Parma's sorry demise continue as they fall to Italy's fourth tier

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Thuram, Buffon, Cannavaro, Nakata, Crespo, Veron, Baggio, Asprilla and Zola. These truly great players - some of the very best European football has been for generations - all once plied their trade for Parma.

Indeed, many of them for part of the same side that thrilled Serie A, threatened the established league order and garnered attention from across the globe. Now, less than two decades since some of these legendary names graced the pitch at Stadio Ennio Tardini, the club is bankrupt and its only option appears to be a rebirth in an amateur division.

Such a sharp and sudden decline - even the end of the last league season saw them qualify for Europe - is made the more tragic by its reason. After the glory years of the mid-to-late 1990s, increasing financial mismanagement meant that fan involvement and player performance were undermined by and frankly irrelevant thanks to owners and proprietors who were running a once-great club into the ground and now, by the looks of it, into oblivion.

For many of the current younger generation, their decline may not be a massive issue. Indeed, it must be stressed Parma's tragedy is not alone in a footballing climate that increasingly lavishes upon the established wealth while further destabilizing the lower leagues and indeed encouraging financial riskiness due to the obscene rewards on offer for those who strike lucky and take their club to the top tiers. However, for many football fans and especially ones that grew up during the 1990s, the death of this particular club hurts all the more because your memory of them focuses on their truly glorious recent past.

Sure, Crespo and Veron did not wow when they were introduced to the English game; this glorious side only registered three top-three finishes in a decade and any club can only live on past goodwill for so long. But to ignore Parma's recent history is to ignore one of the most exciting, talented and potential-packed squads in modern European history.

They pushed almost from nowhere and genuinely threatened to break the near-duopoly of 90s Italian football - Juventus and AC Milan shared eight of the decade's ten titles between them. They also won various domestic and continental trophies, including two Coppa Italias and the 1999 Uefa Cup.

The talent that was within the various generations of this side was hugely coveted across the game, with various Italian rivals eventually picking off club greats - Crespo once became the world's costliest ever singing when he moved to Lazio.

Best in the world

The awarding of FIFA World Player of the Year to Fabio Cannavaro in 2006 - only the third defender to ever win the accolade - was perhaps the crowning individual glory of one of Parma's past masters. One of their graduates continues to excel to this day; Buffon played a crucial role in Juventus's first domestic double in a decade.

Parma, in a way similar to Kevin Keegan's Newcastle United team, were a much-loved outsider: a brash, cash-splashing pretender who captured hearts as well as great attention before falling just short of the impossible scalps they threatened to take for so long.

Their success was in the form of cup trophies and individual accolades, but the absence of a league crown almost adds to their myth of being loveable chancers and a home for some of the modern game's most loved, talented and revered individuals. This was the team many people grew up knowing - the Parma of potential. To get anywhere close to that romanticised honour again, they face the longest and most painful of sporting rebuild projects.

Where did it all go wrong for Parma?

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Italy Football
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