Italy’s de­cline can be traced to Serie A’s prob­lems

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

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.

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 honor.

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.

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