Tuesday May 13 2014
Why Italy needs its big clubs

Sassuolo and Chievo are safe from relegation, but Mina Rzouki reflects on why that may not be the best news for Serie A.

As Italians cheer on the survival of little Sassuolo, the fairytale story of Serie A, the League has lost two clubs that signal a depressing era in Italian football.

It must be acknowledged, the League does not lie and if a club has won and survived the relegation battle it because they have deserved to this season. Little Sassuolo and their attacking mindset have achieved what was perceived to be the impossible, maintaining their Serie A status. A team boasting technically gifted players managed by a Coach who loves nothing more than a courageous attack, the little side have entertained their way to history.

However, this is a team that hails from a town with just over 39,000 inhabitants, has an entrepreneur as a owner who has admitted to supporting Milan over his own team, and a long-term future that is uncertain even if their owner pledges an ambitious project.

Without Eusebio Di Francesco, who is likely to depart either now or next season, Sassuolo have no playing philosophy and will lose the one thing that enchanted the viewers - daring tactics. The players including the entire front-line may not be even be there next season. Antonio Floro Flores is on loan from Genoa whilst both Domenico Berardi and Simone Zaza are co-owned by Juventus and will be recalled at one point.

Others including Paolo Cannavaro are there for the short haul, making it interesting to see whether or not there is a genuine strategy to create something special with this club. The current side appears make-shift and not even sporting director Giovanni Rossi, hopes to be there for long, moving to Sassuolo to gain experience in a role when he used to be in charge of Juve’s youth.

The Neroverdi’s survival has come at a cost as Bologna’s to Catania condemned both to Serie B. The first is an institution of football, Serie A winners five times - not counting their victories prior to the creation of the League - and a club that boasts history, prestige and a strong following.

“I’m not only sorry for the city of Bologna but for the Italian top flight that has taken a step back,” said former Prime Minister Romano Prodi when speaking of the club’s relegation. Indeed Serie A has lost an important club, one that draws in TV audiences, an average stadium attendance of 21,145 and can count on being Italy’s 11th best supported club according to a survey conducted by L’Istituto Nielsen.

By all means, their results, woeful performances and poor management have led to their demotion.

Continuously selling off their best players each season coupled with the dismissal of a Coach Cesare Prandelli labelled as one Serie A’s finest, has led to this disaster. Serie B may well allow them the opportunity to accept their failures and build for a brighter future, but Italy needs its big clubs to be strong.

Perhaps as much as it needed Hellas Verona to return to the top. The side promoted back to the top flight last summer counted on huge attendances even when they were playing provincial opposition in Serie B. Boasting an identity and ambitions for future development, Verona count on pedigree, popularity and a great history. Meanwhile Chievo, their rivals, are far from entertaining and barely followed yet they too have secured their top flight status.

It’s important to note here that this does not mean that teams that cannot count on great support and an exquisite history should toil away in the bottom leagues. Catania have done wonders to deserve their place in the top flight in recent years despite a less than glamorous history. President Antonino Pulvirenti’s reputation as ‘business man’ aside, Catania as a club have grown exponentially.

Until this season, they have steadily risen up the table, boast one of the best training grounds in the country, have recently signed the deed to purchase the land to build their own stadium and have overseen a rise in attendance, boasting a 16 per cent increase in season tickets for 2013-14. They are a club with ambition and a long-term strategy that will not only benefit the team but the city and the League as a whole.

Congratulations to Sassuolo and Chievo, they truly deserve their success but Italy needs it’s biggest clubs to improve and succeed to help ease economic failures and restore the reputation of Serie A.

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Have your say...
Not sure if this is right to say.So you want only teams with names to be there that do not add any football.If it was not for teams like Cameroon,Nigeria,etc.the World Cup wont be such a spectacle.I get bored watching Barca,Munich,Juve,RM winning.What makes football interesting are the Palermos,Parmas,Sassulos,Chievo,etc.They put effort,hardwork to match the Prima donnas of football inspiring kids that with hardwork dreams can come true.
on the 21st May, 2014 at 7:13am
I don't see how this changes anything, it's all part of football that big teams will at times alternate between Serie A and the lower leagues. In the last decade we've seen Juventus, Fiorentina, Torino, Bologna, Napoli, Genoa, and Verona all in Serie B and/or Lega Pro. A better blog would have been about the big clubs learning something from Sassuolo (investing in young Italian players) and Chievo (financial stability through intelligent management).
on the 21st May, 2014 at 5:33am
I would suggest that the writer of this blog not write for this site again. They have I knowledge of Italian football. Sassuolo are exactly what Italian football needs. As many have pointed out they have 95% Italians in their team. How can that not be good for Italian football as a whole! Terrible blog
on the 19th May, 2014 at 12:47am
Sassuolo played attractive football and fielded a team of mostly young ITALIANS, whereas Bologna is a poorly run organization, and Catania is the Argentina C team. Hopefully Sassuolo can keep some of it's star players for at least one more season, and maybe even develop some new young talent.
on the 15th May, 2014 at 12:27am
For me Roma, Fiorentina, Parma, Verona, Torino, Atlanta and the ever dependable (in Serie A) Udinese offer some hope. How these teams do in Europe next year is anyone's guess. Meanwhile incidents like in Atlanta and the Coppa Italia final are an embarrassment for the league and the stadiums are over 30 years out of date. For me lots of changes needed with big and small clubs across the board in Serie A. Bit like the Italian economy....
on the 14th May, 2014 at 2:45pm
I'll give the author credit for playing devils advocate but this blog seems to have bombed! Italian football (all football) needs stability. Sassuolo were hardly the most stable side when they hired and fired and hired and will soon fire Di Francesco. This has been a theme with other clubs this season and Palermo are back in town also. The Milan clubs are a mess and Lazio are not in the best of shape. Juve are runaway winners but couldn't get out of their CL group.
on the 14th May, 2014 at 2:40pm
The reality is there needs to be more teams like Saussuolo in Serie A, who have a progressive owner that plays young italian players with a good attractive style. Its good to have some foreign talent for diversity but teams like Inter, Napoli, and Fiorentina, are a disgrace when they play 10 foreigners every game. Then they ship out the young talent to Serie B or lower because the fear of losing. Serie A needs to look at the talent it has in its own backyard, and develop it.
on the 13th May, 2014 at 11:45pm
If they manage to keep these players which they probably will considering they are still very young Sassuolo will be even better next season. Chievo have also relied on the likes of Paloschi. This is where the Serie A needs to be headed allowing young Italians on the pitch.
on the 13th May, 2014 at 9:40pm
Completely wrong Mina. Couldn't be happier that Chievo and especially Sassuolo have stayed up. Bologna and Catania are what is wrong with the Serie A and Sassuolo is where the Serie A needs to be headed. Catania are a side made up of all South Americans with only Lodi in the starting 11. Bologna are also a side filled with half ass talent with minimal amounts of Italians in the squad. Sassuolo are a side made up of 95% Italians and most of them are young. If they manage to keep these youngsters
on the 13th May, 2014 at 9:37pm
Disgusting blog. We should be rejoicing that a small club like Sassuolo have stayed up. The reputation (wrongly) of Serie A is that of defensive football with an "avoid defeat rather than win mentality".

Sassuolo in every game this season no matter who theyve played have gone out to win games. Yes they took hammerings, but they beat giants Milan and Fiorentina (both 4-3) by playing exciting football, and where most bottom half clubs would park the bus and take a draw.

Congratuations Sassuolo.
on the 13th May, 2014 at 7:48pm
Serie A needs more teams to be brave and change their philosophy in favour of youth and dynamic football. Almost every team that has emerged as a 'surprise package' this year has done it incorporating younger talented players into the mix all while playing more attractive football. This is the way forward, not holding on to relics of the past.
on the 13th May, 2014 at 5:36pm
Completely disagree. Italy needs more 'Sassuolos', and less Bolognas. If Italian football wants to start a new era then it needs to let go of the past and move to the future. If a club like Bologna cant even avoid relegation what good are they doing in the top flight? Regardless of how important the city itself may be, the football team has completely backslid and it should look to the likes of tiny Sassuolo for guidance. They wisely pick up burgeoning talent and used it to stay up.
on the 13th May, 2014 at 5:33pm

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