The trouble in Seria A continued last weekend when Parma, a club I would have called my “Italian team”, had to postpone their league match with Udinese as they could not afford to pay for stewarding at the game. Being a child of the 1990s I fell in love with the unfashionable Italian club whose former players include the likes of Tomas Brolin, Fabio Cannavaro, Juan Veron, Gianfranco Zola, Faustino Asprilla and the evergreen Gigi Buffon. Parma’s problems have been on-going for over a decade since local diary giant Parmalat, who financed the club, went bankrupt.
In many ways the club are indicative of what is going on in Italian football at another level; European performance. The club won the European Cup Winners Cup and European Super Cup in 1993, and the UEFA Cup in 1995 and 1999. Italian football was in its pomp. This era wasn't short lived. As late as 2003 AC Milan and Juventus played out a 0-0 draw at Old Trafford in an all-Italian Champions League Final.
Despite a Seria A club winning the again in 2007 (AC Milan) and 2010 (Inter Milan), Italian clubs really aren’t competing the way they used to. In an economic sense, one could argue the league is now caught in a vicious circle, with no tendency towards equilibrium possible since the reduction of its Champions League qualification slots in 2012. This is primarily due to the performance of Italian clubs and the national league’s UEFA ranking.
Champions League performance has also declined since the all-Italian final of May 2003. The illustration below graphs Italian club participation from the Group Stages of the Champions League to the Final from the 2003-2004 season to this season. The last time 4 Italian clubs made the Group Stages of the competition was 2009-2010. Since 2010 Sampdoria, Udinese (twice) and Napoli have all been beaten in the 3rd Qualifying Round. Inter Milan were the last Seria A club to reach the semi-final stage, and actually went on to lift the trophy, but that was in 2010.