Reigning European champions, the Italian football team has 180 minutes of play ahead of them to avoid missing out on the next World Cup. In the qualifying play-offs, it faces the modest North Macedonia this Thursday at 8:45 p.m., then, in the event of victory, the winner of the clash between Turkey and Portugal. She knows the danger that awaits her: she had failed at this stage of the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup…
Since then there has been rinascimento of the last euro. A competition that the Nazionale approached in the shoes of an outsider and which it won with panache, in an offensive style at the antipodes of all the clichés sticking to its football. But as often in its history, the hangover was severe after the intoxication of triumph. The 1982 world champions had missed Euro 84, while those of 2006 had qualified on the gong for Euro 2008.
During the last Euro:
The bad habit repeated itself with a mixed record of four wins and four draws in Group C of the qualifiers for the 2022 World Cup. The one in which Switzerland finished first. The Italians do not curse the Nati, who held their team in check twice last fall, but Jorginho, who missed two penalties, first and second.
The summer breeze has subsided and, in the background, it is the many shortcomings of transalpine football that are resurfacing. It is in a fatalistic, even depressive context that the men of Roberto Mancini 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 like Mario Balotelli (31), who plays in Turkey (Adana Demirspor). The anticipation of a week of the authorization to fill the 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 since the local club lies in Serie C. The only failure: the Serie A clubs refused to postpone the last day of the championship so that the gathering takes place earlier.
However, the calendar of these clubs has suddenly lightened up. None of them qualified for the Champions League quarter-finals. 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 Serie A benefits only moderately. She only qualified 10 of 16 reps for the knockout stage, and only 2 of 10 in the quarters.
At this stage of the competition and still over 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 calciumcontinues to be eliminated by smaller than it (Ajax, Lyon, Porto and Villarreal) while its president, Andrea Agnelli, persists in its European Super League project for VIPs.
Coincidentally, several studies damning the health of Italian football have come out in recent days. Deloitte has published the annual ranking of its Money League, where Juventus rose from 10th to 9th place with 433 million euros in annual revenue but still far behind the tenors. Inter is 14th, AC Milan 18th, but as soon as a club does not reach the Champions League and its generous bonuses, it plummets, like Napoli, now 28th.
The Gazzetta dello Sport, for its part, published a survey on Tuesday of the accounts of 20 Serie A clubs and their overall debt now stands at 3.3 billion euros. The Covid-19 does not excuse everything since the payroll has increased from 1.6 to 2 billion from one season to another. However, despite its fragile economy, 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, its 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 which will insert rigid indicators to play its competitions, from the 2024 season- 2025. Certain economic indicators tell me that the system is in a situation of pre-bankruptcy”, declared this week Gabriele Gravina, president of the Italian Federation, in the columns of La Repubblica.
Few natives to select
To limit the breakage, or save appearances, many clubs (Juventus, Napoli, Inter) would have made fictitious financial gains through the exchange of players at an inflated value. The criminal justice is investigating.
Among these footballers, few natives, who are only 35% in the elite. This is why Mancini naturalized and then summoned 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 problem. Our reference championship is Serie B, soon it will be Serie C. I am very worried. In Serie A, the Italian U21s only played 4% of overall playing time. It’s barely better in Serie B (7%).
Gabriele Gravina, the president of the federation, added a layer the next day: “There are 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 to recover only 120,000 afterwards.
Finally, the bosses of Serie A clubs are unable to have a common strategy. Nine presidents, regents or supervisory commissioners have alternated at the helm of their league since 2017. Lorenzo Casini, the latest, has targeted another major problem in the Corriere dello Sport: “Our stadiums are 60 years old on average, and 9 out of 10 do not have an efficient energy installation.” Italy has nevertheless proposed its candidacy for the organization of Euro 2032. It would be at least certain to participate as a host country.