As Italians cheer on the survival of little Sassuolo, the fairytale story of Serie A, the League has lost two clubs that signal a depressing era in Italian football.
It must be acknowledged, the League does not lie and if a club has won and survived the relegation battle it because they have deserved to this season. Little Sassuolo and their attacking mindset have achieved what was perceived to be the impossible, maintaining their Serie A status. A team boasting technically gifted players managed by a Coach who loves nothing more than a courageous attack, the little side have entertained their way to history.
However, this is a team that hails from a town with just over 39,000 inhabitants, has an entrepreneur as a owner who has admitted to supporting Milan over his own team, and a long-term future that is uncertain even if their owner pledges an ambitious project.
Without Eusebio Di Francesco, who is likely to depart either now or next season, Sassuolo have no playing philosophy and will lose the one thing that enchanted the viewers - daring tactics. The players including the entire front-line may not be even be there next season. Antonio Floro Flores is on loan from Genoa whilst both Domenico Berardi and Simone Zaza are co-owned by Juventus and will be recalled at one point.
Others including Paolo Cannavaro are there for the short haul, making it interesting to see whether or not there is a genuine strategy to create something special with this club. The current side appears make-shift and not even sporting director Giovanni Rossi, hopes to be there for long, moving to Sassuolo to gain experience in a role when he used to be in charge of Juve’s youth.
The Neroverdi’s survival has come at a cost as Bologna’s to Catania condemned both to Serie B. The first is an institution of football, Serie A winners five times - not counting their victories prior to the creation of the League - and a club that boasts history, prestige and a strong following.
“I’m not only sorry for the city of Bologna but for the Italian top flight that has taken a step back,” said former Prime Minister Romano Prodi when speaking of the club’s relegation. Indeed Serie A has lost an important club, one that draws in TV audiences, an average stadium attendance of 21,145 and can count on being Italy’s 11th best supported club according to a survey conducted by L’Istituto Nielsen.
By all means, their results, woeful performances and poor management have led to their demotion.
Continuously selling off their best players each season coupled with the dismissal of a Coach Cesare Prandelli labelled as one Serie A’s finest, has led to this disaster. Serie B may well allow them the opportunity to accept their failures and build for a brighter future, but Italy needs its big clubs to be strong.
Perhaps as much as it needed Hellas Verona to return to the top. The side promoted back to the top flight last summer counted on huge attendances even when they were playing provincial opposition in Serie B. Boasting an identity and ambitions for future development, Verona count on pedigree, popularity and a great history. Meanwhile Chievo, their rivals, are far from entertaining and barely followed yet they too have secured their top flight status.
It’s important to note here that this does not mean that teams that cannot count on great support and an exquisite history should toil away in the bottom leagues. Catania have done wonders to deserve their place in the top flight in recent years despite a less than glamorous history. President Antonino Pulvirenti’s reputation as ‘business man’ aside, Catania as a club have grown exponentially.
Until this season, they have steadily risen up the table, boast one of the best training grounds in the country, have recently signed the deed to purchase the land to build their own stadium and have overseen a rise in attendance, boasting a 16 per cent increase in season tickets for 2013-14. They are a club with ambition and a long-term strategy that will not only benefit the team but the city and the League as a whole.
Congratulations to Sassuolo and Chievo, they truly deserve their success but Italy needs it’s biggest clubs to improve and succeed to help ease economic failures and restore the reputation of Serie A.