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.
Next on the list is Sicilian club Palermo, who went from a top ten finisher and Euro League competitor to Serie B. It didn’t happen overnight, but the team’s sale of goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu and Javier Pastore to PSG sent the team from seventh place in the scudetto race to 16th place and a mere seven points off the drop zone. The next season, the Sicilians weren’t as fortunate as they succumbed to relegation and now find themselves in Serie B.
The money helps, but only so much.
Some teams that have lost star players to PSG have used the money to successfully fund additions to improve the team, or at the very least keep them at the same competitive level. Napoli did this with the funds received from Edinson Cavani, and Roma achieved the same result with money received from Marquinhos. While both clubs are near the top of the table, they aren’t at the level of elite Serie A teams of old.
At the end of the day, Serie A has lost a ridiculous amount of talent over the last handful of years. World-class players like Ibrahimovic, Cavani, Silva and Ezequiel Lavezzi have all left the peninsula. The departures of these players, coupled with comparatively less-than-stellar replacements have left domestic Italian football on the decline. PSG isn’t the only culprit, but it can be said that they have done more than most to bring, unintentionally, the state of Italian football down.
Ben Rosener is a high school senior from the Seattle area who is the editor and founder of Kingdome of Seattle Sports and Know Hitter. In addition to those sites, he writes for FanSided’s Emerald City Swagger and contributes to Bleacher Report. Ben is in the process of starting a soccer-themed YouTube channel called Sports on Terms. You can follow his criminally under-followed Twitter account here. He is also a massive sports fan and is a keen supporter of Juventus and the Italian National team. He only refers to himself in the third person for bios.