Italy’s de­cline re­lated to Serie A’s prob­lems

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - SPORTS - ANDREW DAMPF

rome — The best play­ers in the world go else­where. The best coaches in italy em­i­grate. The sta­di­ums around the coun­try are fall­ing apart.

The lin­ger­ing prob­lems af­fect­ing italy’s do­mes­tic league might just be the rea­son for the coun­try’s fail­ure to qual­ify for next year’s World Cup.

“it’s time to make choices that per­haps in the past peo­ple didn’t have the courage to make,” ital­ian sports min­is­ter luca lotti said. “This world needs to be re­vised from the youth lev­els on up to serie a.”

The ital­ian league was once where the likes of diego maradona, marco van bas­ten and ruud Gul­lit came to play in the primes of their ca­reers. it’s where Kaka won the bal­lon d’or award with ac mi­lan in 2007 — the last time any­one be­sides lionel messi or Cris­tiano ron­aldo claimed the hon­our.

Para­dox­i­cally, the start of italy’s de­cline can be traced back to 2006 — the year italy won its fourth World Cup. That was also the year of the “Cal­ciopoli” ref­er­ee­ing scan­dal that saw Ju­ven­tus stripped of two serie a ti­tles and rel­e­gated to the sec­ond di­vi­sion as pun­ish­ment.

a num­ber of top play­ers left Ju­ven­tus af­ter the scan­dal and the “old lady” of ital­ian soc­cer re­quired half a dozen years to re­cover.

in the mean­time, the Pre­mier league emerged as the sport’s rich­est do­mes­tic com­pe­ti­tion while italy was elim­i­nated in the first round of the last two World Cups.

The Pre­mier league is where for­mer italy coach an­to­nio Conte now man­ages at Chelsea, hav­ing won the league in his first sea­son. it’s where Carlo an­celotti and roberto mancini also won ti­tles at Chelsea and manch­ester City, re­spec­tively.

Fabio Capello coached eng­land from 2008-12 and said he would never be in­ter­ested in lead­ing italy’s na­tional team.

any ital­ian coach who moves to eng­land raves about the fa­cil­i­ties there and the packed sta­di­ums. it’s the com­plete op­po­site of serie a, where most of the big squads play in di­lap­i­dated sta­di­ums that were last ren­o­vated for the 1990 World Cup — the last ma­jor tour­na­ment that italy hosted.

of italy’s six big­gest clubs — Ju­ven­tus, mi­lan, in­ter mi­lan, roma, lazio and napoli — only Ju­ven­tus has a new sta­dium that it op­er­ates on its own.

mi­lan and in­ter play in the cityrun san siro, roma and lazio play in the sta­dio olimpico run by the olympic com­mit­tee and napoli plays in the crum­bling san Paolo sta­dium.

Com­pli­cated laws and a lack of fund­ing have pre­vented clubs from build­ing new sta­di­ums. in 2014, the amer­i­can own­ers of roma pre­sented plans for a new sta­dium but haven’t been able to break ground yet due to a se­ries of bu­reau­cratic de­lays.

“in the years of the fat cows, when the big re­sults were com­ing in, if there had been at­ten­tion, fore­sight and logic, prob­a­bly all of the clubs would have a sta­dium of their own,” said ital­ian olympic Com­mit­tee pres­i­dent Gio­vanni malago, who over­sees all sports in the coun­try.

al­though italy is no longer the draw it was once for the best in the world, it still has a large con­tin­gent of for­eign-born play­ers. and that is stunt­ing the de­vel­op­ment of the coun­try’s tal­ent.

Ju­ven­tus has been the Cham­pi­ons league run­ner-up in two of the past three sea­sons, but the Turin squad has heav­ily re­lied on ar­gen­tine for­wards for its suc­cess: Car­los Tevez, Gon­zalo higuain and Paulo dy­bala.

Fed­erico bernarde­schi, one of italy’s most tal­ented young for­wards, joined Ju­ven­tus in a 40 mil­lion euro ($47 mil­lion) trans­fer this sea­son but has been largely rel­e­gated to the bench. so it’s no won­der that italy coach Gian Piero ven­tura used bernarde­schi only in a bench role in the play­off loss to swe­den on mon­day.

The only ital­ian who starts for serie a leader napoli is winger lorenzo in­signe, who was also re­duced to a bench role un­der ven­tura in a widely crit­i­cized de­ci­sion.

mean­while, napoli’s brazil­ian­born mid­fielder Jorginho was given his first com­pet­i­tive start for italy in the sec­ond leg of the play­off. eder, an­other brazil­ian-born player, ap­peared in the first leg.

With cap­tain Gian­luigi buf­fon, de­fender an­drea barza­gli and mid­fielder daniele de rossi hav­ing an­nounced their in­ter­na­tional re­tire­ments, italy needs a new gen­er­a­tion of az­zurri to step up.

and the younger play­ers need space in an im­proved serie a to be­come com­pet­i­tive

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILES

Italy’s team cap­tain Fabio Can­navaro holds aloft the World Cup tro­phy af­ter the fi­nal be­tween Italy and France in the 2006 World Cup in Ber­lin, Ger­many. The best play­ers in the world go else­where. The best coaches in Italy em­i­grate. The sta­di­ums around the coun­try are fall­ing apart. The lin­ger­ing prob­lems af­fect­ing Italy’s do­mes­tic league might just be the rea­son for the coun­try’s fail­ure to qual­ify for next year’s World Cup.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.