Can Serie A Return To Being A Force In Europe

Sami Khedira Juventus

Italian clubs are playing their parts in the key transfer sagas of the summer, but can they make a splash in Europe again next term?

Italian clubs ruled football in the 1980s and 1990s.

The likes of AC Milan, Juventus and Internazionale turned out to be the glamour teams as they paraded some of the finest players in the game.

These clubs had lots of cash and used it to sign globally acclaimed stars from Italy and abroad.

These included arguably the world’s greatest player Diego Maradona who spent seven glorious years at Napoli. Others include Marco Van Basten, Frank Rijkaard, Ruud Gullit, Gabriel Batistuta, Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldo, Cafu, George Weah, Alessandro Nesta, Clearance Seedorf, Fillipo Inzaghi, Roberto Carlos, Pavel Nedved, Christian Vieri, David Trezeguet, and a host of others who put Italian football on top of the food chain.

Some of the players listed above were, at some point, the most expensive transfers in the history. Italian clubs also produced the highest number of recipients of the former the FIFA World Player of the Year award with eight winners.

Those glory days seem however to be distant memory as Italian football has been on a decline in recent times.

Clubs don’t have the same resources as they did, and attracting big names has become problematic because of financial difficulties. Players are opting to move to England, which is making the EPL more appealing for TV audiences, while interest appears to be dwindling on Serie A match days.

Match fixing scandals like the ‘Calciopoli’ of 2006 and others have crippled Italian football, along with racist chants, which appear to be the order of match days. The Italian FA look powerless to prompt an improvement.

Seven-time European champions AC Milan have struggled to qualify for the continental elite competition of late, like last season, when they finished a dismal tenth in the league. Inter also finished down in eighth and it raises the question if there is ever going to be light illuminating on Italian football again?

The appearance of Juventus in the Champions League final in Berlin in May has raised some hope for Italian football. The Bianconeri have managed to claim four consecutive Scudetti and these have come under the brilliance of players like Carlos Tevez, Andrea Pirlo, Paul Pogba and Claudio Marchsio, who have all been in the transfer spotlight in recent times. The recent slump in fortune of the Milanese clubs has seen them go through some restructuring in management with takeovers and different managerial appointments along with player acquisitions.

Can Serie A recover from the departure of star men such as Arturo Vidal and Carlos Tevez?

The first two of this quartet, as well as midfielder Arturo Vidal, have departed, but this need not necessarily spell the end for the Old Lady.

AC Milan’s appointment of Sinisa Mihajlovic as manager along with the signings of prolific strikers Carlos Bacca and Luiz Adriano, Italian midfielder Andrea Bertolacci, and the rumoured return of old boy Zlatan Ibrahimovic demonstrates that the Rossoneri mean business and want to aim for the top once again.

Inter have also followed suit with their rivals by signing promising midfielder Geoffrey Kondogbia from Monaco, experienced and decorated defender Miranda, Colombian centre back Jeison Murillo and Barcelona academy graduate Martin Montoya.

Rehiring former coach Roberto Mancini to take the reins at the San Siro further highlights the desire for the Nerazzuri to go back to their glory days. Building on their failed attempt to win a treble last term, Juventus have reacted swiftly to the departures of hitman Tevez and midfield lynchpin Pirlo by signing Mario Mandzukic, Paulo Dybala, Simone Zaza and Sami Khedira. Manager Massimiliano Allegri has also committed his future to the Old Lady by signing a three-year contract extension.

All these signings put together should, on paper, ignite the fire to propel these clubs back to the top, but it has been seen in past seasons that despite signing some fine players things, did not work out to expectations. For instance in 2008, Inter acquired Fredy Guarin, Rodrigo Palacio, Samir Handanovic and Alvaro Pereira, spending in excess of  €40 million. However, the Nerazzuri finished ninth in the league.

Could these transfers bring the same uninspired results?

Failure for the players and managers to deliver will only add more woes to the existing problem Italian football faces in the quest to redeem its image. Only when the Italian top flight is as competitive as it once was, and only when the big names on paper begin to produce the big results, consistently, can we truly say that Italian football has emerged from the darkness.

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