Saturday August 16 2014
Still hope in Serie A...

There will be plenty to appreciate and admire in this season’s Serie A, says Scott Fleming, just don’t look to the big boys to provide it.

If, like me, you were inducted into the cult of Serie A in the 1990s or early 2000s, you probably came to terms a while ago with the fact that Alvaro Recoba and Dario Hubner aren’t going to ride in on white steeds any time soon and bring about a return to the glory days.

Days when Italy’s top flight was home to several clubs with legitimate hopes of landing the Champions League trophy and the list of inbound transfers each summer bore a spooky resemblance to the Ballon d’Or shortlist.

This realisation doesn’t necessarily ruin the romance, it just requires you to love Serie A in a different way, with eyes wide open, recognising it for what it is - a competition lacking the financial might and star-studded glitz of Europe’s elite leagues, but compensating in plenty of other ways.

However, even the staunchest Serie A loyalists need hope for a better future, to sustain them through the depressingly frequent racism scandals, clubs changing their Coach four times a season and gifted youngsters being casually discarded only to be hailed as heroes elsewhere.

That hope has taken a severe bruising this summer, though. It began with May’s Coppa Italia Final, delayed and overshadowed by the shooting and later death of Napoli fan Ciro Esposito. Then there was the national side’s hugely disappointing World Cup campaign, followed by Cesare Prandelli’s exit amidst a hail of arrows aimed at him by critics quick to forget the wonders he worked at Euro 2012. This set in motion the chain of events that culminated earlier this week with Carlo Tavecchio ascending to the pinnacle of Italian football’s power structure, a man with the same deft touch for race relations as Enoch Powell. Oh, and lest we forget Antonio Conte, the finest tactician working on Italian soil, resigned his post at Juventus.

The most baffling part of all of this, however, is the strategies being enacted by the big clubs, as Serie A prepares to put all the rancour behind it in time for the big kick-off on August 30.

You would have been hard-pushed to find a less appropriate replacement for Conte than Massimiliano Allegri, in terms of style, personality and background, but that’s who Juve unveiled 24 hours after the three-time Scudetto winner’s exit.

Milan have filled their bench with yet another popular ex-player whose coaching CV is rather bare, and continued doing business with PSG - only now they’re accepting the French club’s cast-offs instead of selling them their best players.

Inter have retained the services of Walter Mazzarri despite his presiding over yet another water-treading ‘transitional’ season, one no more promising than the three that preceded it. President Erick Thohir seems more interested in strengthening the club as a corporate entity, and up front there’s the possibility of a Mauro Icardi-Dani Osvaldo strike partnership. No chance of controversy there…

Lazio have bought well but are still run by a man the majority of their fans can’t abide, whilst Fiorentina have sleepwalked through the summer waiting for the Juan Cuadrado saga to end.

And regardless of what they as individuals have to offer, it does the wider perception of Serie A no good when Premier League outcasts Nemanja Vidic, Patrice Evra and Ashley Cole can walk into Inter, Juve and Roma’s first teams, all of them at least three years removed from their prime.

There are exceptions of course, most notably Roma, many people’s Scudetto favourites, having avoided any major sales as yet and captured Juan Iturbe, who - alongside Gervinho - should form an attack so quick most of the division’s full-backs will have shin splints by Christmas.

But it’s away from Serie A’s traditional centres of power that the daring and inventive decisions are being made. Just look at Udinese and Cagliari, giving mavericks Andrea Stramaccioni and Zdenek Zeman a chance after high-profile failures at Inter and Roma respectively the season before last.

Or at Torino, who have shrugged off the loss of last season’s Capocannoniere Ciro Immobile by landing Mr Dream Goal himself, Fabio Quagliarella, for a mere €3.5m. Cagliari and Sampdoria both have new owners who are talking a good game, Sassuolo and Verona are aiming to build on colourful debuts last year and then there’s our old friends Maurizio Zamparini and Palermo, looking to learn from the mistakes they made last time, or just make them all over again - either way, it’s going to be very entertaining.

Hopefully the same can be said for season 2014-15 as a whole, in spite of the peculiar decisions being made by those in charge of the title contenders. 

Have your say...
It's embarrassing watching teams like Napoli, Inter, Roma and Lazio play with barely fielding any Italians. The problem with Serie A too many average foreigners playing in the league where club owners use them as investments. Udinese and Palermo are a good example of fielding a lot of south Americans only to sell them for investment purpose while off loading Italian players to Serie B and C. The quality of football in Italy has dropped because of the amount of poor quality foreigners.
on the 21st August, 2014 at 1:34am
@maldini heir
I feel the 'foreigners' are the problem. The amount of non-italians in Serie A is alarming. I think mm is correct, maybe worded harshly but spot on.
Juve will field Buffon, pirlo and hand full of players that all failed in the world cup. Milan will field the most overrated striker in football and a hand full of Italians that are nowhere near the class needed to win a world cup. Who will Inter, Napoli, Roma, or other 'top' team field that is actually young, Italian and top class?
on the 20th August, 2014 at 3:46pm
Verona building on what they did last year, that's what! Sold every player that stood out?? What rubbish! It would've been impossible for any provincial team to keep a player like Iturbe, so better to take the €15m profit and let him go. Romulo was the only other stand-out player to go. I suppose 20 goals by 36-year-old Luca Toni doesn't make him stand out.
on the 20th August, 2014 at 11:26am
Forza Tavecchio
on the 19th August, 2014 at 9:25pm
Serie A is a long way away from being up there with the Prem and La Liga.Even the german league is superior.

First thing that is needed are new stadiums.
That will take years so we can expect Serie A to be where it is for years to come.
on the 19th August, 2014 at 11:22am
@ Aussie John well Tavecchio's first "reform" is to end sanctions for "territorial discrimination" so we can go back to abusing Napoli fans again! I didn't necessarily agree with the rule but it should hardly be on the top of the agenda for our newly elected openly racist president. Glad to see he's on board with making stadiums more family friendly!
on the 18th August, 2014 at 7:52pm
Yeah Scott! What about Napoli? That's right they're not part of Italy!
on the 18th August, 2014 at 4:44pm
serie a can compete with any league in Europe in terms of flair technique skill stadiums are needed no question about that...get rid of the idiots at the games..the troublemakers,racists etc...beef up security...but as much as you think bad press is killing you...surprisingly it can help as well.Serie a must find a way to market itself better attracting young famalies that being said Imports are needed,however how many well it's a question of how much homegrown talent is being develop.
on the 18th August, 2014 at 1:32pm
Sure the other leagues are dishing out ridiculous amounts of money for, however eventually that bubble will burst. I'm looking at you La Liga!
on the 18th August, 2014 at 1:25pm
Stop the presses! I actually agree with Maldini's Heir haha. How can the writer criticise our club for strengthening our corporate sector while bemoaning the lack of money in the league? The two go hand in hand, Italian clubs don't have the funds to compete BECAUSE their corporate sectors have fallen behind those of Spain/Germany/England. To make money in a modern market you need a modern marketing scheme! This isn't genius level logic now is it? FORZA INTER!!!
on the 17th August, 2014 at 12:34pm
And the racism and the empty seats. Unfortunately I can't see serie a competing again until it sorts out the stadiums,
on the 17th August, 2014 at 11:55am
If there's not enough money to go round then serie a should focus on signing 2/3 quality players each. While I've no issue with the signings of Vidic, Evra and Coke but clubs should be focusing on signing the next greats. If serie a becomes a selling league then so be it but at least we should be signing quality. Serie A will always attract certain players from South America and Continental Europe. But the big thing that needs to change is the stadiums. They're just unpleasant ATM with ultras
on the 17th August, 2014 at 11:53am
@ anonymous sharma good to see someone's optimistic but there's no doubting that the money just isn't there. Most of the teams have ruffled together some freebies. Worse so many transfers are token. Players are being moved around for the sake of it just so people can look busy. Milan have made something like 16 changes to the first team squad since last season but it's been mostly re-arranging the deck chairs on the titanic. The glaringly obvious weakness in the centre of our defence.
on the 17th August, 2014 at 11:43am
@ anonymous there's no point in milan even thinking about developing youth players while the two CBs which are the heart of the team are not good enough. Apparently Zapata is linked with other clubs. So are only decent CB could be sold. It's beyond ridiculous.
on the 17th August, 2014 at 11:36am
@ mm I'm not particularly happy with the state of serie a but your little rant reads like a UKIP or Lega Nord pamphlet. Foreigners are not the problem in serie a or anywhere else. Italy thankfully is part of the EU which has brought peace to countries which were once at war. Therefore it's really not ok to talk about foreign invasions. As things stand Juve, Roma and milan will likely start with 5/6 Italians. The issue is quality not quantity.
on the 17th August, 2014 at 11:27am
Without selling anyone, Juve have had one of the worst transfer campaigns I can remember. Losing out to a smaller club like Arsenal for Sanchez and now Manolas. Pretty embarrassing.
on the 17th August, 2014 at 10:22am
Verona building on what ? They sold every player that actually stood out...
on the 17th August, 2014 at 9:54am
Sad to see Milan panicked and reverse the youth policy it introduced two seasons ago. Would have loved for them to build towards a three year programme with the likes of Mario, El Sharaawy, Cristante, De Sciglio, et al ,being groomed to full potential when they made the transition after releasing their aging lot in 2012. Two valuable seasons had been lost, which they could have written off by sticking to their youth rebuilding project.
on the 17th August, 2014 at 9:16am
None of Ashley Cole, Patrice Evra or Vidic are a part of the starting 11's. Infact Evra and Vidic were a part of United's first team.
Moreover Inter have strengthened too quite considerably . So have Roma and Napoli. Juve's biggest buy this summer is around 20M whereas that of Bayern is 11M (Juan Bernat).
Milan have brought in 4 players for free but all in their primes and all of could've cost around 10-15 million each had they been on running contracts.
on the 17th August, 2014 at 8:05am
Shocking transfer, foreign invasion, most of the 'big clubs' will field 1, at most 2 italians. Our only hope seems to be to turn the rubbish clubs bring and make them italian! We have lost everything, defence, style everything. Conte is good but he isnt God he cant create players! We should ban transfers, thats the answer! We can not continue in this way; lose 1 half decent foreigner and replace him with 5 poor ones!!! Its outrageous. I see fans begging benatia to stay- I say let them all leave
on the 17th August, 2014 at 12:12am
Well, napoli havent done much fun this summer i suppose. exept getting another much needed striker. Either way im looking forward to the new season. Not many big players into the league this summer, but then again the talents and existing stars have yet to leave aswell.
on the 16th August, 2014 at 9:08pm
Spot on! At 30, this is really the first proper summer in my lifetime where I'm finding it extremely hard to look forward to the new season. I will however say that I'm surprised you've made no mention of Napoli. They underachieved last season, but they and Roma are possibly the only two clubs who have actually used the summer to make positive additions. Serie A is in a trance....a state of limbo! It is unfortunate, but it is either that or we sell out and become plastic like the premier league.
on the 16th August, 2014 at 7:31pm
Scott you just completely forgot about Napoli or you didn't find anything good about them ?
on the 16th August, 2014 at 7:07pm

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