Arriving in Milan this week, it quickly became clear that the the names on the back of replica Inter and AC Milan shirts are not players belonging to the the upper echelons of the beautiful game. In years gone by, fans would wear the names of Ronaldo, Vieri, Shevchenko and Kaka with pride. Today though, Italian clubs struggle to attract world class players at the peak of their careers. Instead fans of two of the biggest clubs in Europe must accept their star players are Stevan Jovetic and Carlos Bacca – players who would barely have made the squad during previous incarnations of the city’s two main teams.
Four seasons ago Juventus moved into a new stadium and in doing so reduced their ground capacity by more than 26,000 seats. Other clubs in Serie A are now considering similar moves. At a time when so many Premier League clubs are seeking to relocate to increase their capacity, it begs the question whether the popularity of Italian football, and the league’s ability to attract top class players, is in terminal decline.
Barcelona president Josep Bartomeu recently suggested the Champions League should provide wildcards to elite clubs who fail to qualify for the tournament. Italian clubs such as Inter and AC Milan, currently lying in fifth and sixth position in the league respectively, would appear to benefit most from this idea. Although the suggestion should be disregarded, the Champions League needs its big name teams and it would be to the tournament’s detriment to see the competitiveness of Italian football clubs fall permanently by the wayside.