Thursday March 18 2021
Italy's great shame

There are no Serie A clubs in the Champions League quarter-finals, but Richard Hall argues the European flop is not only down to sporting factors.

Gazzetta dello Sport begged the Rossoneri this morning. Ahead of their clash with Manchester United in the Europa League, the headline was, "Milan, lift us up."

This is because Italian sides have failed to impress, no, embarrassed themselves in European competition again this season.

Why is this? Inter went out at the Champions League's group stages, Juventus fell to Porto, Atalanta lost to Real Madrid and Lazio were silenced by Bayern Munich.

Do not see this as an explanation or a blog. See this as an open letter for discussion. There would never be a cure for this issue written in a thousand words, it would need a thesis and an economic and political deep dive on this subject just to scratch the surface.

Then with Italy's bureaucratic system, it would take decades to change anything. The first thoughts were that the reasons for this explosive mess Italian Football finds itself in, could be categorised into the following.

Why do Italian teams continually fail in Europe?

1. Lack of foreign investment,

2. The league has too many teams,

3. The fallout from Calciopoli,

4. Lack of interest in the Europa League,

5. No major investment in stadiums since 1990 hence no major tournament allocation.

Despite this list, it was the last point that seem to draw all the other ones together. The stadiums.

How many times have we talked about Italy's crumbling infrastructures, how many foreign owners are now trying to come into the league with grand plans, only to see them dashed on the rocks thanks to Italy's bureaucratic system acting like a lighthouse with no bulb.

Even if you look back to Italia 90 it was a sham. The Stadio San Nicola is and always be a white elephant, the other stadium built for the tournament was the Stadio Delle Alpi that had been demolished to build the Allianz Stadium, which was inaugurated exactly ten years ago.

The Stadio Sant'Elia even opened its doors with banners of Italia 90 and Coca Cola looking so modern whilst workmen still banged away on the other side.

Okay, they put a few rooves on few Mussolini approved structured from the 1930's and the World gasped as these art-deco stadiums with shiny seats and images of Ciao made everyone sit up, but surely this was the back drop of the beautiful cities also that helped.

The fact that the local authorities and the clubs share ownership of these stadiums is a constant thorn in the side of the league.

How can foreign owners come in and pump millions into a club whose stadium cannot be upgraded? Look at Rocco Comisso and his issues, they are many, deep and complex.

I interviewed him for Football Italia upon his arrival in Florence and he had great plans for the stadium and the training ground. Look where they are now as Italy's stadium laws tie up plans and the training complex was also dragged through the mud due to preservation laws on farmyard buildings.

How many clubs maximise their income when this is constant. Foreign owners cannot just come in and spend millions on a team they have to conform to FFP, which does not help.

Look at Arsenal when they moved ground in the UK. The difference is enormous, the club moved yards away, in London and built a shiny new stadium with 'the armoury club shop' that gives them colossal revenue, so did Tottenham.

How many times do we see plans for Italian Football stadiums flash before our eyes? Remember Napoli's? Even better Bologna's as that was a beautiful plan.

Should we have a laugh at Roma's or even better, how many plans have you seen for the new San Siro? What about the re-model of Siena's Artemio Franchi?

That even had a grass roof! They all look beautiful and if Serie A had moved forward with these, then the league would be in a much better shape.

There are deep and complex reasons and stupid reasons for these not going through but it is a major factor of why Italy have not been considered for a major tournament since 1990. Even if only half of these had been done the money from a World Cup would have helped re-design the rest.

There have been moves to change it, but I would ask anyone to tell me just how much confidence they have in the Italian governments' shock plan'.

As Italy's economy reels from the COVID pandemic this stimulus package was suggested to kick start football. The then Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, said, "It's essential toremove the urban development limitations. It's unthinkable that San Siro can be renovated, but not the Stadio Franchi in Florence."

Still what has happened? Just how has the 'Sbloccastadi – Stadium Blocker' change the world? Are we seeing everyone now doing what Udinese or Juventus did?

The knock on effects are huge. TV rights are always a major topic in Italy and will continue to be. The cameras want to see the top players play in full modern stadiums, which will be even more so after the pandemic.

The better the company that takes on the broadcasting, the better the marketing because one would gamble that nobody who reads this would not agree that the Lega Serie A's marketing of their product is nothing short of absolute shambles.

They are happy to sit on past glories and these days are long gone. Milan's Champions League success and Italy's World Cup win may have papered over the cracks of Calciopoli for a year or two but the league was already dead by then.

Serie A has improved since then but it needs a lot of tender love and care. It needs restoring to former glories, true, but it needs to happen in a modern way that looks to the future and it needs to happen quickly.

Perhaps making the league smaller may also work to make it seem more elite (no offence Crotone).

Marketing the importance of the Europa League, this is another mind-blowing one as Italian clubs used to love the Cup Winners Cup and the UEFA Cup. These were good training grounds for the Champions League.

Ask yourself when was the last time and Italian club won the UEFA Cup/Europa League? Shocking, isn't it.

These however, are all theories that many will have thought of before. However, the fact is that without deep-rooted change, Italian clubs will continue to fail in Europe.

You may get the odd anomaly, which is true but it will not be structured dominance. Perhaps Gazzetta dello Sport should change its stance. Rather than beg Milan to save face for the Italian game, maybe they should rally for change, but they won't.

This time next year, they will be once again asking cap in hand for Inter, Milan, Juventus or whoever, to please help hide Italy's great shame.



Have your say...
Spot on mate been sating it for years foriegne players no pride in shirt they wear on ly here for their pensione
on the 2nd April, 2021 at 2:28am
last time Italian clubs were feared in europe was when they had at least 8 Italian players in their teams not like now when there is only 1 in most of the teams
on the 2nd April, 2021 at 2:23am
Absolutely spot on. 100% agree.
on the 29th March, 2021 at 3:01pm
The state of Serie A is all to clear when a club is 'waiting' for Ronaldo to decide! Mate get rid. If you don't know where you are is where you wanna stay you can leave! Juve pay that numpty over 500k a week and they have to wait for him to decide. He is 36 not 22 and the next best thing. No one wants him let him leave and see who will take him with a wage like that!
on the 29th March, 2021 at 2:58pm
Simple response to the blog, in the 90s there were Italian players in abundance in all the top Serie A teams bringing with them an identity to how the team played & fought. How many Italians are being fielded for Milan, Juve, Inter etc now? 2-3 per game tops! That is why Italian football is failing as a league and in Europe. We have killed our own game under the EU rules. Stadium development is key but a lack of Italian players in the top teams is the death bell to Italian football in Europe!
on the 26th March, 2021 at 11:27am
why dont the journalist that supposedly are journalist start investigating and layout why this happened with foreign players vs homegrown player. Then write about what need to happen and change these rules. Obviously the Owners and Politicians are involved with this travesty in Italy. Expose the truth so that it can be fixed. Stop writing nonsense and do some real journalism not write what you are told.
on the 25th March, 2021 at 12:53pm
Time to invest in Italian players not players from small countries who don't have the history and talent like in Italy. Believe in the home grown talent. Stop the descrimination against your own talent!
on the 25th March, 2021 at 4:57am
Need new stadiums but also invest in the youth of italian players!!! You have teams with players from countries not in the top 10, 20 and at times 30 in the world rankings playing ahead of Italian players! Since when? The last time an Italian team was in the final was Juve? Remember how many Italian players were in the starting lineup? This needs to change!
on the 25th March, 2021 at 4:52am
1. Lack of foreign investment, - agreed 2. The league has too many teams, - nonsense 3. The fallout from Calciopoli, - I think that's over... it's been nearly 20 years... 4. Lack of interest in the Europa League, - this is an excuse? 5. No major investment in stadiums since 1990 hence no major tournament allocation. -Absolutely true... Italy has one modern stadium... Juventus.. and they are the most successful Italian team since they built it... the rest of the stadia are mostly rubbish.
on the 24th March, 2021 at 12:32am
garbage players, La Liga, EPL, Ligue 1 etc are worthless along with players its all media hype, especially italian sports casters. Ialy is the only league that still has Italian Owners, the reason behind the stadium and govt is that the land stays with italy. Politics is the biggest problem and no one seem to care or do something so it filters down hill. I am not against foreign players just limits.They are not equivalent to the italian skill/mentality.
on the 23rd March, 2021 at 1:10pm
All this talk of stadiums is nonsense when teams start winning people will come. BRING BACK THE ITALIAN MAJORITY. Stop the BS of these sub par amateur foreign player including Ronaldo. This is the biggest travesty in Italy. Why cant anyone other then some on this blog see this.What is not realized is that Seria A will be finished in 10 years and be completly non italian at this rate.All of the comments on this should be directed at the journalist and sports casters in Italy praising foreign
on the 23rd March, 2021 at 1:06pm
This is what happens when you allow one stupid team to utterly dominate the league for a decade ...
on the 23rd March, 2021 at 7:58am
@maldini heir
Everyone's a top scorer in Germany! Werner scored 79 goals in 127 appearances in Germany moved to Chelsea and scored 5!
Just look at this seasons Milan this is the 'best' of the last 10 years and they just about hit average! 10 whole years of this nonsense has past and we have still won nothing and Serie A clubs in Europe exit earier and earier.
Imagine where Italian football would be now if 10 years ago we put a stop to teams being allowed to field 11 cheap foreign players!
on the 23rd March, 2021 at 7:52am
Italian teams sell their good young talent and buy old washed up talent. That's why they aren't successful in Europe.
on the 22nd March, 2021 at 6:20pm
I stood in a concrete cop for 10 years, stood in a shed at Scarborough & sat in a wooden stand at Goodison but I wouldn't pay 20 euros to go to one of them decrepit Italian grounds unless it was a derby or big game. But at least Italy did try & sort their corruption out. All fans ask for is as level a playing field as possible & somewhere fit to watch a match from! All credit to clubs like Atalanta & Sassuolo. Football is a way of life in Italy. They have everything they need in order to succeed
on the 22nd March, 2021 at 5:53pm
terms of players, coaches, big clubs & fanbases but the Lega, club owners & local authorities need to learn how to work together & from Calciopoli! Looking out solely for no1 don't work no more! It's still an attractive 'brand.' There's new foreign owners, Inter did well in the UEL, they're drawing interest from companies to market the league as a whole. Italy itself is a big draw but they need to decide to sort the Stadia out & pull in the same direction rather than fighting all the time.
on the 22nd March, 2021 at 5:39pm
many governments & institutions up. There's more important things than football but I was disgusted by that footage of the Franchi falling to bits. As a Bradford City fan, I only hope it doesn't take a disaster for em to finally get it sorted? I'm not sure why they can't do San Siro up like they have the Bernabue but local authorities seem to have too much power. What's the point in passing new Stadia laws if it's never implemented?
Like other people have noted Italy has so much potential in
on the 22nd March, 2021 at 5:23pm
Laughable! The way IF is 'governed.' I've been there & Italy is less a country, more like 20 separate regions. I only got PS for Serie A. I can watch every Liga match but there's been loads of unavailable Samp games! Those Italia 90 stadia were the best in the world att. Only gripe were the many running tracks & Bari's was made for that WC & for reasons other than football! But Italia 90 was over 30 years ago now! Some need to be refurbished & some clubs need new Stadia. Covid has shown many
on the 22nd March, 2021 at 5:17pm
they won't take a risk on a single youth team player as one of many first team players, but they'll take a risk on the coach by hiring a youth team coach. It's madness.
on the 22nd March, 2021 at 12:19pm
There are too many examples of managers making all of the difference. As soon as Ferguson left Man Utd they collapsed. They went from 1st to 7th. Chelsea went from 1st to 10th to 1st to 5th in 4 seasons with different coaches. Juve went from 7th to an unbeaten 1st when Conte joined. Pioli has now twice taken a team that was 7th and got into the top 4 having done the same with Lazio. The manager is the single most important person at the club. There can be no room for risk taking. But in Italy
on the 22nd March, 2021 at 12:18pm
@ Inter I'm talking about the team that is currently second and was top for most of the season, and based on the form in the past year would be champions. This is not a hard stretch.

@ Jez Which of the hundreds of players are you writing off? Maybe Andre Silva who's the third leading goalscorer in the Bundesliga? Milan have destroyed players for 10 years because of the mismanagement at the club. Milan could've gone all our for Conte but instead they went for Marco Giampaolo.
on the 22nd March, 2021 at 12:14pm
Maldini heir has some merit - yes coaching is important - but you still need players capable of executing the coach’s instructions. Pirlo has gotten slaughtered in a lot of his games tactically but against inter, his inexperience really showed. The fact juve are in the top 4 alone shows what players are capable of. Pirlo would have gotten a mid table team relegated. Being able to bring a team into form is good skill (pioli eg of this), improving players permanently is a different skill altogethe
on the 22nd March, 2021 at 10:28am
I'm baffled that someone thinks a world class manager would have been able to get Milan any further at any point in the last 10 years! There's a reason no manager wanted to go to Milan in the first place. A coach is there to implement a system and get the best out of each individual player and bring them togther to play as a unit. The problem here is we are talking about 'players' who need to actually learn how to play football. Messi and Ronaldo weren't made world class they are world class.
on the 22nd March, 2021 at 8:22am
@Maldini’s Heir
I would rather have 11 'past it' Maldini and cafu' over any of the players we have. I'd kill to have a Gattuso in this team and a goal scorer like Inzaghi. Take zlatan away from Milan and we are left with no one! Kalulu over Oddo? Miete over Gattuso? Tomori over Maldini? Castiello over inzaghi? Come on man the lists endless.
Ancelotti snubbed returning because they are rubbish. A coach can coach, as you put it, 'past it' world class players because they know how to play football
on the 22nd March, 2021 at 8:06am
@ACM - will be interesting but it looks like suning are going to stay in charge plus the Saudis are favourites to be involved. I’m just hoping if they do, we don’t go crazy with spending. Don’t want to be another psg or man city. Have the core already on only need another wingback and 1-2 more depth signings realistically. We do need to sell and there is money to be made from the players who just aren’t quite good enough like vecino, gags or even d’ambrosio.
on the 21st March, 2021 at 8:57pm
Just wanted to stop by and congratulate Juventus on a brillant performance today vs Benevento. What a class team, lead by the beautiful people Andrea Agnelli and Pavel Nedved.

MOTM today for me is Arthur
2. Bernardeschi
3. Morata

I was told its easier to win matches in Serie A when you dont have to worry about CL. Well, seems like Juve agree and are now playing to not participate in next years CL.

Scudetto?, of course not. Take care.
on the 21st March, 2021 at 4:20pm
Italian clubs are doing rubbish in europe because of all the rubbish second rate foreigne players they buy
on the 21st March, 2021 at 12:40pm
For me - a non italian fan of Italian football. The European problem is clear - discrimination against ALL Italian clube - bot refs and UEFA.
on the 21st March, 2021 at 12:06pm
@luca I agree with your comment. The stadiums and infrastructure with them is the main issue. It’s like they are a huge roadblock and until it is solved there will be no serious progression forward. Considering the amount of jobs new stadiums would create to firstly construct them and then the jobs created in shops restaurants bars etc at these stadiums after and finally the inward investments regarding sponsorship etcI simply cannot see why the local councils don’t embrace new stadiums
on the 21st March, 2021 at 11:54am
@inter I agree regarding inter if they were still in the champ league playing the football they are playing now they would probably have qualified. However I’m not sure about them strengthening further...considering their current financial situation. It will be interesting to see if they can hold onto all of their current stars in the summer, never mind strengthen the team. For the sake of serieA, I hope they do
on the 21st March, 2021 at 11:47am

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