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

Frank Lopapa On April - 13 - 2012

Serie A in Freefall in Coefficient Rankings

This season you may have noticed that when we talk about the fight for the final Champions League place, it has been a reference to third, not fourth. Thanks mostly to the poor performances of Italian clubs in European competition (primarily in the Europa League), Serie A lost a spot in the Champions League this year at the expense of the German Bundesliga, who had overtaken Italy in UEFA’s coefficient rankings. What’s more troubling for Italy is that France and Portugal are creeping up behind Italy in the rankings; it isn’t an immediate concern right now, but if either country performs better than Italy in European competitions in the next few years, then it could reach alarming levels for Italy. As of this moment, all Italian sides that qualified for Europe have been knocked out of both tournaments, as Milan and Udinese fell to Barcelona and AZ respectively.

It is important to note that since the 2007-08 season (when current coefficient points start to be recorded) that Milan, Inter and Roma have reached at least the quarterfinal stage of the Champions League. That amount is even less in the UEFA Cup/Europa League as only Udinese and Fiorentina have reached the last eight of UEFA’s secondary competition. Italian teams will always take the Champions League seriously, it’s the indifference towards the Europa League that has made the difference in Italy losing a European spot. One can also make the argument that the Calciopoli scandal also put a dent in Italy’s coefficient; a strong Juventus side repeatedly trying to break through in the Champions League knockout rounds was dismantled by the scandal and sent to Serie B. Incidentally, Italy’s coefficient score the year Juve returned to Serie A (and were subsequently out of Europe) was easily the lowest of the top four countries at 10.25 points, compared to third-place Germany’s 13.50.

Regarding my last point, Italian sides have won the Champions League twice in the past five seasons; Milan in 06/07 and Inter two seasons ago. Looking at the UEFA Cup/EL, however, no Italian team has won said competition since Parma defeated Marseille thirteen years ago. Since then, the only clubs to make it to at least the quarterfinal stage have been Inter, Milan, Parma, Roma, Fiorentina, and Udinese, with the first four clubs hitting that mark well before the current coefficient seasons. The UEFA Cup was once a source of pride for Italian sides, with teams such as Juventus and Inter taking the competition seriously enough to have won the joint-most titles with three. In fact, Inter has reached the UEFA Cup semifinals more than any other side at seven, Juventus five, and Parma three. Italian clubs in the 1990s and early 2000s were a regular presence in the latter stages of the UEFA Cup; now, however, they are routinely bowing out in the early knockout rounds, save for a few exceptions.

What happened? Italian teams routinely dominated European competition ten, fifteen years ago. Now it’s as if they don’t care anymore (which of course isn’t always the case especially in the Champions League). Is it simply a case of ‘no longer caring’ or has the quality of Italian football dropped off so far that they may fall behind the likes of Portugal in the next few years? Unfortunately, it’s probably a little of both; Serie A has fallen off somewhat since Calciopoli, and teams that do qualify for the Europa League see it as a distraction and would rather focus on their league performance instead, mainly because these sides tend to lack depth and have a hard time competing on multiple fronts. Also a factor is the exhausting travel, going to such far flung places as Tel Aviv, Kazan, and Kharkiv on a Thursday, then having to play in the league only a few days later.

What’s more important for these Italian sides is the money that comes with European qualification. If a team finishes, say fifth, this season, they’ll be rewarded with a sizeable windfall. The goal now isn’t necessarily to go far in the Europa League next season, it’s to finish in the European places again. While this may be good for the individual clubs as it means more prestige and cash on the books, it’s not entirely good for Italian football as a whole as we’re seeing with the drop in coefficient points.

I’m not saying that right now Italy will lose another European place after this year or even in the next few years; a lot depends on the performances in Europe by Portuguese and French clubs. Out of all the French sides looking to qualify for European places, only Paris Saint-Germain look like making any sort of run thanks to their Qatari warchest. Portuguese teams have looked a bit stronger, as Porto, Braga, Sporting and Benfica have done well in Europe the past two seasons. Nevertheless, it is something to look at in the long-term, and merely kicking the can down the road won’t do anyone any favors.

Therefore, it is important for the likes of Roma, Lazio, Udinese and Napoli, should any of them finish in fourth and/or fifth, to maybe take the Europa League a bit more seriously than their predecessors, if not for the betterment of Serie A than for their own prestige in winning a European trophy.

  • RContini

    I have been worrying about this for some time and you have hit the nail on the head talkng about the europa league. It is my understanding that the Fa has the responsibility to enter the participants it wishes so i would first of all, give clubs the chance to opt out of the Europa if they have no plans to take it seriously, giving the place to someone who will. also if a team is deliberately not trying while they are in the competition, they should not be entered the following year. it really saddens me that no one takes into consideration what is good for the nation and often it seems the authorities will do the opposite of what is helpful to the teams representing us. I am convinced that moving the start of Serie A forward in line with north Europe would gives us a massively better chance in the European prelim rounds, Udinese and Samp would have been very grateful but as always in Italian football, everyone is out for themselves.

  • Pcn600000

    UEFA Europa League has too many games.How can The Europa League have MORE games than the CHampions League,which is for Europe’s biggest teams and is more prestigious?

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