At first glance, all seems right in Serie A this season. Traditional power Juventus is atop the league table with the scudetto seemingly in hand, a resurgent traditional power in A.S. Roma sits behind them, and in third is big-spender and recent title challenger Napoli. None of the top teams currently are tainted with scandal, all three have non-Italian internationals leading the team, and some of the country’s own are shining in the league.
However, a deeper look reveals some major concerns with the future of Serie A. While the Old Lady is dominating once again, traditional rivals Inter Milan and AC Milan are currently 34 and 39 points off first place. Serie A teams have also failed again to impress in Europe. Milan advanced to the Round of 16 only to be thrashed by Atletico Madrid, while Juventus and Napoli both blew good chances to advance from the group stage. Currently only Juventus remains playing in Europe, albeit in the Europa League. In terms of players, international stars like Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain have shined this year. Unfortunately for Serie A, Higuain is rumored to be looking to leave Italy, while Tevez traditionally has a short window of success before clamoring for a move.
In short, Serie A is still relevant in Europe, but there are cracks in the infrastructure that threaten the league’s status. The lack of dominant teams on the European stage, the exodus of the best players in the world, and the persistent threat of a new scandal hanging over the league means it now has to worry about being permanently surpassed by other leagues in the hearts of fans around the world.
All hope is not lost for Italian football and there is a tonic that can help cure what ails Serie A. Cesare Prandelli has been very good to Italian domestic soccer. He tends to supplement his starting XI with players from less well-known teams and successful domestic players. The team that will travel to Brazil in two months will be almost entirely composed of Serie A players. If Prandelli can guide his team to a deep run – with the accompanying coverage and attention – it will give even more exposure to his players and the league. Names such as Insigne and Gilardino could become fairly well known among casual soccer fans around the world, which may translate to increased interest in continuing to follow them in the fall. Failure by the Azzurri could reinforce the perception of a decline in Italian soccer
Of course none of this may happen, but I have come to this conclusion from personal experience. It was 2006 when I fell in love with my family’s homeland in the World Cup and continued my obsession into following Serie A. Serie A isn’t perfect and has it’s fair share of flaws, but what it needs is to win over fans again. I believe that success in the World Cup can usher in a new era for Serie A and Italian stars. My story is not for everyone, but with some luck in Brazil, Serie A can be relevant once again.