Zlatan Ibrahimovic to PSG: Why His Transfer Could Be Good for Italian Football

Sasu SiegelbaumContributor IIJuly 18, 2012

Zlatan's New Threads
Zlatan's New ThreadsMarc Piasecki/Getty Images

On Wednesday July 18, 2012 Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic sealed a controversial 23 million euro transfer from former club AC Milan to French upstarts Paris Saint-Germaine. 

In joining his seventh professional club, "Ibra" will not only be reuniting with former Milan teammate Thiago Silva (who last week commanded an astonishing 42 million euro transfer), but via 190 million euro in cumulative career transfer fees, he will become the most expensive footballer of all time.

Many pundits and Milan fans lament the team's willingness to sell its two most prized assets, viewing it as a confirmation of Italian football's fall from grace. Yet to others (namely to the north and west of the Peninsula), it is a welcome sign of change in the traditional power dynamics of European football whereby a French team could actually challenge for the UEFA Champions League.

There is even the possibility that this move could represent a shift in the developmental tendencies of the larger Italian clubs, who for so long relied less on carefully-developed domestic talent than on international stars from South America and Europe.

Despite each Milan club's Champions League victories in 2003 and 2010 and Italy's Euro 2012 final appearance, Serie A's drastic decline from the world's top league to perhaps fifth best is plain for all to see.

It seems as though Serie A has replaced France's Ligue 1 as the feeder league for Europe's Champions League favorites.

With the sales of Ibra and Silva, it would almost appear as though Milan, a club whose seven European titles and 18 league titles dwarf the accomplishments of the oil-rich Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germaine and Anzhi Makhachkala, are already throwing in the towel for next season. 

Yet with the UEFA Fairplay regulations coming into play this season, might it not also be prudent for Milan to work toward financial solvency and shed some of its massive budget?

Just as the Bundesliga has undergone a recent renaissance stemming from the league's commitment to youth development and stringent domestic financial regulations, so could Serie A eventually recover from its decade-long lull.

It may sound counter intuitive, but Serie A's lack of extravagantly wealthy owners (a la England, Spain, Abu-Dhabi, China, Russia, etc.) may actually be to the country's benefit. Indeed, the exodus of world class footballers from Italy has mostly benefited Spanish, English, and French clubs, with the likes of Zidane, Ronaldo, Juan Veron, Lillian Thuram, Javier Pastore, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Mario Ballotelli and others leaving the Peninsula for greener pastures.

But leaner budgets and engorged transfer fees should encourage Serie A's big boys to shift their attention toward young Italian talent.

In Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, PSG will be gaining two world class players who have dominated Serie A for several seasons, and they look poised to make a big splash in the weaker French League. 

Milan, no doubt, will most likely struggle to find adequate replacements for the pair, yet with the 65 million euro in transfer funds, they also have a variety of spending options.

Of course, if Serie A clubs such as Milan decide to buy cheap replacements and invest more heavily in their youth systems, it will be a matter of years before they are able to reap the benefits.

Yet, as the Bundesliga and German National Teams demonstrate, there could well be a positive return for Serie A and the Azzuri from a bolstered national youth system.