Saturday February 16 2013
The State of Serie A

As a raft of stars leave Serie A, possibly joined by Edinson Cavani, Alex Mott wonders whether Italian football has lost its lustre

All good things come to an end. And for Napoli fans, that denouement could be very soon. Reports this week have claimed that Edinson Cavani could be the subject of summer bids from Manchester City and Paris Saint-Germain, with both clubs willing to pay the 26-year-old’s €63m release clause.

 It’s another story in a long line linking the Uruguayan striker away from the San Paolo and despite his recent contract renewal, the momentum is gaining pace for Cavani to depart the Partenopei in the near future.

The likes of Real Madrid, Chelsea and Arsenal have hinted at their interest in the former Palermo man, and even with Napoli’s sound financial structure and wealthy backer, they certainly wouldn’t baulk at the thought of an extra €63m in the coffers – even if it did mean parting with their best player.

It’s a dilemma that President Aurelio De Laurentiis will no doubt wrestle with at the end of the current campaign, but just the mere mention of Cavani’s future shows where Serie A is in the current pecking order of European football.

Having slipped into fourth place in the UEFA co-efficient rankings behind the Bundesliga, the Italian top-flight is no longer afforded four Champions League places, and is in fact closer to France’s Ligue 1 than it is to the German League. Les Parisiens emergence as a continental force – with the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Javier Pastore leading the line – could mean that within two or three years calcio will slip to fifth in the charts – a fate frankly unthinkable a few years ago.

Since Jose Mourinho’s departure from Inter back in 2010, Italian football has been on a steady decline that has seen a raft of big-name players leave the peninsula for better wages, better atmospheres and better football.

The three previously listed at PSG, Thiago Silva, Wesley Sneijder, Alexandre Pato and perhaps most worryingly of all Marco Verratti, have all left Italian shores for challenges elsewhere in France, Turkey and Brazil.

It’s a truly worrying state of affairs for fans of Serie A who have been spoilt for over 25 years with some of the greatest players of a generation. A lack of television money, sparse crowds, unsafe stadiums, persistent stories of racist chanting and a continuing economic crisis have turned some of Europe’s top stars of off calcio with alarming regularity.

It has meant, however, that the country’s top clubs have turned their attentions to promoting exciting youth talents. Stephan El Shaarawy, Mattia De Sciglio, Lorenzo Insigne and a host of others have come through in the last 12 to 18 months, turning Serie A from a retirement home to a League where young players can flourish.

It’s a paradox that strikes at the heart of all supporters, from the most casual to the fanatical. Is it right for the Italian top-flight to be the next Ligue 1 or Eredivisie – harnessing Under-21 stars and selling them on for profit? Or should owners on the peninsula be breaking the bank to keep their marquee names – a la Cavani?

Perhaps there can be a balancing act between those two fundamentals. And do truly world-class players make for truly world-class matches anyway? Right now, we are at a crossroads in Italian football. It’s a fascinating period to be witnessing, and whatever happens over the next few years will change calcio for a generation.

Lazio sporting director Igli Tare told German magazine Kicker on Thursday: “I can assure you, having watched games all over Europe, the Italian championship is still the best.” We may not attract names such as Diego Maradona, Marco Van Basten and Ruud Gullit anymore, but it’s not all bad.

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Have your say...
Serie A is still competitive and more exciting than Ligue 1 and Bundesliga. Those leagues are dominated by one team whereas Serie A is competitive from the top team to the bottom feeding teams. All Serie A needs are new stadiums. They will be back and stronger than ever. Italy is still the only country in Europe that is capable of winning a world cup when no one expects it. Talent or no talent, Serie A is still capable of producing talent for the national team. The only other is Spain.
on the 3rd February, 2014 at 11:01pm
Italian ,Spanish & German leagues are more skillful then the premier league. Premier league defences are a joke
premier leagye may be good to watch but you wont learn anything from it
on the 22nd February, 2013 at 2:20am
cash money soldi - thats what its all about nothing more nothing less.
You have cash you buy players you build stadiums you get more money you win trophies and you contribute to the ranking and at the same time the cash-flow and status of the league.

change the tax laws in italy and give the clubs some more cash! ;)
on the 21st February, 2013 at 10:26pm
Quite controversial. But I agree with the writer on the main topic. Serie A has lost status. Calicopoli has devasted Italian football and that event's consequences are being felt even now. A team like Udine should not be representing Italy in the CL. Thankfully Juve was forward thinking and built their stadium. I'm Milanista and hate Juve, but I must give credit.
on the 18th February, 2013 at 8:38pm
Again another terrible blog from this person.
Please stop him contributing - there is no thought in what he is writing!
It's about time the big clubs are trying to invest in young players. The league will improve because of this.
Serie A is still competitive with any other league. Even the "mighty" premier league is fading with its so called big name players. I don't think you can assess the state of a league due to some players leaving.
on the 18th February, 2013 at 1:10pm
Interesting article ... the CL winners of last year (English team) getting knocked out by the top Italian side this year, but no mention of that. Italy dismantles England and Germany in the Euro's ... but no mention of that either.

Also, if you don't think racism exists in Spain and France you are completely naive. One last thing, last 5 years .. 2 different Italian teams won the CL. Again, no mention of that.

Do better Football Italia
on the 18th February, 2013 at 1:24am
The players you listed left for money, either transfer fees too big to turn down, or wages that Serie A teams cant compete with.

Players cant earn as much in Italy, which is the main reason they go elsewhere. Even at Juventus, the best player will only earn about €4m a season - less than half what he could earn in England or Spain.

But the quality of football is not worse.
on the 17th February, 2013 at 6:39pm
The same old topic and not any different in solution. The no#1 problem is clubs don't own their own stadia - so no money. Lacked of promo to outside italy, so no investment, not much sponsership. Italian football maybe own by crooks after all. FA lacked in depths how to managed. The talents are there but not so much on clubs owners to secure the future..
on the 17th February, 2013 at 4:48pm
The sham of Calciopoli is what killed Italian football. Even when Inter got their plastic treble Uefa had said Italy was going to lose their 4th champs league spot. Been a long time coming.
on the 17th February, 2013 at 2:25pm
you joking mister?
serie a is the best. the other leagues have been finshed already.

we have many stars.
just look at our old stars like totti and pirlo.
the problem is a club like udinese who get thrashed by a swiss team.
on the 17th February, 2013 at 9:15am
no one mind having a top stars in seria but the market create this situation by the shiekh's investors who have gouverments behind their pockets ,
no one can compete them by spending 100 million euros for one player , seria A should continue this way by investing in youth sectors and if the big teams can hold the promising lads for longer time,it would be better like the way napoli did with cavani , they bought it for 10 million and now they are selling for 63 millions ,
on the 17th February, 2013 at 4:49am
Ranocchia, Chiellini, Barzagli, El Shaarawy, Cavani, Hamsik, Insigne, Handanovic, Pirlo, Buffon, Juan, Zanetti, Cassano, Guarin, Di siglio, Milito, Vidal, Marchisio, Lechsteiner, Balotelli, Pjanic, Lorrente, Icardi and I could go on and on, all of these players are not stars or promising stars??? I blame FIFA and media for Italy's decline, for god sake pirlo, marchisio, vidal, buffon were not included in the FIFA XI, and Sneijder didn't win the ballon d'or, and lol Milito wasn't even nominated.
on the 17th February, 2013 at 12:26am
Serie A may not be what it was, but it has improved over the last 4 or 5 years, for sure. Cavani may leave, but if Napoli finish in the CL position(or even champions), then he may stay. And if he does go, 63m euro for a guy almost 27yo will be a good price.

Milan got a good price for Ibra and Silva too, the problem there was the lack of a proper replacement, not the sale itself.

Younger, hungry players are given a chance now. Verratti was a loss, but when PSG come calling it's hard to say no.
on the 16th February, 2013 at 11:11pm
The top of Serie A is more exciting than England, Germany, France or Spain this season. Napoli to close to 2 point this weekend. In 2 weeks we could have the game of the season with Juve and Napoli facing off at the San Paolo. Things aren't that bad.
on the 16th February, 2013 at 10:58pm
Waw u managed to write the worst article in 2013. Pato and Sneider are not top players leaving Italy, they are past it. Silva and Verrati are a true loss but so was modric leaving England, bale soon, Liotente leaving Spain. Cavani could leave but i am pretty sure Napoli will get stronger. Italy will always be a powerhouse, look at juve now. I look at the young stars, the young coaches and the innovation they bring to the game (juve, fiorentina) and I rest assured that the Calcio will reign again
on the 16th February, 2013 at 10:38pm

So what are you saying? foreigners are not good for italia football? Isn't it all about football and not wether your Italian, or not. It's about the game not the heritage. We're all equal.
on the 16th February, 2013 at 10:00pm
I'm getting tired of these alarmist articles. Italy is going through a rough spot due to a lack of cash and poor organization. But Italy is still much better than Germany and France. And they can compete with England and Spain. There is a ton of young talent in Italy and they are going to become a new generation of stars. Even in a time like this Italy remains a force.
on the 16th February, 2013 at 9:53pm
@Gerrardo, tutto vero! I'd love to read an article on why British journalists, even if secretly or openly showing a love of Italian football, still have the need to over emphasize the negative and paint it with a doom and gloom paint brush. Sure there is a lot to be desired.
on the 16th February, 2013 at 9:21pm
The Serie A could learn from the EPL on how to improve their security. I mean, the EPL has gotten control over the harshest and worst hooligans in the world. That's something to learn from. But anything else is seriously questionable. Teams need to be run like businesses, as Juve is proving and the BL has been proving for years. So nothing to learn from the debt ridden EPl teams there.
on the 16th February, 2013 at 9:20pm

Teams need their own stadiums. Something's being done about that, and youth has to be integrated earlier, which the economic situation is helping in so far as the Serie A is concerned. This is where Serie A needs to work on. Get rid of Abete and the other clowns running the show, and bring in people who care like Baggio and Maldini. Tactically the EPL is light years behind. Often imitating Italian teams, but never duplicating.
on the 16th February, 2013 at 9:19pm
Perhaps Di Matteo did something miraculous in a short period, but have you seen other teams copying the 3-5-2 that has ben developed in Italy with laughable results? So take the good from each league; security from the EPL, teams run like businesses from the BL, and keep our tactical knowledge to ourselves integrating youth earlier, and Italy will soon be a force to be reckoned with again.
on the 16th February, 2013 at 9:18pm
"Thiago Silva, Wesley Sneijder, Alexandre Pato and perhaps most worryingly of all Marco Verratti, have all left Italian shores for challenges elsewhere in France, Turkey & Brazil."

A bit too sensational.

Personally I think Silva was a great sale. 40+ million? Are you kidding me! He's not the best CB in the world for one, and needed Nesta's guidance to curb his reckless nature. Verratti will be back, just like Balo. Pato was broken and Sneijder was forced out, didn't want to leave on his own.
on the 16th February, 2013 at 9:00pm
"Since Jose Mourinhos departure from Inter back in 2010, Calcio has been on a steady decline that has seen a raft of big-name players leave the peninsula for better wages, better atmospheres & better football."

The decline started with the farce known as Calciopoli, how it was poorly handled & the jokers (sell outs) that were left to run Italian football. Players leave for better wages, maybe yes, but the football isnt better. The tactics/education players gain in Serie A is 2nd to none!
on the 16th February, 2013 at 8:56pm
Like a lot of fans of Serie A I watch ESPN and by far the Italian league is superior . I have been watching Serie A since the 90,s big names have come and gone but it has always been for the money and not the football. If you know anything about the EPL most of the top players are foreigners in Italy the top players are Italian I have watched other leagues but its all kick and rush not very tactical.Italian football is competitive from the top to bottom of the league Serie A for me every time
on the 16th February, 2013 at 7:04pm
Italy has the best and most entertaining league in Europe, we can see that by looking at the close proximity teams have in the table. Also, do not forget that Italy came second in the Euro Cup, consisting of players from different teams in Serie A. Whereas Spain's team consisted of players from Madrid and Barcelona only. This shows you that the Italian league have the best mix of talent in ALL their teams.
on the 16th February, 2013 at 6:58pm
I don't just think that the Italian clubs are to blame why no new stadiums are being built so they can generate a new income flow, I blame the Italian councils who refuse to sell the land or the rights to the stadium as a whole cause all they see is an income.

But it makes you think when all the best players leave, crowd numbers shrivel and no income for the club and therefore the council how would they then react.

Come on Italy wake up and give the clubs back to the clubs
on the 16th February, 2013 at 6:54pm
This article is complete rubbish. I hope they didnt pay you to write this.... im hoping nothing else was available so they thought something is better than nothing.
on the 16th February, 2013 at 6:54pm
Dont care if cavani leaves, it will just mean bringing even more italian talent into sides in serie a, to be honest serie a at the moment is full of below average, foreigners who are not needed.
on the 16th February, 2013 at 6:46pm
Oh come on. Italy's economy is improving, Berlusconi is thinking of selling the team (who are still the 8th or 9th richest team in Europe), inter an roma are getting new stadiums, Napoli and fiorentina are building and juve is making everyone proud. An honestly all the other teams have depth and are competitive. What's the problem? La liga has two teams, Germany has $$ because the country is rich an honestly there are only like 3-4 good team and the epl is the epl.
on the 16th February, 2013 at 6:23pm
Mahhh!!!forse questo e un giornalista che lavora per sky EPL e legge the 'sun' newspaper...Forza italia e Forza juve
on the 16th February, 2013 at 6:10pm

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