In the early 2000’s Serie A was arguably the strongest league in Europe with giants such as AC Milan, Internazionale and Juventus regularly featuring in and winning European finals, but after the victory of Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan in the 2009 Champions League Final Italian football collapsed into relative obscurity even losing its fourth Champions League place to the Bundesliga.
Along with this a number of stars left Italian shores, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Wesley Sneijder, Thiago Silva and Edinson Cavani to name a few.
However last year the Italians came roaring back into the European spotlight with Juventus, easily the most talented Italian side since the Inter Milan team led by Samuel Eto’o and Wesley Sneijder. With their robust style and insanely talented midfield they swept past Borussia Dortmund and Monaco and even had the audacity to beat Real Madrid to once again ruin the chance of an El Classico final. All this before going down after one hell of a fight against a team with the greatest attacking three any football team has ever had in Barcelona in the final.
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But in truth the Turin Giants have been slowly improving over the years and have won Serie A with consummate ease for the last four years. Finally however, the rest of Serie A is starting to show some ambition and is looking like a genuine force to be reckoned with again and this coincides with the Milan giants finally looking to build squads to rival those featuring the likes Paolo Maldini, Filippo Inzaghi and Javier Zanetti.
Both Inter and AC Milan have been taken over by owners from the Far East who so far have produced the financial backing these clubs needed, bringing in foreign imports such as Geoffery Kondogbia and Carlos Bacca. There is also Roma, the club look like they have realised they can’t rely on the talismanic Francesco Totti anymore and have invested money bringing in talent from all over Europe and are looking like they can finally better their two consecutive second place Serie A finishes.
With this change in attitude in Italian football owners has also come a change in style. Italian sides have for years been pragmatic defensive juggernauts, generally playing five at the back with two strikers wreaking havoc up front.
Unfortunately with the growing fashion of using a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 this style has become more and more obsolete as defences are getting outnumbered out wide and attacks were far too narrow with little genuine width.
However the change to a more attacking style of play was arguably brought in to the mainstream in Serie A with Napoli’s ‘holy trinity’ of Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik. Playing in a variation of 4-3-3 they set Serie A alight with their devastating pace and invention and finally signalled a change in the thinking of Italian football.
Now three years after Napoli came onto the scene all of the Italian giants have started to finally bow to the trend of utilising talented wide-men with names such as Juan Cuadrado, Ivan Perisic and Mohamed Salah arriving on Italian shores. With this change should theoretically come not only a different kind of football being played in Serie A but more effective performances in Europe by Italian sides over the next few years.