The loaning of potential youth is a tried and tested system to help players grow. However, this wouldn’t be possible without the help of smaller clubs, like Reggina for instance, in lower divisions.
Small clubs seem to be a place where youth products from a number of Serie A clubs can find a home and display their burgeoning potential to the rest of the world.
Star youth players are often a fortuitous moment for many smaller clubs in football, regardless of the league and the loan is often optimised for various reasons. For one thing it helps ease the budgets of many clubs who cannot always afford to play outlandish transfer fees and wages. It also acts as an important avenue for youth prospects to gain important game time that they would otherwise not receive at their current clubs, whether that be due to needing to mature or because the route to the first team is blocked by vastly more experienced and or talented players. Coaching preferences also play a major part as well as the dreaded thought of politics impacting player choices, such is role it plays in Italian football. One team seems to have a penchant for developing youth talent and giving these players the right environment to thrive. That team is none other than Reggina who for close to 8 seasons was a mainstay in Serie A until their last-ditch survival attempts ended with relegation.
Unfortunately, it has gone from bad to worse with the club struggling in Serie B for a few years, before dropping to Serie C and being declared bankrupt after surviving a relegation playoff. A new ownership group with a new perspective on fiscal responsibility re-established the club in Serie D two years on is fighting to regain its place in Serie B. In a rare form of consistency, the club continues to maintain a policy of granting youth prospects valuable game time and exposure. The club has at that time relied on youth from the bigger teams to help in their revival attempts. Players such as Roberto Insigne, and Andy Bangu come to mind who have used their time at the club wisely to develop.
Despite not breaking into Napoli’s first team, Roberto has forged a decent career on loan at other clubs in Serie B. So too has Bangu who is now impressing at Vicenza after a brilliant season in Serie C with Reggina. Currently, on their books the club has former Fiorentina star Angelo Di Livio’s son, Lorenzo on their books for the season. Despite serving a ban, much is expected of Di Livio when he finally makes his debut later on this season.
Milan seem to also prefer sending their youth to the Calabrese club to help develop their players. In the past, players such as Ghana striker Dominic Adiyiah, Gabriel and Jherson Vergara have graced the Granillo to various degrees of success. Although not the most successful of players since their time at the Granillo, others have had better luck. Rodrigo Ely (now playing in La Liga) had a sensational season on loan at Reggina and returned back to base with a bigger reputation than he had when he left Milan initially. Another player who also arrived around the same time was Gianmario Comi who scored a sensational 11 goals in 35 games in his lone season there becoming a fan favourite and considered to have a bright future. He has become a reliable striker in Serie B.
Recently, another Milan striker has arrived at Reggina and has made it his home. Having moved from Milan last season on loan, Andrea Bianchimano arrived looking to establish himself in his first professional season after impressing in the primavera for Rossoneri.
Standing at 6ft 5, Bianchimano is tall and lithe for his age and needed a season away to become accustomed to playing against stronger and rougher opposition. Reggina, under the guise of Karel Zeman (yes Zeman’s son and just as inept at defensive tactics as his father), played with a highly attacking formation. Bianchimano thrived, becoming a focal point for Reggina’s attack and would often hold up play to allow the midfield and fellow attacks to come into play.
Becoming a fan favourite, Bianchimano would play 29 games in Serie C and score 4 goals. Although not an overly high turnover in terms of goals, the striker showed enough to warrant a contract offer to stay at Reggina.
Knowing that Milan were revolutionising their squad due to the new owners, Bianchimano understood he would struggle to get a place in the squad. Accepting the contract, the striker has continued this season showing his hold up play under new coach Maurizi. Reggina are playing a more structure formation. This is allowing Bianchimano to focus on the other side of his game of not just holding up play but also rushing into the box. Many at Reggina are hoping he can help drive the team full of youth, and push the team to the next level, similar to former legendary strikers Davide Diongi and Bonazzoli.
Reggina, like many other small clubs, will continue to host a slew of youth prospects looking to break into the first team and return home a better player. They may not go on to win titles or glory like the bigger clubs in the game, but they still play an important role in the life of footballers in their careers. They can either revive a players career or set it on the right track. Although not every player will become a star, Reggina will continue to foster youth and to give them the opportunity to thrive. There are high expectations for Bianchimano and Di Livio and as fans, we just hope they the take proverbial brass ring.