Why Serie A is better than the English Premier League

Emirates Cup Arsenal v Milan (1-1) 31/07/2010 Sami Nasri (Arsenal) Clarence Seedorf (Milan) Photo Roger Parker Fotosports International Photo via Newscom

Like most soccer fans, I am a soccer league polygamist.  Because I live less than 20 minutes from an MLS club, I root for and follow Major League Soccer in the U.S.  However, I am also a passionate Arsenal fan who lives and dies in every match they play throughout the year.  And of course, I love Serie A best of all and have my favorite club, whose scarf I wore proudly this past Sunday.  I dare say almost every soccer fan, because of the diverse leagues around the world, has multiple favorite teams or leagues.

But as I read about Bobby Zamora’s recent leg break and as Arsenal players continue to suffer and recover from rough (or, if you prefer) violent tackles, it made me compare the style and content of play I watch in both the EPL and Serie A every weekend.  And upon reflection, I came to a conclusion I probably reached long ago but only now can put into writing:

Serie A soccer is superior to English Premier League soccer

This sentiment goes beyond just who has the best team (although it would be Serie A with reigning Champions League winners Inter).  Looking at the two leagues as a whole, Serie A is superior to the EPL in a number of ways both on and off the pitch and, if I were a novice soccer fan researching what league to watch, it should be obvious that I would want to watch Serie A.  The following are the reasons for this argument, and I welcome your thoughts in the comments section below and on Twitter @roberthayjr.  Thanks also to Niccolo for his contribution to this post:

  1. The Italian style of play is more fluid and skillful, while the EPL style is one of constant hard fouls – If you are a fan of an EPL club, it is almost inevitable that one of your most important players will miss time with a nasty injury picked up from a violent tackle.  Arsenal alone lost Robin Van Persie this year and Aaron Ramsey last year for extended time to hard fouls in league play.  It’s not just Arsenal – Tottenham fans will have to enjoy not watching Jermaine DeFoe for seven more weeks, Everton fans Jack Rodwell, Tottenham fans Luka Modric, etc.  Why?  Because these players are subject to constant fouling and aggressive slide tackling, which is the EPL style of play.  On a Serie A pitch, there are fouls and slide tackles, but you are more likely to see fluid passing and individual skill over broken shins.
  2. English fans whine about their clubs, Italian fans actively seek to undermine their clubs – AC Milan fans made news last year when one of their ilk, protesting club owner Silvio Berlusconi, threw a statue at him and knocked him out.  Manchester United fans, conversely, feel wearing old shirts conveys their anger sufficiently.  When a club under-performs in Italy, the fans act as though the world is ending and the papers ring endlessly with criticism and advice on just how the manager should have done differently.  If it’s truly bad, they simply do not attend and show the management what an empty stadium looks like.  English soccer fans and their local press more grumble and fall into a “woe is me” attitude.  The Italian style is much more fun.
  3. Serie A owners are much more interesting than their EPL counterparts –  Who would you consider the most interesting and exciting Premier League owner?  There are some who are hated, but that is more for their nationality and mismanagement (Glazers, Hicks).  Italy has some real characters running their clubs, likely because many of them are family owned and operated within the country.  The obvious one is Silvio Berlusconi, who is passionate about AC Milan and tends to make himself the center of most offseason stories; has an English owner ever said publicly the team would have won the Premier League if he had been manager, and was 100% serious?  Napoli’s Aurelio De Laurentiis is another colorful personality that loves to spend his family’s wealth on the club, and is not afraid to speak on it.
  4. Serie A has more parity than the EPL – Right now, the top four clubs in Serie A are Cesena, Inter, Chievo Verona, and Lazio, with Brescia right behind.  Granted it is early in the season, but it is much easier for smaller clubs to climb the ladder in Serie A than it is in the EPL.  The Premier League is dominated by four clubs every year and the story at the beginning of every season is which club can crack the top 4.  While Serie A has its Big Four (Juve, Inter, Milan, and Roma), it is much easier for smaller clubs to compete for European tournament spots.  A club with the budget and population of Chievo could never compete for a UEFA tournament in the EPL, but can in Serie A.
  5. Serie A clubs are more successful in Europe than EPL teams – Many people don’t realize this, but Italian teams have been more successful in European play (especially recently) than Premier League clubs.  Overall, Italian clubs have won 12 Champions League trophies versus 11 for England, but since 1992 that number has been 5 for Italy, 3 for England.  The same trend has held true for the UEFA Cup/Europa League: an Italian club has won the trophy 9 times (5 since 1992) and an English club has won the trophy 6 times (once since 1992).

0 thoughts on “Why Serie A is better than the English Premier League”

  1. So because Italian clubs were more successful in Europe at a time when all English clubs were banned from Europe, Italian football is better than English football, despite the English dominance in Europe over the last decade.

    It’s not about who wins the trophy but the fact English clubs dominate in the latter stages consistently.

    1. Actually no one cares about who comes 2nd, 3rd or 4th. All that counts is first. English clubs had 3 teams finish in the semi finals of the UCL in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Yet they only won in 2008 with AC Milan winning in 2007 and Barca in 2009. In the end all that matters is the winner because winning is where all the glory belongs. That is a fact. The EPL clubs could of won all those 3 years mentioned but they only managed to win it once despite all the clubs that had made it to the semis. End of the day it only takes one club to win it. AC Milan did it in 2007 and Inter (Being the only Italian club left in Europe since after the final 16 stage) did it for Serie A in 2010. Being the best is measured by wins and not insignifance UEFA Coefficiants which take into account 2nd place downwards which in the course of history no one really cares about in the end.

  2. I think it ebbs and flows, I agree though, at this point in time Serie A is the most exciting league as it is so open and this season has seen some great football, it really grinds on me when people go “but it’s just defensive”, because it depends on the team, its not like in the Premiership every game is exciting.

    You’ll find the real football fans are the ones who just want to watch a good game, I know all my mates will watch any game of football with an open mind and we just love to see a good game, I’ve always followed Serie A, La Liga and the EPL, I just like football!

    Last season Serie A was probably the most exciting, the season before that it was La Liga (especially for the last day relegation battle) and the season before that it was EPL. Like i said, it’s different all the time.

    1. Rob –

      Great point. Follow up for you – do you expect Bundesliga to be “most exciting” in the near future because of their up and coming players who played on the national team? I’d argue the same would apply to Serie A, but like to know your thoughts.

      1. I think Bundesliga is the ideal league for the way it puts the fans first, I’m from England and it feels like the Premier League is the exact opposite of it, it’s all about money. All leagues should be like it, in an ideal world the Bundesliga would be “the greatest league in the world”. I think it can be bigger, and it’s certainly welcome.

        I think Serie A’s new TV deal is going to help them a lot now and the fact that a lot of foreign investors are starting to look at buying into the league, it is look very appealing and of course it’s a great country and the teams have a lot of history, I never like to see “italian dominance” or “english dominance” because I like the Champions league to be equal every year with a chance for most teams to win it.

  3. For me, the biggest reason why I like Serie A (and Bundesliga) a lot is because the mid-table teams usually have more exciting players and play better football than the mid-table teams in England (and Spain, to an extent).

    1. Kevin –

      You hit the nail on the head, the fact that a Catania and Chievo is not simply expected to roll over as I think many mid-table EPL and La Liga teams are makes Serie A a better league to follow. It’s more “productive” to be a Bari fan than a Blackpool fan if you are looking for good results.

  4. I grew up in Johannesburg,South Africa (now in Windsor,UK). There, most people are loyal to the EPL, only because 90% of the games are televised! Being Italian, my loyalties were always closer to Serie A. Though of course, I watched the EPL . . . To me FOOTBALL IS MY RELIGEON, and I will watch as much of it as I possibly can! And yes, a good game in any leaque is a good game worth watching . . .
    However in my opinion, serie a, la liga, bundesliga and even the Brazilian and Argentine leagues are far more exciting then EPL for all the reasons stated abouve and more.

    EPL however and its followers will claim that EPL is the most popular league in the world and . . . anoyingly. . . they’re right!
    . . . . . MARKETING!! . . . . . Thats what EPL has better than every other league in the world . . .top class, brain washing, in your face constantly and ruthless marketing! And their so successful that they’ve managed to convince the majority of its “loyalists” that it is THE and ONLY brand of football to watch! Everytime I try to talk about an exciting serie A or la liga game I watched with EPL junkies, it’s treated like a threat! . . . and quickly abused with accusations of overly defensive gameplay and so on.

    I just want people to appreciate good football as good football, regardless of league or political boundries. People will always have their favourites, sure! . . . but dont be narrowminded . . . there is so much great football being played out there . . . dont miss it . . . appreciate it!
    Thats the message I’de like to put out ( . . in so many words!)

    1. I agree totally with the marketing of the Premier League, it hits major markets and got in their first, which initially was a risk but it has paid off.

      But I think Serie A has made significant changes in its marketing, from what I’ve seen so far, there are high attendances at games and I think Serie A needs to progressively get back that fun factor to make people go to the game, not everyone needs to be an ultra! But I think they are doing that, and a lot of the teams are popular in places like Asia and the USA now. Like I have said previously, the new TV deal should help the entire league!

      1. The EPL fierce marketing has got them to the top; congratulations to them however the Italians have finally realised the importance of effective marketing and watch what happens, no other people can equal the Italians in fashion and football.The SerieA will retain its rightful place, as the superpower league of world football, the serieA willnot fall; like the Roman empire did. AC Milan, Milan is a great name,proud history. Although majority of South Africans and people around the world are fooled by EPL propoganda, I am the opposite;and always will tell friends about SerieA and the greatness of Milan, all of the people I know watch the EPL and love the big 4 in England, but they really notice and get scared when they hear that english teams have to face any Italian team in the champions league. so continue telling everyone about the most powerful league with rich history and never forget ACMILAN.

        1. Why would anyone want to support either of the Milan teams when
          Juventus is the most successful team in Italy and always will be. I
          have been a Juventus supporter for ages now, I have to admit I
          stopped following them during and after the scandal but I’m an avid
          supporter. Juventus 2011/2012 Serie A champions. Both Milan clubs
          are going down, in fact I hope Udinese, Lazio or Napoli grabs the
          other Champions League spots. Sad to say that the Serie A lost a
          champions league spot to the Bundesliga but the Bundesliga well
          deserved that. Germany’s Bundesliga is an up and coming league, and
          could arguably be one of the best leagues in the world, the problem
          with the Bundesliga is that they aren’t televised as much as the
          EPL, Serie A or La Liga. Ligue 1 is worth watching too, especially
          Olympique Marseille, Fuck PSG!

  5. Totally agree with everything you said Robert, but I’m a big fan of the Serie A. I think that Kevin makes a great point with his latest comment, a lot of EPL teams would like to have a player like Barreto. They’d also like to have players like Cavani, Hamsik, Lavezzi, from Napoli, Miccoli, Hernandez, Pastore, from Palermo, and many more great talented players.

  6. EPL has fantastically smart people marketing there league to the world…..other then that its basicallly a very boring, predictable circus of football…

    Serie a is the most skilled, balanced and imo entertaining league in the world.

  7. Great article. Also, could not agree more with Christian Ceccarelli! EPL are so far ahead of the game in terms or marketing, it’s hard to see anyone catching up. It’s the same here in the US. The way EPL is favored is so irritating. I don’t have anything personally against the league, but for some it’s like the sport of football doesn’t exist outside of England. It’s especially irritating when it comes on TV. We get EPL, Championship, FA Cup, Carling Cup, plus most live CL matches are of EPL teams, and they usually show most of the England National team’s matches. Compare that to a measly 4 Serie A matches and maybe 2 Ligue 1 matches and unless you’ve got GOL TV (which I don’t) then no Bundesliga or Primera League.

    It would be great if people would seek out and watch Serie A more to see the true beauty of what they’re missing instead of — imo — taking the easy route and rooting for whoever is at the top of the EPL table.

    1. Wayward –

      Agree totally, but do you think this is a language/heritage thing, i.e. English language, team names, and players are easier to relate to (in theory) than the other leagues, or is it more marketing?

    1. We are, after all, Serie A Talk ;-).

      What do you think Frank? Is the EPL a better league overall than Serie A? A good debate in the comments is an excellent follow-up to any article.

  8. Frank, like Robert mentioned this article was written on a site called, “Serie A Talk”, you should figure out that there may be a little bit of bias. And personally, what makes many articles great is the way the writers convey their bias, and Robert has done an awesome job here.

    If you don’t agree with a point, or statement made in this article, let it be known, but don’t just insult an article because there’s some well placed bias.

  9. I skipped all the comments so my first post could be based on your article alone.

    I can understand why you enjoy Italian football but here are my responses to your bullet points…

    1. The Ital­ian style of play is more fluid and skill­ful, while the EPL style is one of con­stant hard fouls

    Italian football is infamously known as one of the slowest leagues in Europe. All pro footballers are seriously talented. The more time and space you give them the more they will punish you. Tricks, skills, control and passing etc are so much easier when you have time and space so players look a lot better than they are. Look at the state of their national team and also ask why older foreign players (Ronaldinho etc) head to Italy these days. Serie is not attracting any of the top talent anymore. You could argue that is because it does not have the money any longer which is true but the reason the league has no money is because their teams are no longer the force they once were so investment and commerciality is no longer there. The league cannot attract the best players and for this reason is still a long way behind England and Spain.

    I do agree that the PL is in decline again with Ronaldo, Alonso, Mascherano etc leaving and Villa, Ibrahimovic and others choosing Spain over England.

    2. Eng­lish fans whine about their clubs, Ital­ian fans actively seek to under­mine their clubs

    Got nothing to do with football for me

    3. Serie A own­ers are much more inter­est­ing than their EPL coun­ter­parts

    Same as above. The fact you have to use 2 non-football points (out of your 5) to back up why Serie A is better nearly sums it up for me

    4. Serie A has more par­ity than the EPL

    This may mean the title race is more interesting but does not mean the quality is better. Sure the Cypriot league may have more parity, doesnt mean the league is better. Also the rise of Man City, Spurs, Aston Villa etc means there is a 7/8 horse race for Champions league places and the relegation battle is england is nearly as exciting as the title race

    5. Serie A clubs are more suc­cess­ful in Europe than EPL teams

    In my opinion a desperate last saving attempt. For a start who cares about history? Uruguay won the world cup twice but are not an international super-power. Secondly the banning of English clubs during the Serie As boom years (well the start of them anyway) gave them a bit of a leg-up in this “race”. All that matters is now. Mourinho’s Inter restored a little bit of respect to Italian football after all its disgraces (you conveniently left out the match-fixing scandals) which will take years to recover from

    1. Thank you for the comment and the interesting points. Here are my responses:

      1. I would argue that some top players are moving out of Serie A because there is more money elsewhere. Rossi and Balotelli, two of Italy’s best young players, are being paid huge salaries that only two or three Serie A clubs can match. While money is not a definitive factor for every player, it certainly helps a decision when Real Madrid and Man City are throwing money all over the place. Also, if you look at the rosters of these Italian clubs, the talent is top notch. A squad like Bari, for example, has multiple players with international caps in the most recent World Cup qualifier. The talent is there, but the style of play is more fluid and less reliant on physical play that breaks legs.

      2 & 3. Never said the post was a tactics post, just the reasons why the league is better. Off the pitch stuff matters as well.

      4. I think you make an excellent point, but Serie A is not the Cypriot league. it is one of the top four leagues (conservatively) in Europe. So the play is excellent. Now, you state there are 7/8 teams in competition for 6 European spots this season (although I’d debate Aston Villa). I’d argue that last season there were nine Serie A clubs in contention, and this is consistent annually, where in the EPL realistically maybe 7 annually compete for six spots.

      5. I think if we are doing a league comparison, history, especially recent history, does matter as it is empirical evidence of success. If you’d like to rank success, that’s perfectly fine and a good debate to have. But to say history doesn’t matter is a bit off I think.

      Good arguments, thanks for sharing them!

  10. 1. England has more hard fouls than Italy?!?!? Maybe because leg breakers aren’t even whistled for in Italy.

    2. Yup, that’s definitely a positive.

    3. Who cares?

    4. Yeah, there’s usually a lot of parity four matches into the season. And it’s not like Inter is going to win the Scudetto this year… again.

    5. One CL Title, and now you’re twisting numbers to make it seem like Serie A owns the CL/EL.

    The Bundesliga is the greatest league in the world, followed by the EPL. Serie A is a distant third, and La Liga just plain sucks.

  11. I agree with some of the others. It ebbs and flows. Right now Serie A is wonderful and The Prewmiership is just “ok”. And I’m a Chelsea supporter.

  12. I watch Serie A when I want to take a nap.

    I watch EPL and La Liga when I want to watch good football.

    The reason why EPL is the most popular league in the world is because every game is enjoyable to watch.

  13. First off, La Liga is behind both Serie A & EPL because the real quality is limited to Barca and R. Madrid while the rest of the table is simple playing ‘catch up’ or trying to fight for European places and avoid relegation. Last season, Barca and Real were over 20 points ahead of the third team to Spain. That should say something about competition, or in reality the lack of competition.

    As for Serie A’s status, I think with Milan & Juventus regularly playing in the latter stages of the Champions League in the 1990s and Milan still playing & winning a couple of CL titles in the 2000s, it shows Serie A is still a force but the downfall is due to factors mentioned in the comments such as marketing (EPL wins), stadium and facilities (Italy’s are in old and bad shape), attendance averages (Bundesliga and EPL win there too), common language (English is a universal language so EPL easier to follow), and most importantly the economic difficulties which hit Italy several years ago limiting the Italian clubs due to limited funds. Also, one must remember Calciopoli which destroyed Juve’s solid team and held back a couple of other clubs.

  14. Being an American who loves Soccer, I am very excited to watch good games in any league. Seeing that I haven’t grown up watching soccer like most people have in other countries, my loyalty or bias is non existent. No matter what league it is good football is simply good football. Consider yourselves lucky that you get to watch all the football you do because in the states it is severely limited to us. Hell, I can’t even have Sky Sports, Sentanta, or anything else here in the states.

  15. Even i am a person who would love to watch good football, but really bored of EPL due to over hype and also it is not techniquly as strong as SeriA teams, CL history speaks a lot about even it if you consider this decade

    Considering this decade , Italian teams have won more CL’s than English teams along with the World Cup in the 2006 and that is the end & final result we should consider.

    English teams must be strong on the books, but the on the pitch its a different story.

  16. LOL.Serie A is rampant with match fixing.And the supposed 2 best serie A clubs are out of the Champions league.Ac being kicked out by spurs who are 6th in the EPL.And spurs were far better than inter in the clashes between the 2.And Inter got killed by shalke04 who man united destroyed.The last time ac or inter played Man united they lost.EPL clubs have been in the CL final in 2005,2006,2007,2008(2 EPL clubs),2009,2011.And th EPL has the most semi-final births in the last 6 or 7 years of the Champions league. Serie A is widely recognized as being the 3rd or 4th best league,also very boring defensive football.And according to UEFA rankings they are well below EPL and la liga.And recently the bundesliga

  17. Serie A is dying off as a top league. The Rise of the Russian Premier League and dominance of the English Premier League, La Liga and Bundesliga is a fortress for Serie to try and fight for their lost reputation as a world class league. Match fixing, loss of talent to other league and other problems is killing the league off.

  18. The most beautiful game on earth is Football and this beautiful
    game started losing its beauty before a long time ago in
    Bangladesh. During the 70’s, 80’s and up to some years after 1990
    it was the most popular game in Bangladesh. After that period the
    game started losing its way and continued till today. It is a sad
    history for such a beautiful country, Bangladesh and for such a
    beautiful game, Football. Some months ago, some people from one
    corner of Dhaka city came up with an idea that the game can be
    re-built, re-structured and can be brought back on its path again
    in Bangladesh. They thought to develop a community and re-unite the
    footballers in Bangladesh and eventually re-unite the whole nation
    on a common interest. The result of all these ideas is BD Football
    and it is now growing day by day. Plz help us to make our country
    recognize about the beautiful world of football.Help us to make
    them interested in Seria A, EPL and La Liga. Plz like our page and
    take part in the activities… it will only take a matter of

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