As the reigning European champions, the Italian football team has 180 minutes of playing time ahead of them to avoid missing the next World Cup. In the qualifying play-offs next Thursday at 8:45 p.m., it will face modest North Macedonia, then, if it wins, the winner of the clash between Turkey and Portugal. She knows the danger that awaits her: she had failed at this stage of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers…
Since then there has been rinascimento of the last euro. A match that the Nazionale approached in the shoes of an outsider and which she won with panache, in an attacking style against the opposites of all the clichés attached to her football. But as often in its history, the hangover was severe after the triumph intoxication. The 1982 world champions had missed Euro 84, while those of 2006 had qualified for Euro 2008 on the gong.
During the last Euro:
The bad habit was repeated with a mixed record of four wins and four draws in Group C of the 2022 World Cup qualifiers, the one in which Switzerland finished first. The Italians are not cursing Nati, who restrained their team twice last fall, but Jorginho, who missed two penalties, first and second.
The summer breeze has died down and in the background the many shortcomings of transalpine football are resurfacing. It is in a fatalistic, even depressive context that Roberto Mancini’s men approach the dams.
The federation has done everything possible to facilitate their task. An internship at the end of January to test new players or recall old ones such as Mario Balotelli (31), who plays in Turkey (Adana Demirspor). One week expectation of authorization to fill stadiums to 100% for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The choice of Renzo Barbera’s stadium in Palermo, for the enthusiasm of spectators eager for competitive football, as the local club is in Serie C. The only failure: the Serie A clubs refused to postpone the last day of the championship so that the meeting takes place earlier.
However, the calendar of these clubs has suddenly brightened up. None of them qualified for the quarter-finals of the Champions League. The only Italian survivor is… Chelsea midfielder Jorginho. Since 2018, the new formula of the most prestigious European competition guarantees four places in the first four championships of the UEFA index, but the Serie A benefits only moderately. She only qualified 10 out of 16 reps for the knockout stage and only 2 out of 10 in the quarters.
At this stage of the competition and still through these four seasons, it is only the sixth European force behind England (11 clubs in the quarters), Spain (7), Germany (5), France and Portugal (3). Juventus, head of the gondola calciumstill being knocked out by smaller than them (Ajax, Lyon, Porto and Villarreal), while the chairman, Andrea Agnelli, perseveres in his European Super League project for VIPs.
Coincidentally, several studies have emerged in recent days that are damaging the health of Italian football. Deloitte has published the annual ranking of its Money League, where Juventus rose from 10th to 9th place with €433 million in annual turnover but still far behind the tenors. Inter are 14th, AC Milan 18th, but once a club doesn’t make it to the Champions League and its generous bonuses, it drops, like Napoli, now 28th.
The Gazzetta dello Sport, for its part, on Tuesday published a breakdown of the accounts of 20 Serie A clubs and their total debt now stands at 3.3 billion euros. The Covid-19 does not excuse everything, as payroll has risen from one season to the next from 1.6 to 2 billion. Despite its fragile economy, however, Serie A is the championship with the second most negative balance in the world on the transfer market since 2017. The CIES Football Observatory, based in Neuchâtel, estimates it at -910 million, four times less than the wealthy English Super League, but above all three times worse than the Spanish Liga and ten times worse than the German Bundesliga, are two real competitors.
“If Serie A does not begin to adapt its modus operandi to real business logic, it will have a violent awakening, when it will be UEFA that will introduce rigid indicators to play its competitions, from the 2024 – 2025 season. Certain economic indicators tell me that the system is in a pre-bankruptcy situation,” Gabriele Gravina, president of the Italian Federation, stated this week in the columns of La Republica†
Few natives to choose from
To limit the breakup or save appearances, many clubs (Juventus, Napoli, Inter) are said to have made fictitious financial gains by trading players for too high a value. The criminal court is investigating.
Few of these footballers are natives, who only belong to the elite for 35%. This is why Mancini naturalized and then called in two other Brazilians, João Pedro (30), Cagliari striker and Luiz Felipe (25), Lazio defender. His under-21 counterpart Paolo Nicolato bluntly asked for help from the media on Monday: “We need you to talk about this issue. Our reference championship is Serie B, soon it will be Serie C. I am very concerned. Serie A, the Italian reserves played only 4% of the total playing time, it is hardly better in Serie B (7%).
Gabriele Gravina, the federation’s president, added a layer the next day: “There is only 30% of Italians in the national under-19 championship. There is no infrastructure for young people to train. We lost 200,000 licensees during the pandemic only to recover only 120,000 after that.
Finally, the bosses of Serie A clubs are unable to have a common strategy. Nine presidents, regents, or supervisory commissioners have alternately been at the helm of their league since 2017. Lorenzo Casini, the latter, has another big problem in the Corriere dello Sport: “Our stadiums are on average 60 years old and 9 out of 10 do not have an efficient energy installation.” Italy has nevertheless applied for the organization of Euro 2032. In any case, it would be certain to participate as host country.