The Decline of Serie A?

By | February 25, 2015

As of February 25th, 2015, Juventus is 9 points on top of the Serie A table. Unless they crash out unexpectedly, they are on course to win a consecutive 4th title. It has been a recurring theme that Juventus wins the league by a staggering amount – in the last season, they won the league by 17 points and in the 2012/13 season, they won the league by 9 points. In comparison with the other European leagues, Serie A seems to have become less competitive. What exactly has happened to the Serie A? Additionally, why is it so easy for Juventus to win the league, but struggle to do well on the Champions League stage?

Juventus has been dominating the Serie A after Inter Milan dominated the league from 2005 to 2010. However, unlike Juventus, Inter Milan also did incredibly well on the international level, becoming the first team in Italian history to win the treble in 2010. At the end of 2010, it seemed that Italy is at the forefront of European football. There were many great teams – Inter, AC Milan, Roma, Juventus – and the talent was overflowing. Yet today, Inter Milan is currently 8th in the league; AC Milan is not even competing in the Champions League; Napoli and Roma are doing well, but Juventus is perhaps the only real force in Italian football.

Inter Milan winning the 2010 UEFA Champions League

Inter Milan winning the 2010 UEFA Champions League

Even though Juventus is doing well in the Serie A, they have lacked the same fortune on the international level. Italian teams have won the Champions League 12 times, which is the 2nd most of any nation, with only Spain doing better with 14. However, in the past 11 years, Italians teams have only won the Champions League twice. Juventus has not made it past the quarter-finals since losing to Milan in the 2003 final. The way it is currently going, it might be a while until an Italian side wins another one.

Comparing Juventus to their Spanish (Barcelona and Real Madrid), German (Bayern Munich), and English (Chelsea) counterparts, they are nowhere to be found. Their international counterparts are all known to dominate both domestically and in Europe. Additionally, unlike the current situation in Serie A, the English league usually faces fierce competition with only a few points separating the top 4 teams. These teams have all proven they can hold their own in club football’s biggest competition in recent years. While performance in the Champions League doesn’t determine everything, it is a way to evaluate which clubs are doing well on the international level. This is a far cry from the times when Inter Milan were dominating the football world, AC Milan was still a highly competitive team, and Juventus was still rising up the league.

Something that may be contributing to this decline is the aging nature of many squads. Take Juventus for example – Buffon (37), Evra (33), Tevez (31) and Pirlo (35) are all nearing the twilight of their careers. However, it seems that the Serie A is also having trouble attracting young talent, as most of the younger players choose to join English, Spanish or German teams. Additionally, big stars have been continuously leaving the league. In 2009, the Serie A lost two huge stars in Kaka and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. This loss may have been another step in the process of Serie A’s decline while setting up the supremacy of the Spanish and English leagues. The economic crisis in Italy may also play a factor, as many teams cannot find agreement with the local government on how renovations and upgrades to stadiums should be financed.

The Juventus squad for the 2014-2015 season

The Juventus squad for the 2014-2015 season

It is clear the current state of Serie A is in decline. Right now, the top team in Italy, Juventus, is a long way from the standards that Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern and Chelsea have set in European football. Some may argue that Serie A has now become a rather boring and predictable league that is void of much competitive spirit and quality. However, the nature of football is cyclical and it has shown the resurrection of teams that have fallen. It may be a long and difficult journey towards that one day that Serie A could once again reign supreme, but here’s to hoping that the Italian teams and fans will begin to work towards this goal.



4 thoughts on “The Decline of Serie A?

  1. Hyun Moh (John) Shin

    I guess it’s the signal in the transfer markets that sketches Serie A as increasingly unfashionable, relative to other top leagues in Europe. Too many players who have past their prime age, or have failed in setting themselves as first-team members in other top leagues, are transferring into Serie A as key players. The league is also often criticized to be excessively tactical, which could be another reason that it is considered to be “non-physical” and “easy-going”. The continuous outbreak of match fixing within the league doesn’t help, either.

  2. Muthoka Muthoka

    Harison and Lukas point out to the match-fixing scandals in the last decade and the resulting penalties imposed on the teams, I find it hard to directly link the two. Yeah there might be a correlation between the two but I don’t believe the scandals and the penalties are the main cause of the decline of Italian soccer. Take for example, nobody was hit as hard by the punishments as Juventus. But it is safe to say Juventus fully recovered some years and is now the only elite club in serie A. Financial turmoil and mismanagement at the club level is a big reason for this. Parma, a former powerhouse in the league just closed down afew days ago. Available information indicates that they ran out of funds and were unable to purchase even drinking water for players I don’t know how reliable they are). With such instances it becomes hard to attract top level talent and results to decline in level of play.

  3. Harrison Kalt

    Awesome post Helena! Like Lukas pointed out, I think that it is extremely important to look at some of the outside factors that might have contributed to this relative lull in terms of true competition and drama in the Serie A at the moment. While Serie A’s match-fixing scandal happened nearly 9 years ago, I think that the league is still feeling its effects. Known in Italy as the Calciopoli, the football scandal involved some of Italy’s most respected and prized teams, including Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina. Accused of rigging games by selecting favorable referees, these teams were ultimately punished for their respective roles in the scandal, with Juventus, the reigning Italian league champions at the time, being relegated to Serie B. As a result of their relegation, and the overall punishments imposed on some of Italy’s biggest clubs, football as a whole was stymied throughout Italy. While Juventus still remains on top of the league to date, a growing discrepancy has formed between the Vecchia Signora (or Old Lady as Juventus is often times called) and the rest of the league.

    Nonetheless, I believe that Serie A will make a comeback in the coming years that will hopefully elevate it back to the prominence of the Bundesliga and La Liga (I believe that the English Premier League is a step above the rest). The league has been rejuvenated by young talent, with players like Paul Pogba (as Lukas noted), Juan Manuel Iturbe, Alvaro Morata and Keita Balde Diao around.

  4. Aissa Huysmans

    Really interesting post Helena 🙂 I agree, there certainly does seem to have been quite a decline in the league in general, and it definitely has follow-up effects as the less competitive a national league gets, the less likely it is that the top teams in that league will be at a high enough level to compete internationally. It is a pity that a league that once used to be so well renowned is now falling into the background. Come to think about it, there are also fewer well-known Italian players in most leagues now too, maybe it is also due to a general decrease in funding and importance that is being given to the sport as a whole in Italy currently.


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