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.

Keep up to date with the latest news and action from Spain's Primera Division with Football Espana - from the team behind Football Italia.

Have your say...
Your Juventus hate is so obvious. Get a clue.
on the 16th February, 2013 at 12:06pm
France is being raised by the finances of PSG, but no other team is progressing at all. The EPL doesn't look anything like as convincing as it used to, while spain still have a gulf in quality between the top 2-3 teams and the rest of the pack.

The Bundesliga has certainly done well to improve recently, and I'm sure will continue to, but Serie A's
biggest issue in terms of UEFA coefficient is more to do with Europa league performances. It's not our quality but our attitude that needs improving.
on the 16th February, 2013 at 12:02pm
Italy have certainly lost financial clout due in part to the stadium situation, but also because of a dip in European performance. Don't let Mourinho's treble year fool you, Calciopoli handed everything on a plate to one single team, severely hurting our competitiveness as a nation.

However, correct me if I'm wrong, but the rise of Juventus, Napoli, and Fiorentina, along with the rejuvenation in progress at Milan, Inter and even Lazio and Roma, all point to a league getting stronger by the day.
on the 16th February, 2013 at 11:55am
I watch all the cahmpionships and I agree with Igli Tare. It's a fantastic league. Why do we judge Italian football by its crowds. There is literally no one in Italy that's not interested in calico. Hell, every grandma knows how to distinguish a 442 to a 3511. Technically: did you see die Fohlen (Mönchengladbach) vs. Lazio? From a technical point of view it was no competition.
on the 16th February, 2013 at 11:14am
The rise of PSG doesn't bring much to the whole league. Name one star player in France who doesn't play for them? That said, my statement is that french league will never go past italian.
on the 16th February, 2013 at 10:55am
The problem is with the culture and money. I guess italian clubs can not afford to pay big names as they do not earn that much bcz they do not own stadiums. Germany has moved steps forward by re-generating their stadiums and focusing on young talents. Stadiums bring people to watch , which means more crowds and more money to clubs. New big stadium also means hosing big championships and matches.
on the 16th February, 2013 at 10:39am

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