Serie A has never quite reached the European acclaim it garnered in the late eighties and early nineties when AC Milan were a dominant force across the continent, and with a plethora of top names departing the Italy’s top league this summer, the division is looking as though it is struggling to attract the talent it once did.
Even with Milan notching up two titles in the noughties and Inter Milan completing a historic treble, the league as a whole has fallen behind the English Premier League and the Spanish Primera Division in both quality and attendance over the last decade. In fact, Serie A is now ranked 4th behind the German Bundesliga according to UEFA’s coefficient rating, and was reduced to just three Champions League places in 2010.
Roiling from yet another matchfixing scandal that threatened to engulf Italy’s entire Euro 2012 campaign, the last thing the country needed in terms of the domestic league was an exodus of top names over the summer. Paris St. Germain alone signed four players from Serie A, including a spectacular deal for AC Milan stars Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, both of whom were stand-out performers for the Rossoneri last season.
With speculation rife that the pair were sold because of Milan’s precarious financial situation the trouble within Serie A deepens. As if those two weren’t enough, PSG also snatched Ezequiel Lavezzi, the highly-rated Argentine, from Napoli, and little-known wonderkid Marco Verratti from Pescara. The fact that Verratti was being touted by Juventus, Inter and Milan, and chose to move abroad, more than hints at the difficulty the top Serie A teams have of securing their own players – let alone players from abroad.
But it isn’t just PSG who have been poaching talent from Serie A. This week Inter president Massimo Moratti conceded there is a strong possibility the club will lose Dutch playmaker Wesley Sneijder to Anzhi Makhachkala. Daniele De Rossi, heir apparent to Francesco Totti’s throne at AS Roma has admitted his desire to play in the Premier League in the near future, while clubs all over Europe, Chelsea especially, continue to be linked with Napoli’s powerhouse centre-forward Edinson Cavani.
Paris St. Germain alone signed four players from Serie A, including a spectacular deal for AC Milan stars Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, both of whom were stand-out performers for the Rossoneri last season.
Juventus have been strongly suggested to be interested in Arsenal striker Robin van Persie, who of course, has turned down the option of a contract extension at the Emirates, but with both Manchester clubs confirming bids for the player, The Old Lady would be hard pushed to offer a competitive alternative – both in terms of the quality of football and financial might.
It is thus integral that Italy manages to maintain the quality players it currently has operating in the domestic league. Though Cavani is a wanted man, with Chelsea and Manchester City showing a strong interest, he has by no means departed Napoli, and along with stalwarts like Gianluigi Buffon, Daniele De Rossi and Giorgio Chiellini, as well as rising stars like Stevan Jovetic, Sebastian Giovinco and Marek Hamsik, Serie A can still boast a worthy contingent of top-class footballers.
However, with the country in a huge economic depression, gate receipts dwindling and another match-fixing scandal exposing further flaws in the way the sport is run, the IFA are looking at an uncertain future in terms of attracting stars and achieving continental recognition once more. The only tangible positive at the current moment is that the quality of the Portuguese, French and Dutch leagues are considered poor enough not to challenge Serie A for fourth place in the coefficients.
However, with PSG already securing arguably the best talents from Serie A, could the French league be about to see an influx of players? It is feasible; but then equally feasible is the notion that PSG will ‘do a Lyon’ and dominate Ligue 1 for the foreseeable future, resulting in a stagnation of the competition. Even so, the Serie A clubs can’t hope the latter becomes true, and have to begin a revamping of the way the league is run. They recently split from the Italian football league, following in the footsteps of the English Premier League, with the intention of maximising TV revenues and profit.
If a few more players worried about history and tradition, rather than where their next fat paycheque will be coming from, perhaps Serie A would fare rather better. After all, Juventus, Milan and Inter are three massive clubs, with 64 domestic titles and 12 European crowns between them.
With a large proportion of the national side that so admirably held World Champions Spain to a 1-1 draw in their opening Euro 2012 game (and were, unfortunate to lose the final 4-0) playing in Serie A, it’s not implausible for an Italian side to frustrate their way to another European title and garner some interest from overseas players.
For this to occur, the latest crop of talented Italians needs to fill the empty boots of some of the nation’s departing ‘golden generation.’ Alessandro Del Piero has already been shown the door at Juventus after nineteen years of service; Alessandro Nesta has succumbed to the physical constraints of his body and moved to the easier climes of the MLS; while Francesco Totti was relegated to a bench role for the most part of the 2011/12 campaign.
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