Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Ryan Ross On November - 17 - 2011

Is Italian Serie A Dying A Slow Death?

The number if Italians plying their trade abroad is steadily increasing. Yet despite this, there wasn’t a single Italian named on the Balon ‘dor short list last week. In one way this isn’t entirely surprising given the common disregard Serie A is held in nowadays.

Since the hey-day of the last 80′s early 90’s, financial resources of Italian Serie A clubs have decreased significantly. The world’s top players are more likely to play in Spain’s primera for clubs like Real Madrid or Barcelona; failing that, younger elites are lured to England earning riches to support them for life.

The stadiums in Italy do not help the League’s cause. Only recently have Juventus shone a light, their new stadium stands as a beacon for the other clubs. Without controlling match day income, there is no chance of financial stability.

Impatient owners, such as Maurizio Zamperini (Palermo), Massimo Morratti (Internazionale) and Massimo Cellino (Cagliari), display a critical side of the league. The continual merry-go-round of coaches being hired and fired prevents stability; why would a coach, especially foreign; want to take a job in Italy, only to be sacked three months later? Rafael Benitez at Internazionale, case in point.

The stereotypical Italian paranoia destabilizes the league too. Persistent rumours of bribery, allegations of match fixing (Lecce 3-4 Milan) and even claims that teams have used natural disasters (Naples, floods) to get matches rescheduled in their favour. No “ordinary” event can occur in Italy without someone crying foul; the national psyche needs to change.

The Ultra culture which remains within each club is also a hindrance. Each club has an identity, often political and the Ultras adopt and promote this identity.

It is common for these Ultras to heap immense pressure on a club, to get the manager fired for example. Earlier this season, Lazio coach Edy Reja, nearly resigned his position due to the constant abuse and pressure heaped upon him by such a group.

The Ultras appear at training sessions to barrack players, and have even been known to appear at player’s homes to exert their threats.

With all these issues, it’s no surprise that people are skeptical about Serie A’s status. The number and complexity of issues is certainly daunting. However, can the League save itself? Surely there are several positives?

The national football team has provided inspiration for Italians. After a dismal 2010 World Cup, Cesare Prandelli was appointed to overhaul an aging side and introduce a younger, fresh approach. A fluid attacking system was adopted, whilst maintaining a solid defence.

The likes of Giuseppe Rossi and Antonio Cassano sparked the revolution; the days of Vincenzo Iaquinta playing seem long gone. Ball possession is the key to Cesare Prandelli’s approach. The nation can now be proud of a team which not only qualified for next summer’s European Championships with ease, but also a 2-1 victory over World Champion’s Spain in August.

Prandelli has also looked to revamp the youth-sides, whilst implementing changes across the entire Italian coaching set-up. Roberto Baggio has been drafted in to oversee development. Whilst Cirro Ferrara is working as Under 21 manager.

There also remains a high standard of youth development in Serie A. Academies such as those at Roma and Atalanta regularly produce youngsters capable of challenging for roles in the first-team.

Meanwhile, the likes of Palermo and Udinese attract foreign talent through their extensive scouting networks; Alexis Sanchez, Javier Pastore and Josep Ilicic all being fantastic examples. Udinese’s use of the African market has been particularly effective; Asamoah Gyan and Kwadwo Asamoah are the two most high profile players to have been signed.

Despite the previous failure of his compatriot, Rafa Benitez; Luis Enrique hasn’t been deterred from taking control of Rome’s biggest club. Appointed this summer to bring Barcelona’s brand of “total-football” to the Peninsula, the young coach had a mixed start to this job. But his determination to succeed has seen the Giallorossi pick up in recent games and Enrique will prove that foreign coaches can cut it in Serie A.

The recent trend of foreign coaches arriving, can only improve the league. The likes of Jose Mourinho, Benitez, and even Diego Simeone have all brought fresh ideas, new tactical systems and differing opinions on how the game is played. All of these things combined, have enriched the culture of Serie A.

Likewise, the number of Italians being exported by Serie A is rapidly increasing. Mario Balotelli is the most high profile Italian abroad; the young striker is leading Manchester City’s challenge on domestic and European fronts. He recently scored the vital goal in City’s 6-1 victory over arch rivals, Manchester United. Other players include Rosina and Criscito at Zenit in Russia; and Guiseppe Rossi at Villarreal.

Roberto Mancini is the highest profile manager abroad. Alongside his protégé  Mario Balotelli, Mancho is dominating English football at the moment. He has assembled the most expensive squad in the history of the game and yet despite the massive egos, regular media stories seeking to undermine his side, his team sit top of the league. His side have thrown off the defensive shackles and out-score every opponent they face. Even Carlos Tevez cannot stop them.

Luciano Spalletti is Italy’s other biggest export in club management. The man who dared to play with no strikers and led Roma to a Champion’s League Semi-Final, has worked wonders at Zenit St. Petersburg. He has already won the League Title once and looks set to repeat this feat.

So although there are many issues for Serie A to overcome, there is still hope. Problems of poor stadiums, impatient owners, poor financial management and the Ultras won’t disappear, but they can be overcome. The national side can instill a sense of pride amongst the fans. A strong showing at next year’s Euros can help change foreign opinions of this league. Maybe next year we’ll see the likes of Guiseppe Rossi, Antonio Cassano or Giorgrio Chiellini on the Balon’dor short list, there’s always hope.

Ryan Ross

I became enthralled with Calcio back in the 90’s, when James Richardson presented Football Italia. My early mornings were spent following the trials and tribulations of Internazionale, during a period where they always flattered to deceive. It took a Frenchman to get me hooked though; Youri Djorkaeff, my favourite player of all time. This guy was key to Inter’s midfield, never mind his role in France’s World Cup win in 1998! I have a keen interest in Calcio’s rich history.

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4 Responses so far.

  1. radek says:

    Maybe Serie A has lost one place in Champions league in favour bundesliga but for me is still 3rd league in the world behind Premiership & LaLiga.Bundesliga has good PR and Stadiums but where there are nice, skillful players?Wolfsburg?Stuttgart?Werder,Hoffenheim,Greiburg,Nurnberg,Kaiserslautern,Hertha,Mainz,Augsburg? those teams have only average players and for Serie A clubs have better players and tactics than the german ones.Better organized defensively teams.

  2. Great article! It’s not all bad for Serie A our teams are always challenging in the later stages of the Champions league & we will see our beloved Calcio back at the top of the world game before too long it’s just a case of the clubs doing everything they can to bring back the prestige to Italian football as we all know that our style is what the great game is all about, tactics! I agree the owners need to have a bit more patience with coaches but they also need to invest more wisely in their clubs i.e new stadiums & youth development both of which will be helped by the incoming FFP. As for the Ultras I don’t agree with the thuggery but I do think the fans should have an influence in how their club is run and the passion they bring to the stadiums is what makes us the greatest fans in the world & give our games an unrivaled atmosphere that you just can’t get here in England or in many other countries, anyway before I end up writing a full article here I’ll stop and just say I enjoyed reading this and Forza Calcio :)

  3. Ron says:

    I hope they can fix there problems.
    I enjoy watching Serie A, along with
    the EPL.

  4. Nathi says:

    Thanks for a good article Ryan Ross. But you have forgoten to Say that ”once Juventus is playing, so the national team”. In 2006 Juve won the league (Calciopoli), National team won the World cup. currently Juve is top of Serie A, Azzuri is doing good. But German never had a good league until the 2006 World Cup helped them with stadiums, but look what their national team has achieved over the years (including humiliating English in 2010 FIFA World cup). EPL is by far the most organised league, but Rooney, Terry, Gerrard, Milner etc will never win anything for England national team why (even the team have a forein coach who cant speak english) Italy has never been favorate in Word Cups (including the Italia 90 tournament) but how many have they won (4). Maybe Journalist are just writing for the sake of writing. England have everything but are loosing to teams like Croatia (2008 EURO qualify in Wemble Stadium) Spain only have 2 teams, have you noticed that one of from Messi and Ronaldo will score 3 or 4 goals a match. Italy have about 5 good teams that can challenge for Serie A (Juve, AC Milan, Inter, AS Roma,Napoli). Did you wrote about Diportivo La caruna, Valencia and Real Sociadad as they are no longer challenging for anything like in the past. Is La Liga rising becuase of Messi and ronaldo only?

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