The publicity surrounding Udinese’s clearly superb scouting network has clearly grown since the sale of Alexis Sanchez to Barcelona for the princely sum of £23 million. This figure is all the more impressive when you consider that the Zebrette originally bought him for a pittance, a mere £100,000. The management and nous that they showed to turn him from a raw and inconsistent fledgling into one of the best wingers in the world sets an example to other clubs in the modern game. The recent return to Chile of Eduardo Vargas, supposedly one of South America’s top talents, is a depressing example of mismanagement. He joined Napoli for a large fee which definitely placed him under far more pressure than he was used to, and instead of simply loaning him back to South America straight away, he was left to sit on the bench, his first-team action hard to come by due to the burgeoning talents of Cavani, Hamsik and Lavezzi.
Udinese Calcio is an Italian football club based in Udine, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and currently plays in the Serie A and they seem to have embraced their role as a feeder club in that they have what is most likely the largest scouting network in the whole of Serie A and this has unearthed several ‘rough diamonds’, especially in Africa, and more specifically, Ghana. Jonathan Mensah, now at Evian in France, and Emmanuel Badu, who is still with the club for example. They specialize in picking up young, raw players for next to nothing and selling them on as soon as the right offer comes in. the most notable of these is obviously Sanchez, but in recent years they have sold; Gokhan Inler for £15 million (bought from Zurich for £1 million); Cristian Zapata for £9 million (bought for £400,000); Kwadwo Asamoah for £9 million (although this was only for 50% of his rights) and Mauricio Isla for 9 million (bought for £400,000). On these transfers alone, Calcio have turned a profit of around £31.2 million, whilst not to mention reaping the benefits of having these players at the club. This is what they are currently enjoying with their Moroccan centre-back; Mehidi Benatia (signed from Clermont in Ligue 2).
Naturally these gambles do not always work out, but what is gained, both in monetary form and in league standing, far outweighs the risk and expenditure necessary to develop the player. Udinese however, as the most notable example, seem to very rarely make any mistakes in the scouting of players. They also have a knack of selling the right player at the right time. They sold Zapata to Villarreal for 9 million, breaking up their established centre-back partnership, in a move that was originally ridiculed by the Italian media. But it proved to be the right one. Villarreal were relegated that same season and Zapata departed to AC Milan for half of what Udinese garnered for him.
The talent train has not stopped giving as well. Luis Muriel, a 21 year old Columbian striker, signed from Deportivo Cali after scoring 9 goals in 10 games for a mere £300,000, has already broken into the first team this season and as a result of his performances, has received his first international cap. A good finisher, with strong dribbling and explosive pace, Muriel looks set for future success and this will simply be another feather in the cap of Udinese’s brilliant scouting and coaching team.