x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Pozzo scheme falters for owner of three European clubs

The Italian, who owns Udinese, Granada and Watford, endured an uncomfortable weekend with all three losing, writes Ian Hawkey .

Udinese lost to Juventus, in a clean sweep of loses for clubs owned by Giampaolo Pozzo. Paolo Giovannini / AP Photo
Udinese lost to Juventus, in a clean sweep of loses for clubs owned by Giampaolo Pozzo. Paolo Giovannini / AP Photo

It has not been an especially good week for Giampaolo Pozzo, a shrewd businessman and genuine football lover with diverse interests across Europe.

The various clubs in which he has a controlling stake all suffered heavy defeats, and his chief pride and joy saw, for the second summer in succession, their dreams of continental glory snatched tantalisingly from them.

Udinese, where Pozzo has been president since 1986, took on the Serie A champions, Juventus at home on Sunday. They lost 4-1. In Spain, Granada, where Pozzo has been in control for the last three years, took on the champions, Real Madrid. They lost 3-0. In England's Championship, meanwhile, Watford, who Pozzo took over earlier this year, his team lost by four goals, 5-1 to Derby County.

The Pozzo Pyramid, as we might call it, is an intriguing experiment.

Each of his three clubs cooperate, loaning players to one another according to mutual needs, although with Udinese distinctively at the top of the hierarchy, this is the squad that young players who are, say, loaned out to Granada or Watford would aspire to graduate to.

Udinese do have a fine scouting system, from which their Spanish and English partner clubs should benefit. The trouble is that Udinese themselves have a distinct place in the food chain, too, and it is not at the top.

Last summer they sold Alexis Sanchez to Barcelona, and their other outgoing players included Gokham Inler (at Napoli) and Cristian Zapata (now at AC Milan). This summer, the exodus included Kwadwo Asamoah and Mauricio Isla (both to Juventus) and the goalkeeper Samir Handanovic (to Inter Milan).

This is the way Udinese have operated for two decades, scouting well, buying cheap and selling for substantial profits, because the size of their stadium and fan base means they cannot generate the sorts of resources to compete with the heavyweight clubs. For the fact Udinese finished third last season in Serie A and fourth in 2010/11 Pozzo deserves applause.

The problem for the Pozzo model is that the next step upwards, the glory and considerable income of elite European competition is put out of reach. Twice in succession now Udinese have lost their play-offs for a place in the Champions League group stage, most recently on penalties last week against Sporting Braga.

A more settled squad, one not coping with having to replace departed senior players at the end of August, would surely have a better chance at play-off time. In Granada and Watford, they have been sharing Udinese's pain.

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