Serie A

Serie A – Italians Disappoint in Europe

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Italy had a great start to the season following the Euros when they were crowned champions and many felt that this would be a turning point to the Italian Serie A, a league that hasn’t faired well in Europe over the past 5 years. AC Milan, Inter Milan, and Atalanta represent the Italian league in this year’s installment of the Champions League but may stumble to the Europa League come next year’s knockout rounds.

A combined two wins for the three Italian clubs don’t look pretty and they face a disappointing exit from Europe’s elite competition. With 8 games done, Napoli and AC Milan lead the way in the Italian League but there’s still a long way to go. Group D and F are still tight, giving Inter and Atalanta fans hope of qualifying for the next round of games, along with all the monetary benefits.

Regardless of how things play out, no one expects an Italian side to win the Champions League anytime soon, so following their nation’s win at the Euros this year, what do Italian sides need in order to gain dominance in the Champions League?

Over recent years there has been a lot of new investments pouring into the Italian League, notably from Asia and Eastern Europe. However, these clubs haven’t been able to compete with those from England, Germany, and Spain so managers have had to settle with bargains and loans for Europe’s top talents. Italian clubs do have the capacity with some of the big clubs employing serial winners such as Jose Mourinho, Mauricio Sarri, and Massimiliano Allegri.

Recent statistics show that the Premier League spent a whopping £1,140m ($1,382m) whilst the Italian League spent £475m ($657m). The Italians are drastically trying to climb up Europe’s top 5 leagues and compete with The Bundesliga and La Liga. Juventus, Inter, and Parma Calcio spent close to £236m ($325m) alone, and this proves that the Italian Leagues are increasing their pace and trying to catch up with the other 4 Leagues in Europe.

AC Milan and Atalanta still don’t have the financial backing that Inter, Juventus, Roma, and Napoli have, yet they employ pragmatic managers who rely on young talent and experienced players to create a dynamic way of competing. AC Milan has drastically climbed the echelons of Serie A, a league they once reigned over, and are now battling to stay consistent amongst the highly financed clubs around them, whilst Atalanta continues to show bravery as they employ an expansive play of football.

Italy vs Europe

Italian club owners and federations have recognized what is needed to compete in the modern game, and with the TV rights belonging to English football, Serie A is trying to make a come back to bring in more revenue so that the Italian League can once again command respect and fear from oppositions. The decline of La Liga over the recent years has shown with the biggest clubs in the world (Barcelona and Real Madrid) confirming large amounts of debt and financial losses over the past few years. The departure of the greatest player to ever grace the game will sting the viewership for the Spanish League but they still play host to dedicated fans all across the globe.

No doubt Real Madrid will recover from this setback, but for now, the dominance of the Spanish League can be matched by the Italians if they’re able to confidently and strategically invest and improve in the next 5 years. Perhaps there’ll be Arab princes interested in taking over one of the Italian clubs, or more Chinese backing? Serie A’s future doesn’t look as dull anymore and top managers are still keen to try their hand in the league.

Decades prior, Italian clubs were the clubs that no team enjoyed facing in European competitions. The likes of AC Milan, Juventus, Roma, and Inter Milan were constant visitors of the knockout rounds, and opponents found it hard to break down these resilient defense-driven teams. The glory days of Milan saw them win 7 European cups, second only behind Real Madrid, and no one can forget the great players that they housed including Kaka, Pirlo, Maldini, Dida, Inzaghi, and Seedorf, but to name a few. Juventus had the likes of Buffon, Zidane, Cannavaro and this was a regular occurrence, the world’s best players played in the Italian or Spanish leagues.

Football fans will know how difficult it was to beat Italian teams in the Champions League but the last Italian side to win the Champions League was Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan in 2010 and since then no Italian side has won it, the closest was Juventus but they too fell short against the powerhouse of Barcelona that had the likes of Suarez, Neymar, and Messi. Perhaps the influx of money into Italian leagues will help boost not only the clubs and their facilities but also serve as an incentive for players to play.

Racism

Young Napoli fans hold a portrait of Napoli’s Senegalese defender Kalidou Koulibaly reading “Although I am small, I’m a man like Koulibaly” prior to the Italian Serie A football match Napoli vs Bologna on December 29, 2018 at the San Paolo stadium in Naples. – Napoli’s French-born Koulibaly was targeted by monkey noises and racist chants on December 26, 2018 at the San Siro stadium in Milan, before being sent off for sarcastically applauding the referee. (Photo by Carlo Hermann / AFP) (Photo credit should read CARLO HERMANN/AFP via Getty Images)

Italian clubs have constantly come under public scrutiny for their lack of action towards racism against players. Players received abuse as recently as October 2021 when Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly faced intense abuse against Florentina. Italian football federation along with UEFA constantly campaign and encourage fans to report racist behaviors however, not enough is being done. Players merely receive a small fine or 8 match ban for racist remarks whilst fans are either banned or fined but there is no further action. Education is one of the first steps that need to be instilled into communities from a grassroots level in order to combat societal racism that lurks beneath the surface.

England, Spain, and German leagues face the same crisis, and are not exempt by any way or form, these leagues are just as guilty of not doing enough, and players, fans, and communities have to live with and experience these disgusting acts against humanity whilst just enjoying the beautiful game. Premier League players have constantly urged social media platforms to do more to curb and halt racism online towards players and fans, campaigns have run, blackouts were initiated but none of these did enough to even claim that we’re moving in the right direction.

When England lost in the European Championships, Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka (20), Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford (23) and Raheem Sterling (26) received incredibly disgusting abuse following their performances. Saka, just 20 years old felt the brunt of the abuse following his missed penalty, whilst Raheem Sterling has constantly been abused by both English and away European fans. Things like this sadden football fans that enjoy the beautiful game and love their players, regardless of how they look or where they’re from.

At 20 years old, Bukayo Saka has shown immense courage, strength, and resilience to bounce back from the abuse and continue his football journey, a bright one at that. Months later, and everything is swept under the rug, the English FA focuses on other issues and lays the law down on things like the Super League and other issues but simply does not do enough against racism.

What exactly can be done? What should be done? Those are questions former professionals such as John Barnes and Patrice Evra have constantly discussed, but there haven’t been any discussions from the FA, UEFA, FIFA, or any of the other footballing leagues. This is a worry, and a constant reminder of how little is done, apart from temporary social media campaigns. Next year will see another FIFA World Cup being played in Qatar, and more worrying concerns are raised with how FIFA is going to fight against racism following events of the past 3 years.

Serie A continues this weekend with an exciting round of games following a disappointing week in the Champions League. Clubs will want to bounce back especially Roma following Mourinho’s worst defeat where they lost 6-1 to Norwegian side FK Bodø/Glimt, AC Milan will want to continue their sensational form in the league and keep up the pace with Napoli, whilst Juventus will want to improve on form and climb up the table.

Do you think any Italian club will make the knockout rounds of the Champions League? Let us know in the comments!


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Main image credits: Embed from Getty Images

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A martial arts enthusiasts as well as practitioner of traditional chinese martial arts. I'm an avid mma fan and love writing. I also love football and have great insight into behavior and psychology of athletes.