Inter Milan’s victory over Barcelona may have been special for the Nerazzurri and their fans, but even if Jose Mourinho’s side reach the final and take the title, it can’t disguise the fact that Italian football is in a bad way.
Around 10 -15 years ago, the Italian sides were the teams to beat in Europe. This just isn’t the case anymore, aside from Inter the other Serie A sides in Europe failed to impress, aside from perhaps Fiorentina who were unlucky to be beaten by Bayern Munich, with Juventus’ Europa League exit at the hands of Fulham considered ‘humiliating’, and not just for the Old Lady, but for Italian football as a whole.
So where has this problem come from and how come La Liga and, in particular, the Premier League have blown the Italian competition out of the water? AC Milan Vice President Adriano Galliani attributes the decline, in part, to the infamous ‘Calciopoli scandal’ in 2006. Widespread corruption was uncovered, Juventus were relegated to Serie B and AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio were all banned from European competition for 12 months – indeed, Fiorentina were also relegated to Serie B but won an appeal allowing them to stay in Serie A.
This is what Galliani said: “One of the effects of the Calciopoli is to have reverberations on the Uefa index for Italy and from now on it’s practically certain that Germany will overtake us.”
The ‘Uefa index’ to which Galliani is speaking of is the UEFA coefficient table. I’ve tried to understand this table fully and put it into words I think everyone can understand – but I can’t, it is quite frankly one of the most difficult systems I’ve ever come across – but basically it will result in Italy losing a Champions League place to Germany’s Bundesliga from next season if Bayern Munich reach next month’s Champions League final and Hamburg get past Fulham in the Europa League semi-finals. Even if that scenario doesn’t play out, it will only result in an extra year for the Italians to enjoy four Champions League places due to their poor performances over the last four years in European competition.
There was a time when the big Serie A sides could attract the world’s most talented individuals. Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo (the Brazilian one, obviously) both rose to international superstar status in Italy, while Gabriel Batistuta rejected the advances of Manchester United to stick with Fiorentina – I simply can’t see this happening now, can you imagine if United went for La Viola’s Riccardo Montolivo only for the player to decide he was better off where he was? Nope, me neither.
The stars of Serie A have now all but gone, both Kaka and Zlatan Ibrahimovic made the switch to Spain last summer and those two were, without a doubt, the most famous players in the league. The biggest names in Italian football at the moment are probably Jose Mourimho and Ronaldinho and both have been linked with summer moves away from Serie A, as has Milan starlet Alexandre Pato, perhaps Serie A’s most exciting young talent.
Inter Milan were impressive against Barca in Italy, and it will be a massive achievement if they can hold of the La Liga league-leaders in Spain and reach the final, but Serie A as a whole is not in great shape and you get the feeling that if ‘the special one’ left Inter they’d probably struggle too.