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Sunday, July 17, 2011

Why An Italian Team Won't Win The Champions League In A Decade.

Inter Milan's Champion's League Win 2010.

          It hasn't been that long since a team from the Italian Serie A won the Champion's League. Inter Milan won it in 2010 after defeating the mighty Barcelona in the semi's and  Bayern Munich in the final.  Inter had a fantastic team that year, and an even more fantastic coach Jose Mourinho. This was a great year for Italian soccer in that aspect, but I don't see this happening again for a while.  This isn't due to the fact that there's not a stand- out team in Italy capable of dominating other teams in Europe, but in truth their isn't. This decline is due more to the internal workings of their domestic game. For one: the domestic game is rank with corruption and scandal. John Tague from the Independent explained it best by saying," This is a nation where the largest selling daily newspaper is dedicated almost entirely to football; where its former ruling party is named after a football chant; and where its former Prime Minister owns one of the league's most famous clubs." In my life time my knowledge of this corruption dates back  to the forced-relegation of Juventus in 2006, but I have read that it dates back to the 1920's. This scandal involving Juve was know as Calciopoli. This word is a spin off on the saying "Tangentopoli" or "Bribesville," often used to describe Italy's corrupt government. The "Calcio " in Calciopoli means football in Italian, pertaining it to recorded telephone conversations linking managers from Juventus and other Italian clubs to referee organizations, suggesting the clubs where  rigging matches. The  punishments in result of this varied between the teams implicated, but Juventus, the league winners, ended up the worst with the stripping of their title. 
You may wonder why this would impact a one-off game when any team, Italian or not could win on the day. True, off the field matters may not effect players in a game but, can have serious effects on how a club is run and is set up. This could be do to a lack of tactical nonce, philosophy of play or cases when official's of a club,  who know nothing of playing football, only running a club force managers into making decisions that see them profit in someway. Anyone of these reasons can explain why Italian teams have been performing poorly in the Europe. Don't get me wrong there're strong Italian teams, capable of beating any world powerhouse, but the chances of this happening are slimming. This is because Italy lost their  fourth Champions League spot, due to German teams performing better in the latter stages of the Champion's League competition.  This goes into effect for the 2012-13 season insuring only the top 3 teams in Italy will qualify for the competition.

Beyond the scandal and shrinking European prowess what's killing Italian football the most is the stadiums. They're simply not good enough. They are outdated, in need of renovation since the last time they hosted a major tournament, the World Cup in 1990. Many have running tracks around the pitch, putting fans farther away from the action than stadiums without. Attendance's are among the worst in Europe, clearly seen on t.v. with numerous empty seats, creating a flat atmosphere. Imagine introducing someone to Serie A, who is new to the game, sitting them down and having them see a vacated stadium. They want to see passion and atmosphere, that's what gets fans into the game and increases growth and interest, but if fans in Italy don't show up to games why should you make the effort? Building of new/ renovating and expanding old ones would increase attendances and atmosphere.
Italy flounders at the World Cup South Africa 2010.
In such a corrupt country,where everyone is just looking for the payoff, it makes me wonder how they can focus on growing the game internally. The answer can be seen at youth levels and the National team. It hasn't been so long since Italy won a World Cup which was in 2006, same year as the Calciopoli scandal. This was a high for Italian soccer but since then the team has struggled to bring up young talent, relying too heavily on the old guard of Pirlo, Del Piero, Cannavaro and Iaquinta. All fantastic players, but their time has come and past.  These players have been in the International set-up for years and have done well, but new talent is needed. This was most apparent last summer at the World Cup in South Africa where they absolutely capitulated not even progressing form their group. Recently coach Cesare Prandelli  has brought new faces into the mix like  Domenico Criscito, Claudio Marchisio, Giampaolo Pazzini and American born forward Giuseppe Rossi. Players who will be  integral in the success of the  Italian National Team for years to come, but I still ask for more. The fact is the youth in Italy don't get a shot at the senior squad. According to report on, their are only 18 players playing in Serie A that are getting regular first team action, after going through all the youth levels with that team. That's astounding! The best example of how the system seems to function in Italy can be seen in the case of Sebastian Giovinco. Giovinco known as the "Atomic Ant, for his short stature (5'4) and his sublime dribbling skills,is considered by myself and other pundits to be the future of Italian football. As an attacking midfielder he has been billed as a replacement for Andrea Pirlo, occupying the same play-making role, pinging passes and controlling the tempo. Not given a shot a Juve he was loaned out to Empoli and then Parma, who he signed for permanently just last year. It is not abnormal for a young player, Giovinco now 24, to be loaned out to another club to gain first team experience, but when  Alberto Aquilani was called back to Liverpool it left Juve with one less attacking midfielder. In response they go out and sign another player, instead of having kept a promising, youthful player that they could slot right into the first team. The player they signed is oddly enough Andrea Pirlo. The youth doesn't get a chance to play the game at the highest level, therefore their development suffers.
If you combined all these reasons you have why I don't think we will have a Italian Club Champion for 10 or so years.1.) Game embroiled in scandal  2.) Have one less Champions League spot, so one less team competing in the competition. 3.) Being seemingly opposed  to giving youth a chance, poor transfer policies, outdated style of play and set up, suffering national team 4.)Partly-filled stadiums possibly due to an uninterested public, making for poor, growth debilitating spectacles. 5.) Mediocre teams preforming poorly in Europe. Growing the footballing philosophy takes a while, and Italy's is crying out for renovations. What the future will hold,,, I don't know, but I will bet you on my nana's life that an italian team will not be lifting the trophy with the big ears any time soon.

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