You could still play in Italy

The legend of Tittyshev, another memorable Robinson Report, told the story of that West Ham fan who went to watch a preseason game against Oxford City with his colleagues and ended up jumping onto the pitch in the second half. The guy had been cooked to pints and he threw himself the first time insulting one of the players on his team, who ended up injured. So the coach, the legendary Harry Redknapp, tired of hearing him scream, made it clear: “If you think you can do better, change and go out in the second half.” The fan was not daunted. He went down to the locker room, dressed in shorts and entered the field. Redknapp made up his name Tittyshev. He said that he had had a wonderful World Cup and that he was a brilliant summer signing for the speaker announced when he stepped on the grass. The fan played normally on defense. But once he was going to do it with the team of his life, he asked to do it as a forward. His friends were hallucinating. Even more so when he scored a goal for the squad and the line canceled it for offside.

True childhood definitely ends when you are the same age as the oldest player on your team and he decides to retire. The grace is that until that day one continues to think that, with a little luck and a slightly better right leg, he could also have played a game. It happened to some of us with Xavi. Arguably we hang our boots together. But sooner or later that time comes to everyone. Forever. Except in a fantastic place where the lifespan of a footballer can be extended beyond physical laws and one manages to keep dreaming of jumping the field thanks to phenomena turned into stars. Like Buffon.

The Juventus goalkeeper is 43 years old and is reluctant to retire. It is one of the cases that the Turin club has on the table for this summer. A legend. And still better than many of the goalkeepers in Serie A. But it smells like trouble, as was the end of the career of other geniuses like Totti or Maldini who looked the other way when time called for their retirement. He does not want to go home, but he is tired of being second at Juventus (yesterday he lost 1-0 to Atalanta, who took third place from him). He is still waiting for an offer from a big one, because he still looks strong.

The Italian political laboratory, that place where almost everything happens earlier than in the rest of the world, is beginning to have an effect on football as well. The statistics increasingly run through the biography of a player and the stars who support the clubs or the zeros in the contracts of the great renovations now have to do with athletes of 34 or more years like Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos, Buffon and Ibrahimovic. Preparation plays a role. Maybe also the juice system or the lack of relief. Many of the stars of the transalpine country have shot the average age, which is 26.9 years. But, despite this, it is already below the Spanish, converted into the championship with the longest history in the legs of Europe: 27.34 years.

The classification is somewhat different if you look at the clubs that are more committed to young people. That is, the average age of those who play the most. The leagues where the most risks are run with junior players are Germany (Borussia Dortmund is king) and France, according to data published by the CIES Football Observatory. Then comes England. And far away, the last ones are Spain (Barcelona prevails) and Italy. On the other side of the statistic, Simone Inzaghi’s Lazio has the eleven grayer starter in Europe (29.4 years). They are followed on the continental podium by Crystal Palace (29.2), Cádiz (29.1) and Eibar (28.8).

Players, perhaps, will run less and charge even more for a long time. But our dream of jumping onto the field and having it at the last minute, like that of the mythical Tittyshev in the summer of 1994, will last some time longer. It is not all bad news.

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