The decline of Serie A and the Juventus rejuvenation
Juventus didn’t do it. Not for the lack of trying mind, there spirited performance against a dominant Barcelona squad was worthy of a runners up medal, but us romantics of the game will be left with the Pirlo crying face for quite some time. Ironically the defeated face of Italian football has been in view for quite some time.
Massimiliano Allegri deserves praise for what he’s achieved this season, given that at the start he was an underwheming candidate perceived by the Vecchia Signora faithful. From Conte leaving on the first day of pre-season training, it left a void, especially as Juve were being beaten for the then-promising striker-cum-winger Juan Iturbe, the fans were dismayed at the appointment of a former rival manager in Allegri.
Constant excellent performances from a fluid and cohesive team had won over the fans pretty quickly with stand out performances from key players such as Pirlo and Tevez and decent introductions from Evra and Morata, got them giddy on what they could expect. Possibly a Serie A title and the fans would have been happy. Coppa Italia the fans less so, but combine the two and you have a double which the fans haven’t seen in 20 years. Triumphant wins against the likes of Real Madrid and Monaco and you have the firm and undivided attention of the Juventus Stadium.
The construction of the Juventus Stadium is one which has become pioneering move across Italian football and not a moment too soon. Given that majority of the stadia in the Serie A is either shared with another local side, such as Lazio/Roma, Milan/Inter (etc) and that majority of the stadiums are in a bad state given that most will have had the World Cup 90 treatment of getting ready for the big finals but since, teams have found it hard to place where whom is to pay.
Back in 1990 in preparation for the World Cup, the Italian Government spent roughly a €1 billion to build new stadiums and renovate old which have since been left in the hands of the local municipalities in which case own majority of the clubs grounds in Italy. Good news on that front is that there is 3/4 teams looking to branch out in the same way that Juventus did from Delli Alpi and more so, a move away from the local municipalities ownership.
Milan with, it seem future investment from the far east, look to move into the centre of Milan away from the age old San Siro. Roma look to be doing the same alongside Udinese with help from their financial backers. I find it mystifying that 30 years after Heysel, in which Juventus saw first hands on what an overlooked Stadium in terms of stature and safety, which only now are the clubs in Italy starting to take notice of something so important to fans and clubs in the modern game.
With the stadia crumbling for as long as the problems with racism and crowd trouble, in particular the Ultra’s, namely at Roma, Lazio and Napoli, still hold Italian football in a dark place. With crowds fluctuating and generally on the decrease due to an ever increasing TV presence in modern day football, alongside the issues raised above, has led to clubs with dwindling attendances with the fans choosing to stay indoors rather than go to a match.
With dwindling attendances you have less money, the less money you have the less creative talent you can bring through. Even if that talent is coming through with the likes of Verratti (Pescara), Berardi (Juventus) and Balde Diao at Lazio remain to convince and stay in the league. More so in the case of players at lesser squads like Torino and Pescara with Immobile and Veratti leaving for adventures abroad, there really needs to be a staying power in Serie A for it to compete with the big boys of Europe again.
On a positive note though, seedings for the European Cups may just change if Italy continue in the vain they have this year and with the teams in England falling out in rather spectacularly early fashion. Currently three teams go through to the Champions League, including the 3rd place playoff place, but given that English clubs seem to think the Europa League is either somewhere to blood youth players or to compete you may have to sacrifice a decent finish in the domestic league. Napoli and Fiorentina proved admirable in their pursuit of European fame this season which will help at the end of the day towards Italian coefficient rankings.
On a final note, Juventus have shown light and Agnelli has shown what it’s like for Italian clubs to treat the club as a business and not a decoration or something that sits in a portfolio. By taking note what has gone on at huge clubs such as Arsenal, Bayern Munich and Barcelona, Juventus have looked at themselves and decided that a corporate/business-like approach in regards to being self-sufficient with Marketing, facilities and hierarchy are possibly the best way out of this demise that Serie A currently finds itself in.
With other clubs such as Roma with American owners, Milan with soon-to-be new far eastern owners and Inter with wealthy Asian owners, you would hope that Juventus have shown this year that they with a bit of financial backing can get the Serie A back on track to becoming the Sunday lunchtime highlight they once were.