If, like me, you were inducted into the cult of Serie A in the 1990s or early 2000s, you probably came to terms a while ago with the fact that Alvaro Recoba and Dario Hubner aren’t going to ride in on white steeds any time soon and bring about a return to the glory days.
Days when Italy’s top flight was home to several clubs with legitimate hopes of landing the Champions League trophy and the list of inbound transfers each summer bore a spooky resemblance to the Ballon d’Or shortlist.
This realisation doesn’t necessarily ruin the romance, it just requires you to love Serie A in a different way, with eyes wide open, recognising it for what it is - a competition lacking the financial might and star-studded glitz of Europe’s elite leagues, but compensating in plenty of other ways.
However, even the staunchest Serie A loyalists need hope for a better future, to sustain them through the depressingly frequent racism scandals, clubs changing their Coach four times a season and gifted youngsters being casually discarded only to be hailed as heroes elsewhere.
That hope has taken a severe bruising this summer, though. It began with May’s Coppa Italia Final, delayed and overshadowed by the shooting and later death of Napoli fan Ciro Esposito. Then there was the national side’s hugely disappointing World Cup campaign, followed by Cesare Prandelli’s exit amidst a hail of arrows aimed at him by critics quick to forget the wonders he worked at Euro 2012. This set in motion the chain of events that culminated earlier this week with Carlo Tavecchio ascending to the pinnacle of Italian football’s power structure, a man with the same deft touch for race relations as Enoch Powell. Oh, and lest we forget Antonio Conte, the finest tactician working on Italian soil, resigned his post at Juventus.
The most baffling part of all of this, however, is the strategies being enacted by the big clubs, as Serie A prepares to put all the rancour behind it in time for the big kick-off on August 30.
You would have been hard-pushed to find a less appropriate replacement for Conte than Massimiliano Allegri, in terms of style, personality and background, but that’s who Juve unveiled 24 hours after the three-time Scudetto winner’s exit.
Milan have filled their bench with yet another popular ex-player whose coaching CV is rather bare, and continued doing business with PSG - only now they’re accepting the French club’s cast-offs instead of selling them their best players.
Inter have retained the services of Walter Mazzarri despite his presiding over yet another water-treading ‘transitional’ season, one no more promising than the three that preceded it. President Erick Thohir seems more interested in strengthening the club as a corporate entity, and up front there’s the possibility of a Mauro Icardi-Dani Osvaldo strike partnership. No chance of controversy there…
Lazio have bought well but are still run by a man the majority of their fans can’t abide, whilst Fiorentina have sleepwalked through the summer waiting for the Juan Cuadrado saga to end.
And regardless of what they as individuals have to offer, it does the wider perception of Serie A no good when Premier League outcasts Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra and Ashley Cole can walk into Inter, Juve and Roma’s first teams, all of them at least three years removed from their prime.
There are exceptions of course, most notably Roma, many people’s Scudetto favourites, having avoided any major sales as yet and captured Juan Iturbe, who - alongside Gervinho - should form an attack so quick most of the division’s full-backs will have shin splints by Christmas.
But it’s away from Serie A’s traditional centres of power that the daring and inventive decisions are being made. Just look at Udinese and Cagliari, giving mavericks Andrea Stramaccioni and Zdenek Zeman a chance after high-profile failures at Inter and Roma respectively the season before last.
Or at Torino, who have shrugged off the loss of last season’s Capocannoniere Ciro Immobile by landing Mr Dream Goal himself, Fabio Quagliarella, for a mere €3.5m. Cagliari and Sampdoria both have new owners who are talking a good game, Sassuolo and Verona are aiming to build on colourful debuts last year and then there’s our old friends Maurizio Zamparini and Palermo, looking to learn from the mistakes they made last time, or just make them all over again - either way, it’s going to be very entertaining.
Hopefully the same can be said for season 2014-15 as a whole, in spite of the peculiar decisions being made by those in charge of the title contenders.
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