Before they match up with Real Madrid in Tuesday’s first leg of the Champions League Semi-Finals, Juve were given the opportunity to celebrate their fourth consecutive Scudetto. Their success in the league has been tremendous for the club, and has helped vault the Old Lady to their current position in Europe.
Indeed, Juve’s success has been a boom for the club. They’ll receive a financial windfall for reaching this late stage in the competition while also standing a good bet to advance vs Real thanks to their role as extremely-overlooked underdogs.
While the success has been wonderful for Juve (they’ve outlasted comparables in Ligue 1 as well as every club representing the mighty, mighty Premier League), the same cannot be said for the rest of Serie A.
Italian football is not what it once was. This much is true. Players are no longer flocking to the peninsula, in fact, players are staying away from it. Top level players at least. Elite talent tends to seek out teams in England, Germany or atop La Liga as opposed to playing in Italy. This makes the fact that Juve out-lasted every English, financial powerhouse (and PSG) all the more outstanding.
While the Bianconeri are clearly the best team in Serie A, their quick assent to the title this year has been aided by poor play from the rest of the league, at least comparative to past years. It seems Juve will continue to carry the banner for Italian football in Europe. They may be alone in this duty.
After Juventus, the two most historically successful Italian teams are the Milan clubs. Inter and A.C. Milan. Sadly, as Serie A has fallen, so to have the Milan clubs. Inter won the treble in 2010 under Jose Mourinho, but haven’t been the same since. Their core players from the Mourinho days have grown old, and suitable replacements are yet to be found. Inter currently sit in eighth place in the standings with 49 points, thirty behind champions Juve with 79.
Inter’s Milanese counterparts have also fallen victim to losing their core. Like Inter, Milan’s nucleus consisting of the likes of Gennaro Gattuso, Clarence Seedorf and Alessandro Nesta, grew old. Also like Inter, the team is still searching for worthy replacements.
Additionally, Milan has lost its contingent of star players, namely Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Andrea Pirlo and Thiago Silva. These losses, coupled with the departures of Antonio Cassano and Alexandre Pato, have left the cupboard bare in Milan. The club has attempted to replace their former stars with the likes of Cristian Zapata and Nigel de Jong, as such they haven’t been able to reach the same heights. A.C. Milan are actually fairing worse than Inter. The Rossoneri are eleventh in Serie A with 43 points. If they had lost two more games they’d be in fourteenth place on goal differential.
Over the past few years, Roma and Napoli have replaced the Milan clubs as challengers to Juve’s throne. Both have spent heavily in order to upset their rivals in Turin and both found moderate success (stress moderate) before struggling.
Roma have swung and miss with some acquisitions (Juan Iturbe, Ashley Cole) while Napoli simply haven’t been able to make up ground despite their numerous investments.
Thanks to a lack of domestic success, non-Juve Italian teams have struggled in making major strides in Europe. Napoli failed to qualify for the Champions League for this season and have been stuck in the Europa League. The Naples-based club deserves props for destroying Wolfsburg (who currently sit second in the Bundesliga), but Napoli’s other competition has been Anderlecht and Dynamo Moscow. They play Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in the Semi-Finals. Hardly the stuff of legends.
Roma has an entirely different story to tell. The Romans were placed in an admittedly tough Champions League group with Bayern and Manchester City. The finished third, but were only relegated to the Europa League on goal differential thanks to finishing even on points with CSKA Moscow, a team thirteen points off of first place in the Russian Premier League.
A.S. Roma barely got by Feyenoord in the Europa League Round of 32 before losing to Fiorentina, a team they are currently 12 points ahead of in Serie A, by an aggregate score of 4-1. They were embarrassed by the Tuscans 3-0 in Rome. In two European matches (in Rome) against Bayern and Fiorentina, Roma lost by a combined score of 10-1.
Outside of Napoli and Roma, the closest team to Juve in the standings is plucky Lazio. The other Roman club is one point behind their archrivals in the standings. They’ve played well this season, but could have issues moving forward. Lazio were extremely frugal in the last transfer window and are staring at the prospect of losing Miroslav Klose.
Juventus won Serie A, and for the fourth consecutive time I might add, but the Turin-based club could use more help domestically. Serie A’s reputation is slipping if it hasn’t already slipped. For Juve to continue their success in Europe and domestically, they need the league to start performing better. This will draw better players to the league, which will in turn make the league more competitive in Europe. The added competition should help Juve greatly.
Regardless, Juve will continue to be the favorite in Serie A, but they could use some help in raising the league’s profile from the rest of the peninsula.