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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.

 

@RichHall80

Have your say...
idea if he’ll make a good manager one day. Conte was another fluke at Juve and became a phenomenally successful domestic manger. I’ve no idea what his issue is in Europe.
I’ve previously speculated his success in leagues is he forces his teams to treat every game like a cup game which then doesn’t work in cups. That’s pure speculation. But all in all the biggest issue in Serie A is we no longer have the best coaches. And it’s all Sacchi’s fault. If horses did become jockeys....
on the 19th March, 2021 at 7:18am
shoe salesman becoming one of the best football managers of all time. A fluke is more than luck. It’s unlikely. There’ll always be risks with any manager. Going into the 14/15 season Bobby Robson’s former translator, Mourinho, was probably the number one manager in the world and had just won the title, and then it all went to pot and he was sacked by Christmas. There a things that we can never control. But there are calculated risks and hiring a novice is one of them. Pirlo is a novice. I’ve no
on the 19th March, 2021 at 7:14am
It’d all Arrigo Sacchi’s fault. Because a total novice became one of the most successful managers in Italian and European history, Italian teams thought that other novices could do the same. I mean if a former shoe salesman can win back to back Champions League why can’t Pirlo whose been in senior management for about 5 months? Well the answer is that Sacchi was a fluke. A fluke is defined as: “an unlikely chance occurrence, especially a surprising piece of luck.” That perfectly describes a
on the 19th March, 2021 at 7:07am
reality; all serie A clubs thinking about serie A only. they have no interest in europe! the results prove that. i am afraid any club from europe has the capability to oust any serie A club, whether in UCL or EL! it is a shame really. most importantly, serie A clubs have no interest to develop.
on the 19th March, 2021 at 6:36am
Italy has a real problem with Bureaucracy and it’s costing the league. League desperately needs face lift of new stadiums. They need to move with the times. I became serie A fan in late 80’s when it was on top of World. We need nee stadiums and follow Roberto Baggio Baggio’s master plan when he was Techincal Manager with FIGC.
on the 19th March, 2021 at 3:01am
What a negative article. Other than Juve and Inter, you really can't fault Atalanta or Lazio - they drew against two of the toughest teams in the competition! Fail to impress? I thought Atalanta did well, so did Lazio (and I say this as a Romanista). The only shameful display came from the two top dogs of Serie A, i.e. Juve and Inter, but there's no need to say Serie A is diminishing.
on the 19th March, 2021 at 12:20am
Interista Fra, The Premier League is now top of the UEFA Coefficient above Spain after this season. And in 2019 All 4 finalits were from the Premier League. The ROI is far greater than Serie A which only has Juventus doing anything.
on the 19th March, 2021 at 12:18am
I agree with u Dotario, no# 1 reason we are failing in the Euros is Pace! Man U with a younger almost talentless squad today handled Milan easily, the importance of speed needs to be a addressed in italy, all other sporting leagues in the world are moving ahead with younger faster teams, Porto with less talent managed to out play and out run Juventus and win the tie, with all due respect Juventus was not going to win the CL this year with their MF, Speed in Italy is still not regarded as importa
on the 19th March, 2021 at 12:07am
Such a simple answer. If you've seen all the games there is one common denominator as to why Italian teams suffer in Europe. Pace. The pace of Serie A games is just a bit above walking. Jogging. Running when you really have to. In other leagues, even ones that are less than Serie A technically, Italian teams suffer when teams raise the tempo, press, run all the time. It leads to mistakes that are turned into goals. Pace. Pace. Pace.
on the 18th March, 2021 at 11:20pm
Milan fielded 1 italian! Most of the italian teams representing Serie A are full of foreigners, the cheaper alternative.
Not sure how many more years of embarrassment are needed before we get it into the brains of those in charge of this shambolic league that things need to change. How many more world cups do we need to fail to qualify for?
No more than 5 foreigners/non EU on the pitch per team. Had we done this when we failed to qualify for the world cup we would be well on the way to recovery
on the 18th March, 2021 at 10:25pm
Investing in youth and still end up playing in stadia built in 1980, makes no sense.Money is always the problem in building a new stadium, but in Italy its different, even with your money they wont still allow you to build one. And we have football managers over there, their jobs ? I dunno. They wants to build a new stadium in Milan but some old folks still prefer to renovate San Siro, bunch of backward people.It will take a miracle to turn things around
on the 18th March, 2021 at 9:09pm
The italians teams have to adopt a different style of play in Europe. Their approach play is too slow and predictable with many needless sideway and back passes, even when they in advance positions to shoot. Another flaw is always trying to start play slowly deep in defensive areas, teams like Lazio and Juve were guilty of that and to some extent Atalanta against Real madrid leading to the first goal by Benzema. Bayern also fully exploited Lazio in the 1st leg due that negative style of play
on the 18th March, 2021 at 7:32pm
They will never change there mentality to games ,in the old days they would sneak a 1 to 0
They all made basic mistakes when competing and came short in most cases ! The pitches are that bad and scholes have said so himself ! I am a juve fan and only teams I like to see is Atalanta and sasoulo . Pretty sad really Roma and Milan will fluff there lines too
on the 18th March, 2021 at 7:29pm
part of the lack of a long term vision is the inability to incorporate youth players into the first team. you take atalanta for example any youth prospect worth a damn is sold but they also happen to lack large revenue streams.

where as milan over the decade have been a disaster they gave over the hill free agents game time over youngster who went onto be successful players.

You could easily add fiorentina, roma, genoa to that list as well.
on the 18th March, 2021 at 6:50pm
putting aside the commercial aspects serie a struggles because it is run badly by the figc and by the club owners. There is no long term vision no concept of incorporating new ideas into clubs. Juve has won the scudetto every year for almost a decade that is done to them being a well run club and the likes of napoli and roma absolutely failing to take advantage of the opportunity to best them.
on the 18th March, 2021 at 6:40pm
Also the premier league throws billions into the transfer market and produces really very little. Okay Liverpool made 2 finals in 2 years Juventus made 2 in 3 years with a squad worth 1000 euros thanks to Marotta's brilliance

So how do we measure success? Because as an ROI the premier league is MILES behind Italy in this respect.
on the 18th March, 2021 at 6:35pm
come on calcipoli was 15 years ago and if it was so devastating how the hell did milan win the champions league in 2007 and inter in 2010 plus how did juventus reach 2 champions league finals.

as for serie a having too many teams that is laughable par the German league the largest European leagues all have 20 teams. yet clubs in these league win the champions league

There is a point to made about the commercial aspects par juve the revenue streams of italian clubs have remained stagnant.
on the 18th March, 2021 at 6:35pm
I disagree with this article. Those issues cannot be linked to a lack of European success.

Juventus have their own stadium and one of the best players of all time with huge global reach and went out to Porto

The issue is complacency and mental frailty. Lazio and Atalanta bent over for Bayern and Madrid, Inter gave it away vs Madrid.

We're a small minded league and care more about drama in Serie A than taking this sport seriously.
We're in the dark ages when it comes to globalised football
on the 18th March, 2021 at 6:32pm
Well we can say a million reasons why but we do not have any elite coaches that can play on 3 fronts even if we have the team to do it these days! Look at Inter as an example...and this example too..the team that is first in Serie A finished dead last in the Champion's League AND set a record as the only italian team to not pass the CL group stage 3 years in a row yet they have Italy's 2nd highest payroll - what kind of team is required from them to pass the group stage let alone win the CL!
on the 18th March, 2021 at 6:27pm
The teams are not used to the free flowing nature of other leagues. The "get on with it" mentality we see in England, the efficiency of VAR use in Germany and the tenacity of Spanish football.. it is quite EVIDENT that the only variable different from Serie A and these leagues is the officiating. The centre of attention for many Italian games is always a controversial refereeing decision. Italian football is more of a drama instead of a football match.
on the 18th March, 2021 at 5:18pm
I barely agree with anything in this post.The main problem does not fall on stadiums, it does not fall on TV rights. Why are we making this conversation more difficult than it is by bringing in economic and political points? Quite simply, it comes down to how games are officiated in Italy. How many phantom penalties, free kicks and fouls do you see called in Serie A in respect to other top leagues? The start/stop nature of games in the Italian top flight is the direct reason. Teams are not used
on the 18th March, 2021 at 5:16pm
I liked this article. It's all true. Just one thing - "sbloccastadi" means "unblock stadiums." "Bloccare" means to block and "sbloccare" means to unblock. Putting an "s" in front of many words in Italian means the opposite - "fortuna" = luck, while "sfortuna" means no luck.
on the 18th March, 2021 at 4:56pm
Well we can start with the slow build up to place passes to each other and build up from the back . You then have the possession game they try to keep hold of the ball making no progress . They come to Europe and even the french league and German league is producing quick and technical play superior to seria A basically they struggle against any decent outfit ! Even USA is starting to establish better standard of football . Ray of light is we have some good players for national team
on the 18th March, 2021 at 4:43pm
3) Calciopoli?

No use talking about it. Despite being a Juventus fan, and the fact that Italian law/machinery is an utter jungle of prehistoric cavemen hitting each other over the head with rocks in order to find justice, it's far too late to talk about the spilt milk.

The aim of argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress - Joseph Joubert


4) Reducing the number of teams, taking the EL seriously

Do steps 1-3 correctly, all other objectives will fall in place.

(Part 4/4)
on the 18th March, 2021 at 4:23pm
Not one journalist in any major italian paper has written about the foreign vs home grown player issue this is the biggest problem affecting Italian soccer, forget the stadiums people will come if the teams can succeed. Seria A is also unbalanced in payrolls. There should be salary caps as in America. Owners and politicians are greedy and journalist are complicit in all this.
on the 18th March, 2021 at 4:19pm
Italian teams poor show in europe competitions is nothing to do with outdated stadiums and all the other reason, good skilful player's all playing a system they are comfortable with,and a strong minded coach who can instil a win at all cost attitude will always succeed, because it's always 11 against 11, I blame our weak minded merry go round italian coaches who use the same defeatism comments when they lose "it's been good experience which we will learn from" but never do.
Its a merry go round
on the 18th March, 2021 at 4:18pm
if the Juve game showed anything is the contrast between Ronaldo and Chiesa (foreign and homegrown) i mean what more is there to say. I am not a Juve fan but to see him play basically tells the story and it goes on and on. Chiesa is what could be the possibility and future if all this was balanced properly.
on the 18th March, 2021 at 4:16pm
The likes of Baggio, Maldini, Del Piero, Totti etc. should be given more prominence and opportunities to define Calcio in the upcoming decades.


2) This point isn't mentioned in the blog, so I'll add it myself: a focus on HOME-GROWN talent. Make it imperative for all clubs, every division, to have at least 75% home-grown/Italian talents in their clubs. This works to reduce costs (no more CR7/Higuain type deals), focus on youth development, and better talent coming through

(Part 3/n)
on the 18th March, 2021 at 4:12pm
Mr. Hall there are a few fundemental problems one is the politicians all for them and nothing for anyone, next is the owners/figc subverting and rewriting the rules for more foreign born players and less home grown players. Just look at all the teams they feature 2 or 3 Italian players and the rest are outsiders. IT comes down to owners wanting to make $$$ and politicians profiting from the tax revenue on it so they are all complicit in its downfall. Fish stinks from the head.
on the 18th March, 2021 at 4:11pm
Richard, mentions stadiums. Bravo, an excellent start.


Now, what can Italians do to get their heads out of their behinds and initiate a forward-looking mentality?


1) Fire politicians who are in the Berlusconi/Galliani mould.

The utter cancer of Calcio called De Lamentius, the Abate, the Preziosi, the Spadafora, the gangrene called Lotito, utter imbeciles like Cairo. Go for merit, let people who have played Calcio professionally and who know how to run things efficiently

(Part 2/n)
on the 18th March, 2021 at 4:06pm

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