ITALY: The Serie A revival…

Italy

Italy is a well cultured nation, especially when it comes to football. However, it has seen some hard times which have affected the view of the beautiful game amongst its citizens. Football, also known as “Calcio” in Italy, took a downward spiral after 2007- the year that saw AC Milan, one of Italy’s world famous clubs, avenge their most embarrassing Champions’ League defeat to Liverpool that took place 3 years prior.

At that point one would have thought Italians would have remained the trendsetters and dominant force in world football, but a match-fixing scandal like no other within the Serie A, rocked the league to the core. This saw the then champions Juventus relegated and the runners-up AC Milan deducted points, a punishment shared by the other clubs involved. With many of Juventus’ top players being sold as a result, they struggled for some time to return to the peak of their powers. Milan also had to struggle with a point deduction and local rivals Internazionale using their financial power to consistently strengthen every year. With the most renown teams crippled, and a lack of trust developing within the fans, the league slowly lost its global appeal.

Local attendance records took a huge hit dropping from an average of 21, 695 to 18, 282 spectators per game at the end of the 2006-2007 season. The consequent years have seen a steady increase in the attendance numbers and Juventus’ reemergence to the elite so maybe there is still some hope for Italian football.

The 2013-14 season appears brimming with promise thanks to the managerial changes, the high profile players brought in by clubs and even the pre-season tours that teams like Milan, Roma and Juventus have embarked on. As a consequence, all these factors have the potential to put Serie A back into the spotlight of the footballing world. The commercial appeal that players like Mario Balotelli, Gonzalo Higuain, Mario Gomez, Pepe Reina, Carlos Tevez, etc., would add is certainly something that shouldn’t be overlooked. The same could be said for the appointments of Rafa Benitez and Rudi Garcia at Napoli and AS Roma respectively. Names like these would definitely catch the eye of the football public.

Another factor that could see the Serie A return to prominence is the change in style of play that has mostly been influenced by Juventus, Napoli and Milan. A much faster, stronger playing style somewhat modeled off the Premier League’s has started to take over. Of course the Italians keep the tactical and technical aspects the priority, but the notion that Italian football is “boring” and “slow” is disappearing, especially with the displays that the aforementioned teams have recently put on in the UEFA Champions’ League.

The players introduced to the league also prove that teams are beginning to rebuild and reinvent for a more expansive, more “attractive” fashion of playing. These high-profile players all played in teams focusing on moving the ball quickly and being dominant in not only possession but physicality.

Overall with what has happened to Serie A over the last few years, it would seem as if clubs have now taken the initiative in regaining their long lost stature; and in doing so they have revived the appeal of the league to the general football public. Losing a CL spot may have done the league more of a favour than most would think.

There are currently at least seven teams that feel they deserve a place in Europe’s most prestigious club competition. This will only result in fiercer competition, as the clubs fight it out for the massive revenue boost associated with the Champions’ League. An increase in overall appeal would follow, leading to more TV revenue for clubs.

Maintaining an open perspective, one can say that this is all speculation; however, with the case presented, it is hard to see why the league won’t continue along the path of its rebirth and regain some level of prominence. One could argue Italy’s current economical situation, but that seems to have had little effect on Spain, as La Liga remains at the pinnacle of world football. Therefore, if given a chance to grow, one can expect Serie A’s return to prominence and its re-establishment as a major footballing power.

Sean Drummond

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