The Pozzo Empire

150 players, four league teams, three clubs, a world-wide scouting network and one family is running it, all the Pozzos. ‘Pozzo’ is the Italian word for ‘a well’ and the Pozzo family who controls Udinese, Watford and Granada certainly has a well of talent to choose from. Businessman Giampaolo Pozzo first bought Udinese in the summer of 1986 in very tough circumstances, today he stands behind the same club adding Watford from England and Granada and its reserve team Granada B to his name. Giampaolo’s long history in football has lead him to establish great contacts with people from all over the globe who have an eye for talent and he certainly does not want to miss out on any player he spots, thus, the reason he has four competitive teams.

Giampaolo Pozzo – The man aiming to rule the football world

Udinese were struggling between Serie A and Serie B during his first few years as an owner of the club but in 1994-1995 they achieved promotion to the topflight and stayed there ever since. The Zebrette achieved quite good surprising results as they reached the UEFA Cup/Europa League several times and the Champions League once. Ahead of the 2005-2006 season the club was struggling financially despite reaching the Champions League and they found it hard to stay competitive with rival clubs increasing their budgets thus Pozzo decided to cash out on his best players to be able to afford paying the wages of the rest of the team just like he did a few years before with the sale of Oliver Bierhoff to Milan. David Pizarro (Inter), Marek Jankulovski (Milan), Per Krodlrup (Everton) and Davide Di Michele (Palermo) were all sold and replaced by youngsters such as Marco Motta (Atalanta), Cristian Zapata (Deportivo Cali), Roman Eremenko (Jaro) and Fernando Tissone (Lanus) the four new arrivals were all teenagers and arrived for quite cheap logically. The club raised 27 million from the sales and was in a healthy position financially to start a new season. The season ended early for them in Europe as they failed to go beyond the group stages of the Champions League though they finished in the 10th position in Serie A.

Oliver Bierhoff – Udinese’s first success story

The following season Udinese needed to invest even less in player wages and a young Alexis Sanchez came from Deportivo Cobreloa along with Gaetano D’Agostino (Roma), Andrea Dossena (Treviso) and a few others. Cribari and Stefano Mauri were offloaded to Lazio and many players were loaned out including back then 21-year-old Samir Handanovic, Fabio Quagliarella, Aleksandar Lukovic, Gyan Asamoah, Alexis Sanchez and Simone Pepe. They finished seventh in the League and their strategy worked again so they decided to repeat it yet again. Next summer, Vincenzo Iaquinta left for Juventus, Morgan De Sanctis for Sevilla and Sulley Muntari for Portsmouth bringing in over 20 million. Again and again, they kept on repeating the same strategy and surprisingly thanks to Antonio Di Natale’s consistent goalscoring performance they were back in Europe four times.

Player

Signed From

Sold To

Fee Received in Euros

Mehdi Benatia

Clermont

Roma

13.5 million

Kwadowo Asamoah

Bellinzona

Juventus

18 million

Mauricio Isla

Universidad

Juventus

18.8 million

Samir Handanovic

Domzale

Inter

11 million

Alexis Sanchez

Cobreloa

Barcelona

37.5 million

Cristian Zapata

Deportivo Cali

Villarreal

7 million

Gokhan Inler

Zurich

Napoli

13 million

Simone Pepe

Palermo

Juventus

10 million

Aleksandar Lukovic

Red Star Belgrade

Zenit

7 million

Felipe Dal Belo

Udinese Primavera

Fiorentina

9 million

Fabio Quagliarella

Sampdoria

Napoli

18 million

Andrea Dossena

Treviso

Liverpool

8.25 million

Asamoah Gyan

Liberty

Rennes

8 million

Vincenzo Iaquinta

Castel Di Sangro

Juventus

11.3 million

Sulley Muntari

Liberty

Portsmouth

8.5 million

David Pizarro

Santiago Wanderers

Inter

14 million

Marek Jankulovski

Napoli

Milan

8.5 million

Stefano Fiore

Parma

Lazio

22 million

Marcio Amoroso

Flamengo

Parma

29 million

Oliver Bierhoff

Ascoli

Milan

13 million

Thomas Helveg

Odense

Milan

8.8 million

Alexis Sanchez made the biggest move to Barcelona

All those players in the above chart and a few more are Udinese’s success stories; they are players who joined from less known clubs, ones that an average football fan would never have heard of, or ones who were suffering at that time such as Napoli and Palermo who were in their dark periods back then.  Later on, they were sold for profit to better clubs, ones that any average football fan would know. This gives them good strength in negotiating deals to sign players. Any football player playing for a small club would want to play for Udinese if he is determined to make the jump to a bigger team. Any player knows that at Udinese only Antonio Di Natale is deemed as not for sale, thus the club is helping footballers realize their dreams.

Pozzo was having trouble keeping all the talents he find at the club and with Serie A refusing to take the idea of creating a reserve league, which would help him monitor all his players instead of sending them on loan to other clubs, into consideration, Giampaolo started looking outside the box and he came up with the best of ideas. He decided to purchase another team in a lower division but in another country to make sure there is no conflict of interest between his clubs. This was even better than having their own reserve team because the players playing in his other team have the chance to compete for topflight promotion something a reserve team is prohibited from doing.

Pozzo’s son, Gino, during Granada’s takeover

He decided to expand his football investment in 2009. He saw a struggling their division team in Spanish football about to go bankrupt, that club was Granada. He immediately bought the club and started using it as a feeder club for the excess players he scouted. Now, he can sign twice as much youngster as he previously could. Whoever seemed promising but not up to Serie A could go play in Granada in third division or even below that level with Granada B.Granada were guided to the first division in a few seasons and now Granada B is playing in the third division were Pozzo’s Granada experience started. Most oftenly, Granada is made up of Udinese reserves and yet they managed to become a topflight team and last season with the help of Gabriel Torje and Antonio Floro Flores they managed to avoid relegation.

Granada also gave Udinese the chance to exploit African and South American markets. In Italy there is a limit of two players not belonging to European Union countries that can be signed per season and now with Spain lack of restrictions, the Pozzo’s do not need to think about which player they should prefer over the other to fill the two spots. They can sign all the players they want.

Granada may still be newly owned but they have already started generating money from selling players; Mikel Rico was sold to Athletic Bilbao, Iñigo López to PAOK while Guilherme Siqueira was loaned to Benfica and Daniel Garcia Toti to Deportivo Alaves. The latter two are most likely going to make their moves permanent at the end of the season, generating big sums of cash for the Andalusian club. Currently, there are still a big pot of talents at the club that could make the big leap next summer, most notably, Hasan Yebda and Youssef El Arabi.

Siqueira, the first of many to come to leave Granada for a top team

Things did not stop there. In June 2012, Giampaolo Pozzo and his son Gino received backing from their family to purchase Championship side Watford. At Watford, they appointed Gianfranco Zola as  manager and continued sending their influx of youngsters there. Frano Milinar who signed for Udinese this summer, said after signing for the club:”I signed for Udinese but I still did not decide in which country I want to play this season.” This is the advantage Giampaolo Pozzo can offer to the young talents. He can give them the option to choose a country of three of the best in European football to play in. Moreover, they have the ambition to strive for something even if they are not at the mother club Udinese. Granada technically can win titles and reach Europe because they are owned by Gino Pozzo, Giampaolo’s son which means that legally the clubs do not belong to the same owner and can play in Europe while Watford can gain promotion to the Premier League. Such things cannot happen at any reserve club in the world!

The three clubs now have a perfect relationship between each other that goes beyond exchanging players in fitting them in different countries. The technical staff are working together and benefitting from each other’s experience, this summer, Granada sent five members of the coaching staff for a seminar in Udine about improving players’ physical fitness ahead of the start of the season. Moreover, Watford is contributing staff who are offering advice for Marketing and Public relationships to improve the other two clubs’ relationship with fans. Such a perfectly knit network seems to be more than successful so far.

The Three Clubs have established great internal communication

A lot of arguments have risen from inside England, many of London’s youth chose to join Watford because they think it is tough to start at clubs like Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham, West Ham, Fulham or QPR but now those youngsters cannot even make it at Watford because they are competing with player from all over the world to join this club’s academy. A portion of Watford fans have felt like they are a side-club that their progression will halt at a certain point because the players will have to return to Udinese at some point. Though would a Watford fan choose being a small team in the Championship or a side plan for Udinese with the chance of Premier League football? If Giampaolo Pozzo proves his success with those three teams he is most likely to purchase a French team or a German one to widen his empire and with all those talents who knows, he might decide to make the best team in the world out of them!

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