Italian soccer has declined as of late. While domestic kings Juventus look on track to claim their third straight scudetto, the rest of Serie A is suffering.
The league is not what it once was. Gone are European powers Inter and AC Milan. Napoli and Roma seem on the rise, but both have a long way to go if they want to catch up with the likes of Bayern Munich and Barcelona. Even championship holders Juve has struggled in Europe lately, getting trounced by Bayern last season before being handed an unlucky draw in their final deciding group game against Galatasaray on a slab of mud in Turkey.
Why the Decline?
French giants Paris Saint-Germain are the main culprits here. Sure, a lot of it has to do with Italian teams spending substantially less due to the economy, but PSG certainly have taken advantage of that fact. Of the Parisian’s 25 first team players, 10 were bought from Serie A sides.
In present-day Italian soccer, some squads can get by with a few good players carrying the team. They may not win the scudetto, but the team remains moderately successful. On the flip side, when those players leave, the team collapses. This happened with Pescara in 2011-2012. They cruised to the top of Serie B with an attack spearheaded by Juve-loanee Ciro Immobile, Napoli-loanee Lorenzo Insigne and home-grown playmaker Marco Verratti. After gaining promotion, Insigne returned to Napoli, and Immobile moved to Genoa for more seasoning. Verratti was snapped up by PSG for a significant fee, and Pescara floundered in the top flight. They currently find themselves back in Serie B.
Also on PSG’s list of somewhat recent Serie A signings are former Milan duo Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva. This double-buy sapped the northern Italian club of two of its better performers while also opening the flood gates for a near mass exodus.
Already reeling from the departures of club legends Filippo Inzaghi, Alessandro Nesta, Gennaro Gattuso and Clarence Seedorf, the Italian’s losses were compounded with the departures of Ibra and Silva. Milan started the season in a tailspin, losing five of their first eight games. They were able to recover and claim third place in Serie A mainly thanks to the inspired form of Mario Balotelli. This season has not been as kind to the Rossoneri however, as they sit near the middle of the Serie A table in ninth, a whopping 31 points behind leaders Juventus.