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Youth Isn't Everything in Serie A As "Evergreen" Players Still Rule The Roost

Tuesday 24th September 2013
Every country's attitude is different when it comes to football. In England, there is a mixed sense of panic and jealousy about the lack of quality young players being produced compared to other, more successful nations. However, in Italy, they don't have such worries.From Antonio Di Natale to Francesco Totti, calcio is famed for players having very long careers. However, what is amazing is the amount of Italian players who carry on playing at the top level, and not looking at all out of place, until their late thirties or even into their forties. In this country we hero worship Ryan Giggs, who don't get me wrong has had a great career playing for so long, but it's second nature in Serie A.

And I'm not saying that the Azzurri don't have some unbelievably talented youngsters, you only need to look at Lorenzo Insigne's stunning free kick for Napoli on Wednesday against Dortmund to see that. But this new crop of players will likely stick around for many years to come.

When talking about this subject, there is one man who deserves a special mention. Paolo Maldini played in the red and black of Milan for over twenty years and for his country 126 times. He won the Champions League more times in his career than most clubs have done. The ultimate respect from his club, for whom he played the entirety of his footballing life for, is that his number 3 shirt has been reserved for another Maldini to take over the mantle.

The greatest defender of all time in my opinion, Maldini was one of many golden oldies at the Rossoneri. Most academies in world football are dedicated to developing younger playerrs as is only natural, but at the Milanello complex, they buck the trend. While not neglecting the future generations, they are famed for helping prolong careers. As I said in mmy piece profiling Kaka's return to the San Siro a couple of weeks ago, their Champions League winning side in 2007 was a very experienced one. The likes of Alessandro Nesta, Clarence Seedorf and Filippo Inzaghi all benefited from the club's mentality

Another former Milan man, Andrea Pirlo, is only just getting the recognition he deserves at tthe age of 34. Now at Juventus, he has recently a reputation of a midfield maestro with the wider football world, when he has been exactly that for over a decade now.

There are so many different players who apply to my point, some with a higher profile than others. Although Maldini, Del Piero and Totti get all the acclaim and deservedly so, there are some unsung heroes. Antonio Di Natale is 35 years old and is still an excellent player who scores goal after goal for Udinese since joining. Despite playing in the Champions League and for Italy too, and being his clubs best and most feared player for so long, I'm surprised he has never made it to a bigger club. But that brings out another fantastic trait in Italian football: Loyalty.

I've mentioned Del Piero and Totti, but I won't go into excessive detail because you already know it all. However, what I will say is that for me, Totti especially is the most remarkable player in world football today. While turning 37 next week, and having completely lost the ability to run due to all the injuries he has had throughout his great career, still leads the Giallorossi, scoring so many goals. Its difficult to imagine Roma without Francesco Totti and vice versa. I described him as evergreen in my first piece, ands having agreed a new contract to play until he's forty, that is exactly what he is.

Alessandro Del Piero is Juventus' equivalent. Though not a one club man like Totti, having started his career at Padova and ending it in Australia, Ale's name is synonymous with the Bianconeri.

There are so many names that I haven't mentioned here, some that deserve to be. Italian football is unique, and after years of mixing youth and experience they really do have the best of both worlds.
Harry De Cosemo
19 years old, Newcastle season ticket holder. European football enthusiast and aspiring football writer. Currently doing a Journalism degree at Teesside University. You can follow me on Twitter: @harrydecosemo

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