Clark Stupple Date: 7th January 2012 at 8:46am
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In the late eighties and early nineties Lega was undoubtedly one of the greatest leagues in the world, boasting some of the biggest names in football plying trade in Italy’s top flight Marco Van Basten, Ruud Guilt, Franco Baresi, Diego Maradona, Roberto Baggio, Lothar Matthaus to name but a few.

Fifty two of the five hundred and twenty eight players that competed in the Italia 90 world cup finals played in Serie A at the time and dozens more flooded to Serie A after the finals where finished. Italian football was first broadcast to the UK masses in 1992 when three million people tuned in to channel 4 to watch Football Italia every week.

Italian football soon become a global brand with everyone man and his dog trying to get in on the act.

Italian football’s “glory days” soon started to fade and finally died out in 2005 when channel 4 axed the Football Italia show and sold the concept off to the Bravo channel (if that didn’t indicate it going down the pan I don’t know what does). The ratings plummeted and many viewers switched off with a bitter taste in their mouth. They became jaded and started to spread the rumour of slow, boring, defensive games and diving prima-donnas, Sunday afternoons were now spent walking round ikea looking at flat pack furniture instead of watching James Richardson living it up in a Milan café drinking cappuccino and reading la gazzetta dello sport. This in turn lead on to a knock on effect leaving the rich Italian clubs with high wage bills without a two pennies to rub together and players abandoning ship for Spain and England in seek of new riches and money only ever dreamt of before.

Italian clubs were left with squads consisting of over aged has-been’s and South American imports. Many clubs like AFC Fiorentina and Parma F.C. found themselves in serious financial difficulty. Fiorentina suffered so badly they were forced out of existence. And forced were to re-form as Fiorentina Viola and start there climb to the top from Lega Serie C2.
At that point in time any talk of Italian football was met with a groan, so bad had the league’s reputation got for defective “anti-football”. Despite A.C. Milan, F.C. Internazionale Milano and Juventus F.C. still competing strongly in the UEFA Calico had now truly entered the “dark ages”.

Italian football has once again started to climb back to the heady heights of world football and is rapidly enhancing its stature despite this is still scared with negativity from mainstream English media. Even ex-players that graced Italian football have belittled Serie A. Ray Wilkins enraged me earlier on this season while being a pundit on SKY for the Udinese V’s Arsenal F.C. qualifier the former Milan midfielder stated “Italian football is not the force it used to be and is in a really bad way” (ok the first part of the statement could be correct) but by no stretch of the imagination is it in “a really bad way” only last month S.S.C. Napoli a team that as recently as 2004 where penny less in Serie C1 beat the world’s richest club Manchester City F.C. and later progressed further in the CL leaving there billionaire rivals dumped into the Europa league.

As we now approach the last 16 all three Italian teams remain in the completion, the same can’t be said about two of their four British counterparts despite the Italians having arguably tougher opponents in the group stages. Does this mean the top two teams in the English Premier League can’t compete in a tournament that even Inter seemed to of made easy work of despite struggling in their own domestic league. Last season Italy was stripped of one of its European football places due to not progressing as well as the English teams did last time out; will UEFA reverse their decision next year? if this is the case the team that finish 4th will not compete in the CL ( that would be Arsenal if it was last season The only English team that have been faultless in the tournament this season).

The mainstream English media continue to slate Italian football on a daily basis claiming the league is slow and out dated, but anyone with a footballing brain can clearly see they couldn’t be more wrong with teams like Juve and A.S. playing super attacking free flowing football week in week out Italian football has had a makeover and she looks beautiful and very risqué , with a very bright future ahead with teams like B.C. fielding a young squad and playing at a blistering high tempo and high line it makes great entertainment for any real football lover. The new batch or international stars almost rivals the names of the glory days with many top European clubs chasing the signature of some of Italy’s top players like and Edison Cavani.

One of the reasons for this rise in youth talent and new stile is how football is developed at grass roots level. In my first ever trip to Italy while travelling from Turin to genoa by train I was gob-smacked by the amount of local facilities I saw, there seemed to be a small side pitch or all weather surface of some kind every couple of miles if that. Also the technology which is now common place in professional football worldwide really owes a lot to the Italians where research into player’s health and fitness was first really monitored down the tiniest of details to help boost performance and prolong player’s careers. Milan’s Milanello training complex was one of the first high tech training facilities in the world now training complexes are common place.

Chelsea have a medical centre built inside Stamford bridge this was built when was appointed at Chelsea and was amazed to find the current regime had very poor facilities to monitor the players health and fitness, an idea that Ranieri was so familiar with he took it for granted that ever club had one, the Chelsea squad at the time didn’t take to kindly to be woken from the beds on a Monday morning to be wired to a heart monitor and made to run up to twelve miles on a tread mill at first but once players like Herman Crespo turned up the old Chelsea stall warts discovered this was the life of a modern day professional footballer, Welcome to the twenty first century Dennis Wise.

Here I have constructed a team from each league with the best possible players based on current form and overall success.

Serie A: Buffon, Silva, Nesta, Chiellini, Pirlo, De Rossi, Sneijder, Cerci, Giovinco, Cavani, Ibrahimovic.
English Premier League: Reina, Johnson, Vidic, Kompany, Cole, Toure, Modric, Silva, Bale, Suarez, Aguero

League

International Caps

Average Age

Combined Total of Last Transfer Fee

Average Transfer Fee

Home Grown Players

Serie A

607

28

£97.8 Million

£8.89 Million

7

English Premier League

534

26

£189.5 Million*

£17.2 Million

3

*Ashley Cole was £5 Million Plus a swap deal estimated value £25 Million

With Milan set to face Arsenal and Napoli set to face Chelsea in the knock out stages of the CL I guess the proof is in the pudding or as I would like to put it in the budino.

Hope fully after reading this and viewing the stats I have open your eyes a little to the Italian game. As a general summery I would like to point out that in fact Serie A isn’t full of Old, over paid and over rated players for that English fans might have to look a little closer to home “the grass might not be greener on the other side but it is growing fast in the right direction” EPL take a tip from the Italian game MONEY! Kills football you can’t buy history and the future is right under your nose not and the end of a check book.

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