celebrations, Torino hosted a youth tournament for players in the Pulcini age group (born in 2008). The other teams involved were Venezia, Valentino’s former team, and Inter, who his son Sandro served with such distinction from 1960-1977.

There was however, a familiar name within the Torino squad - Valentino Mazzola, the eleven year old great-grandson of the former Torino captain who was also invited to play in the tournament.

The young Valentino Mazzola, flanked by Toro president Urbano Cairo and record goalscorer Paolo Pulici
Who knows, in 10 years time, Torino supporters may once again be cheering on a Mazzola from the stands.

But lets not put too much pressure on the kid.

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