Blog Written by Joe Pizziferri (@_joepiz)
That quote from the classic movie A Bronx Tale jumped into my mind when looking at the weekend schedule in Serie A and seeing the marquee matchup of Juventus vs. Sassuolo. On one side you have the Bianconeri who approach every season not only hoping to contend for titles, but expecting to win. Claiming the Scudetto five straight years and favored to make it six, they are without a doubt the club feared in Italy. Coming to Turin to visit on Saturday are Sassuolo. They have become the trendy pick to make some noise not only in Italy, but also in Europa League competition after qualifying in resounding fashion this summer. Whether a neutral observer or an Ultra supporting another team, you are hard pressed to dislike them. The Neroverdi might be the closest thing to universally loved on the peninsula.
Both are in enviable positions, but back to the question at hand, which is better? If we go by Sonny’s philosophy in A Bronx Tale, it is fear. Perhaps the wise choice for a fictional mob boss, but not 100% applicable for club supporters. Put yourself in the shoes of a Juventus fan (if not there already). With their much-publicized activity on the transfer market anything less than another Scudetto and a deep run in Champions League (at least semi-finals) will be perceived as a failure. If expectations are met, it is more relief than euphoria. Winning the Champions League could change it to euphoria, but that is a tall task for any European power.
Pep Guardiola’s reign at Bayern Munich is looked upon as a failure in some circles due to only winning Bundesliga handily and reaching the Champions League semi-finals in all of his three terms in charge. The great Carlo Ancelotti was dismissed from Real Madrid after his injury riddled side finished 2nd to an all-time great Barcelona side in the 2015 La Liga campaign and came up short against Juventus in the UCL semis. Not completely outrageous, but as it followed his 2014 Champions League title and Copa Del Rey from the season before, a bit harsh.
Now let’s look at the situation from Sassuolo’s perspective. Toiling away in Serie C a decade ago and admirably working their way up to the Italian top flight, supporters were satisfied just to avoid relegation in 2014 and 2015. The 2016 season saw them finish high enough for European qualification and become the darlings of hardcore international soccer aficionados in the process with an attractive style of play. A squad full of young - largely Italian - talent, the future looks bright. No doubt their goals are to win the Scudetto and Europa League, but Sassuolo would be happy to qualify for Europe again. Achievable goals, and should head coach Di Francesco’s side accomplish more by putting a scare in the traditional powers for the last Champions League qualification spot or making a deep Europa League run, euphoria. From a fans point of view it’s all upside.
So, lovable underdog or feared giant? No right or wrong answer, only personal preference. After all, every fan dreams of seeing their team perform well enough to be proclaimed the best. However, once that level of success becomes the rule rather than the exception, it’s more stressful than enjoyable. Hoping for that status to be maintained becomes a burden compared to the joy experienced in watching it being reached in the first place. At this moment Sassuolo supporters want to reach the level of Juventus, but if they ever did, they just might look back on these days as the most fun time of their fandom.
Blog Written by John Baldino (@ThaGreatBaldino):
In 1984 the world of football had stopped, football fans from all across the world witnessed the world record fee for a football player broken. Diego Maradona, the world-class goal scoring machine had transferred from powerhouse F.C. Barcelona to Napoli for a fee of almost €6 million. At the time this fee was sought out to be an towering amount and unheard of in the past. The past transfer records were immensely lower, millions lower in fact. This transfer in specific had opened up a door for the future of football that not many people would have predicted.
In today's game we see astronomical prices for players being sent out and received by clubs all across the world. Players such as Alexandre Lacazette of Olympique Lyon, John Stones and Leroy Sané of Man City, Paul Pogba of Man United, and many more have all been bought and priced at tens of millions of euros, all supposedly worth about 10 times more than what Diego Maradona was worth during his prime. Now, everyone can agree that Diego Maradona is one of, if not the best, football players of all time along with a few others. Maradona did things for club and country no one does today yet these players are worth more than his talent. Yes, the influx of money into the game from multiple deals, sales, and everything in between has an effect, but when is enough, enough? I don’t intend in any shape or form that these players don’t have any talent, all of these players are fantastic and would love them to be apart of my team, but I think the pricing of these players is a little off and many agree.
Another players such as Gareth Bale, Cristiano Ronaldo, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Neymar, James Rodriguez, and dozens more throughout recent years have also gone for insane amounts of money. Many can ‘argue’ that these players deserve that type of fee due to their play, but did they really? The game is all about money and teams will pour the money on these players simply because they have it and they will do anything in order to win a trophy. As bidding wars begin more and more money is thrown back and forth simply for a single man, when this money could be used for scouting and youth systems for homegrown players. If money will be continued to be poured into football like this homegrown legends such as Francesco Totti will be a thing of the past, and the transfer market will continue to rule the game. So when will clubs and their owners realize it doesn't take all the money in the world to win a title?
Blog Written by Joseph Pizziferri (@_joepiz):
Well, it has certainly been a busy transfer period in Serie A this summer. Pjanic to Juventus. Higuain to Juventus. Dani Alves to Juventus. Benatia to Juventus. You get the point, Juventus is loaded and expected to win their 6th straight Scudetto with some ease. Even with the loss of Paul Pogba, who mercifully ended the #Pogback saga this week, and Real Madrid's shrewd buy-back of Morata, many experts see this squad as better equipped to win the Champions League this campaign. However, is this reality?
I'll grant you the Scudetto should be wrapped up. The Bianconeri weakened both their closest rivals from a year ago in poaching Pjanic from Roma and Higuain from Napoli. Inter has made some positive changes, but coaching turmoil just weeks before the season doesn't make closing the huge gap with Juve very likely. Fiorentina was another team in contention last year while Juve started off slow. Unfortunately, La Viola has not made any additions of note to make them anything more than a Europa League spot qualifier. The Champions League argument is where it gets interesting for the club from Turin.
The fact remains only 11 can play at a time. It is not a given the projected starting XI is better suited for a deep Champions League run than last year, or better than the side who lost, a closer than the scoreboard suggests, 3-1 final to Barcelona a year prior. The backline, with or without Benatia, is very stout as always. Once again, Juventus have a multitude of options at midfield for their preferred 3-5-2 or 4-4-2 formations. Dani Alves probably takes over on the right for Cuadrado while also rotating with Lichtsteiner. If Marchisio and Khedira stay healthy they'll join Pjanic in the central midfield. Now, is this much of an improvement from Lichsteiner/Pirlo/Marchisio/Pogba/Vidal or Lichsteiner/Khedira/Pogba/Marchisio/Cuadrado? Personally, I'll take the 2014/2015 group with Vidal every time.
Now here is probably where you say "but they added Higuain". Yes, acquiring the man who broke the single season goal record in Serie A is undoubtedly a positive. Mandzukic never seemed to fit comfortably, similarly to how he didn't flourish at Atletico either before joining Juventus. Dybala paired with Morata was always the more dangerous attacking option. With that in mind, the addition of Higuain should be looked upon as a Morata replacement. In the biggest games Morata was always one to shine. Whether he received the start or off the bench he delivered when it mattered. Can the same be said for Higuain? Of course Higuain is a fantastic finisher, but his track record in clutch spots leaves a lot to be desired, just ask Messi. Ask yourself this question - with a game on the line which Argentinian would you want taking a penalty - Higuain or Tevez? Tevez never backed down for Juventus on the march to the UCL Final in 2015, not so sure Gonzalo has the same backbone.
When we look back, the 2014/2015 Juventus squad just might be the one we look back on as being their best of the decade.
Blog Written by Lucas D'Orazio:
Juventus will now enter the 2016-2017 season without their star midfielder Paul Pogba, who has now joined Manchester United for a world-record fee of €105 million. Before Juventus start the new season they should not bat an eye at the young midfield talent they already have. They should follow this three-step process.
Step 1: Juventus should acquire only “one” more player. If they sign anymore players without selling then they won't get to exploit any of their young talents and give them more playing time. In my opinion, they should sign either one of these three players to hold down the midfield: Nemanja Matic from Chelsea, Ivan Rakitic from Barcelona or Blaise Matuidi from PSG. All three of these players are perfectly capable of doing great things at the club and can hold down that midfield.
Step 2: Juventus have a few good younger players they need to help get better. Pogba came to Juventus being surrounded by great talent like Vidal, Pirlo and Marchisio in the midfield that helped him grow as a player and become even better. Now Juventus need to make sure they keep their new younger talents of Mario Lemina, Stefano Sturaro and Roberto Pereyra who haven't hit their peak yet. They are all now surrounded by great players like Marchisio, Khedira,and the newest player in the midfield Pjanic. Giving these young players some more playing time this season and helping develop them one of them might be the next Pogba like player.
Step 3: In my opinion Juventus should develop a new formation to accompany the new players and concepts for the team to move forward. I believe a 3-3-2-2 would work best for this team. It keeps Buffon and BBC at the back, allows for Khedira to hold the central midfield while also having Dani Alves and Alex Sandro playing the wide midfield positions that Juventus love so much. Marchisio and Pjanic can play the central attacking rolls is very smart because it allows both to create chances for the forwards and take long shots outside the box which they are both prolific at. And of course Higuain and Dybala starting up top filling the two striker positions.
If Juventus can continue to develop their young talent, find the right addition to the midfield, pick the right formation, then the Old Lady will have another successful football campaign this upcoming season.
Blog Written by Alex Ramos (@AlexRamosATR):
This is a 2016-17 Serie A season preview look at the top 3 teams to keep an eye on. With the Serie A season just over a week away this is bound to be an exciting season both domestically and internationally. Many transfer deals will have an impact on the league this year. New teams will be given new tests in Europe. Juventus, Napoli and Sassuolo will be the most entertaining teams to watch.
Juventus: The Italian Champions look to challenge for their 35th league title, which would be their sixth in a row. They are also searching for the highly coveted Champions League title. Juventus signed the best goal scorer in Serie A last season, Gonzalo Higuain, whose fitness has been highly scrutinized. 21-year-old Marko Pjaca has been brought in from Dinamo Zagreb and it looks as though he has immense potential. The Bianconeri also signed central midfielder Miralem Pjanic from Roma after triggering his release clause. Medhi Benatia and Dani Alves have come in to add even more depth and experience to the squad. The veterans such as Buffon, Bonucci, Barzagli, Chiellini and Marchisio will all return for another season with the Old Lady.
Napoli: Napoli finished 2nd last year and will return to the Champions League with a chip on their shoulder ready to prove themselves. Napoli have brought in Polish youngsters Arkadiusz Milik and Piotr Zielinski who look to be promising prospects. Utility man, Emanuele Giaccherini has also been brought in from Sunderland. Giaccherini impressed many with his performance for the Italian squad during Euro 2016. With the departure of Higuain, Lorenzo Insigne will be called upon as well as Manolo Gabbiadini to score goals as proficiently as Higuain did in the previous season. Slovakian international and center midfielder Marek Hamsik has renewed his contract until 2020, which should provide hope for Napoli fans. Ultimately, Napoli will be looking to impress in European competition.
Sassuolo: Eusebio Di Francesco's team that will look to prove themselves in Europe as they will be competing in the Europa league. Sassuolo are a very young team known for performing well in important matches. Although they are not favorites to win the Europa league, Sassuolo could go much further than others expect. Sassuolo are an all around promising team but have not been very active during the transfer window. Although, they did sell Nicola Sansone to Villarreal for €14 million so they may be signing a replacement. Sassuolo’s youth and unpredictability makes them dangerous opposition that will not be underestimated. Expect continued success from Sassuolo this season.
Blog Written by Callum Massie (@Callum_Massie):
Backtrack a few years, when A.C. Milan was arguably one of the best clubs in the world; Italy had European giants at the top of their league. Not to mention the likes of Juventus, Inter Milan, Roma and even Lazio. Fiorentina was a club who usually was quite strong in the Europa League too, but in recent years Italian teams haven’t been able to reach the Europa League final. You would have to go back to the 1998-99 campaign for the last Italian finalists, Parma. The five seasons leading up to 1998-99, four Italian teams made the final, proving a dominant time for football in Italy. In the slightly earlier years of the late 1980s and early 1990s, Milan had one of the greatest teams ever, winning the European Cup two years in a row. Possibly the highest point for Italian football. This makes you wonder, what's gone wrong and why is Italian football not as popular?
Football as a whole has had money pumped into the sport more and more, year after year. We are now past the days when clubs such as Lazio paid £35 million for Hernan Crespo. In fact, Parma is now in the 3rd tier of Italian football; money problems were quite harsh for the club. The sort of money Lazio paid for Crespo, is the highest transfer fee paid by an Italian club. That £35 million bought Liverpool Andy Carroll in 2011, quite a stark comparison in quality of the players. West Ham United, known as a bottom half to mid-table Premier League club who often get relegated, enjoyed a great season this year. The signings of Dimitri Payet, Manuel Lanzini and Michail Antonio were key to the clubs success. Although Pedro Obiang didn't get much game time, he was a prime example of the Premier League over powering Serie A. Pedro Obiang was offered a similar contract by A.C. Milan as he was by West Ham, the Italian club being considerably bigger club. The thought of playing in the Premier League and possibly the slight money difference persuaded Pedro to join West Ham. Another example is Paul Pogba as Juventus seem to be dealing with this transfer well and may be able to hold on to the French midfielder, but Manchester United reportedly offering £100 million is something they will surely consider. Juventus have a lot more money than most other Italian clubs, but it is hard to compete against the crazy money from the Premier League.
This year is going to get even worse with the money being thrown around. The new Premier League TV deal for around £5 billion will now see relegation-level clubs earning a similar amount to the Italian and German champions from TV revenue. No wonder English clubs are going out and spending loads of money. An example this year is Crystal Palace, often struggled in the past and it was only six and a half years ago they went into administration. This year is slightly different for the South London club, splashing the cash for Andros Townsend and bidding over £30 million for Michy Batshuayi and Christian Benteke. They also added James Tomkins, from West Ham, for a fee over £10 million which can be seen as overpriced, all this whilst paying for new signing Steve Mandanda's wages. Quite staggering what kind of money there is in England for these clubs. Another club associated with signing a player from an Italian club is Arsenal, a reported £60 million + Oliver Giroud bid for Higuain has been made. Napoli might struggle to keep hold of the player after such a substantial amount of money has been offered.
Just to clarify there is no disrespect to the league or the likes of Juventus who still compete at the highest level. I just want the league to be back to how it was; when there were four to five Italian teams threatening to get to both the Champions League and Europa League finals. Let's hope that one-day Italy will return to having footballing giants and compete with the top European clubs again.
Blog Written by Matteo Bellini:
The Argentineans have already booked a place in the knockout round, while Bolivia know they are already out of the tournament. Will Argentina crash through the group stage unbeaten or will Bolivia spoil that and try to give their people a little joy after an uninspired campaign?
They did it once again Argentina prove why they are top dogs. Even with an alternative squad that sported the likes of Ezequiel Lavezzi and Matias Kraneviter, they tore apart a very wounded Bolivia team that already knew they were out of the tournament and couldn’t prevent losing all three matches of the group stage. Argentina imposed its dominance from the beginning not only due to their superiority on a footballing level but you could almost feel the frustration Bolivia was suffering evidenced by their impotence and the nasty fouls they committed. The score was opened when Erik Lamela’s free kick was deflected by a Bolivian player and ended in the back of the net after only 13 minutes.
The situation was made worse after only two minutes later when Lavezzi took advantage of a rebound product of a Gonzalo Higuain header. The Argentinians always posed a threat and always looked confident going forward and defending. Bolivia did little to disturb Argentina’s dominance and failed to worry Sergio Romero and his defense. Soon enough another goal came after a great play which resulted in a cross that Cuesta tapped in.
When the second half was about to start the whole stadium exploded in joy as they saw Messi ready to join the action. We also saw the return Lucas Biglia who had been injured. This of course marked the end of Ever Banega’s game, who had a solid performance pulling the strings and creating chances. Gonzalo Higuain, the Napoli superstar, also was subbed off, in favor of Messi. Once again he had an uninspired performance and only his header that ended up helping Lavezzi score was worth noting. I guess we all expect more from the top scorer of Serie A. Still, the second half had little action, the Argentina siege of Bolivia’s half never stopped but a great green wall was built and eleven men defended against the Albiceleste led by Lionel Messi. which caused the score board to remain unchanged. Though the Argentine ace couldn´t score, he still showed great footwork and made the Bolivians enraged with his unstoppable moves. Argentina was one goal away from breaking the record of most goals scored in the group stage matches in the history of the Copa America.
All in all, it was a tidy performance by the Argentinian’s who won all three matches of the group stage and come in as strong as favorites to take the trophy home. The five guys in the back, including Romero and Jonathan Maidana didn’t have to worry too much as Bolivia looked sterile in attack. Argentina’s midfield led by Ever Banega was great when distributing and recovering balls. Matias Kranevitter’s work should be noted as the youngster had a great match. Biglia, who came in when the second half started, proved that he should be a starter. The three men up front looked very dangerous in attack. Lavezzi had a great game as well as Aguero, they both proved an effective threat. Higuain yet again proves he might not be up to task and Messi who replaced him did what Messi does best, make fans world wide scream his name as he had a quiet performance.
Argentina moves on to the elimination phase and will go head to head against Venezuela. Will this be their year and dispatch Venezuela as easily as their group stage match ups or will Salomon Rondon and his fellow teammates shock everyone and make history? The two nations face off in the Copa America Centenario quarterfinal on June 18 at the Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts
Italy come in as underdogs to this match up in Group E and no one could’ve put it in better words than Italy’s coach, "There will be warriors on the pitch for both sides, (…) " and that is what Italy will have to take to Lyon if they want to beat Belgium a squad which is a favorite in this competition (they even are ranked 2nd in the latest FIFA World Rankings). In their previous match up in November 2015, Belgium trashed Italy 3-1. Will the Azzurri prove everyone wrong and make a statement or will they succumb to the pressure of facing one of the favorites to win the tournament?
Blog Written by Matteo Bellini:
Arguably the best match of Euro 2016 thus far ended with Italy beating Belgium 2-0 in somewhat of a shock result. The Italians have put their foot down and made a clear statement that they might even challenge for the silverware, and not even Mark Clattenburg could save Belgium from losing this match.
To begin with, Italy owed their victory to themselves as much as to the fact that Belgium really had an underwhelming performance as a group and on an individual level as well. The only thing I can say about Belgium is that Thibaut Courtois had a great performance. He was decisive, making some great saves and Jan Vertonghen was very solid in defense, but they couldn’t save their team from defeat as both Romelu Lukaku and Divock Origi both wasted very good chances. This Belgian side looked quite sterile on attack, not only due to their own deficiencies but also the great defensive work displayed by the Italians. I am sure most people expected more from the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne.
Now, let’s talk about the boys in blue. Italy lacked some creativity and precision but they compensated for that with an unrelenting willingness to win. It was clear that the victory was more than just being first in its group; it was a statement and a huge confidence boost, evidenced by Gigi Buffon, who ran the whole pitch to celebrate with his teammates when Graziano Pellé scored in stoppage time. When I first saw how Italy would line up I was worried and angry. I was wondering why would you start Emanuele Giaccherini? Éder? Many agree there are players who don’t deserve to be on the national team and needless to say not starters. I would have gone with Lorenzo Insigne or Stephan El Shaarawy. But Conte proved many wrong, including myself, and made it miraculously work! Giaccherini had an respectable match, not only scoring but he ran the whole time and made some crucial blocks but he still misplaced a handful of passes. Pellé, the other goal scorer, had a very good match almost scoring two headers; Courtois saved one and the other one went wide. As for the rest of the team, there were some mistakes, which resulted in yellow cards. Most were fair, like Éder’s and Bonucci’s who stopped counter attacks but others where really un-called fo. Still, no red cards so that is a good thing.
To sum up, the four-man team the Italian’s have borrowed from Juventus had a huge part in the victory and looked solid throughout the game. Bonucci was fantastic both defensively and going forward, with a sublime assist to Giaccherini. The five man middle proved very effective when defending but lacked some creativity going forward. Daniele De Rossi and Marco Parolo had similar jobs and both played well, though I know they have it in them to completely boss the midfield, at least De Rossi. Antonio Candreva was effective on the right flank and showed up big as he assisted Pellé who scored an exquisite volley. As for Éder he had good movement off the ball though he didn’t really create much or have a chance to score. Matteo Darmian put in a solid performance and so did his replacement Mattia De Sciglio. Thiago Motta didn´t have time to make an impact. Ciro Immobile showed great movement and speed off the bench, while almost scoring but he did help create Italy’s second goal.
It is Italy who will celebrate today as they climb to the top of Group E and could very well be preparing to go deep in the tournament. I hope Conte will be willing to be a bit more attacking-minded in the remaining group stage games. Next match for Italy will be against Sweden on the 17th. Will they manage to keep up the great display they put on today or will Zlatan and his gang steal three crucial points?
Argentina played Panama at Soldier Field stadium in Chicago for their second game of the tournament. Both teams were coming off 2-1 victories. Panama put in a historic performance against Bolivia but would they have enough to get anything Argentina?
Blog Written by Matteo Bellini:
Wow! Take a bow, just take a bow son. That was pure magic from the maestro Messi. I mean come on it is not fair! In less than 30 minutes, Messi managed to make a quite good Argentina side look like a full-on destroying machine.
Argentina took the lead early on after a great Di Maria free kick, which was headed into the net by Nicolás Otamendi. Along with the opening goal, Otamendi looked very solid in the back along with Funes Mori, Gabriel Mercado and Marcos Rojo. The game was a bit irregular mainly due to the imprecision of both teams and the uncalled and basically unethical fouls by Panamanian players, which eventually resulted in the sending off of Anibal Godoy in the 30th minute.
Surely a major blow for Argentina is the loss of Angel Di Maria who had to be subbed off after he got injured five minutes prior the end of the first half. Erik Lamela, who replaced him, couldn’t live up to the standards of his compatriot and didn’t have much of an impact on the match. The game had become stale again in the early part of the second half. In the 61st minute, Argentina’s coach, Tata Martino to the absolute delight of the 53,885 people in attendance decided to sub Lionel Messi on. Now this was where everything changed in favor of Argentina. Messi came in and the crowed cheered and basically he did what he does best, I mean there is a reason why this guy is considered the best player in the world. He added movement, speed and precision something that was lacking. He was very lucky to find a ball that hit Gonzalo Higuain in the face at his feet and with grace, he curved into the back of the net. This apart from one shot is what Higuain did during the game as he ended another disappointing match with the Albiceleste and was subbed off in favor of Sergio Agüero. Messi continued to show his magic, scoring an exquisite free kick, while also delivering a perfect ball to Rojo who then assisted Agüero. This was the icing on the cake for a pretty irregular night from the Argentines who have now qualified for the quarterfinals and thanks to the return of their ace are surely ready to seriously challenge for the trophy.
To sum it all up: goalkeeper Sergio Romero had a couple of interventions and was always reliable. Mercado and Rojo, Argentina’s fullbacks, contributed in attack as well as defense and looked pretty solid the whole match. Next up is the middle where Augusto Fernandez and Javier Mascherano made things look easy. Though they didn’t manage to add much in attack they looked solid, especially Mascherano who saved Argentina from what would’ve been a certain goal after a Panama counter attack. Ever Banega, who Argentina relies on to add a creative spark, was underwhelming to say the least, although he did have a part in some good plays. Nicolás Gaitan played well adding good speed and movement. Di Maria had to be subbed off after his injury but still showed his quality on free kicks having assisted Otamendi in the 6th minute. Finally the striker from Napoli, Gonzalo Higuain, failed once again to score and only managed to get one shot on target and a lucky assist to Messi with his face. As for the subs, Lamela was underwhelming to say the least, Agüero looked good on the ball and had some flashes of genius in the small time he was given, and finally Messi who really played like the legend we all know him to be and showed glimpses of the magnificent Barcelona player he is, this time with his national team. His 19 minute hat trick will surely shut up many of his critics in the country.
Argentina plays their last group stage match against Bolivia on Tuesday, June 4. As heavy favorites they will look to close out on a strong note and win their group.
Blog Written by Joe Genova (@joegenovaa):
Five years ago, Inter took the world by storm as Jose Mourinho led them to the treble. Five years ago also marks the last time an Italian team has won the UEFA Champions League. In the past 10 years, Serie A has only been able to conquer two UCL titles. History shows Italy has been more than dominant in the European campaign, either finishing as a runner up or winner every other year. Fast forward to the present, Italy now only has two guaranteed spots in the UCL, the third spot is a playoff match, so the question arises; is Serie A something of the past? Now that question involves other questions as well. Serie A is hailed as the most tactical league there is. Now, that’s just not my opinion, that’s stated by notable players that have experience abroad.
“Italy is the most difficult and competitive league for a striker, they still think that it is more important not to concede a goal than to score one. In Spain they want to score a goal and then a second and a third.” Zlatan Ibrahimovic told The Guardian in an interview conducted October 13th 2015.
Not enough evidence?
“It's still the toughest league in the world. It's the university of football. Tactically, it's at the highest level here and we suffer on the field,” Carlos Tevez told Gazzetta dello Sport in an interview.
So what’s going on, if top players hail this league as the best league, what’s happening? The problem is simple; Italy is now being deemed a developing league, like Portugal, Holland, and Belgium. Italian clubs don’t have the money they once did to offer high wages and even if money wasn’t an issue, the league is struggling in total, bringing in a number of foreign talents rather than rising their own. When the Serie A was at its peak you saw the big named Italian players all pledging allegiance to their country, like Totti, Del Piero, Maldini, Nesta, the list goes on. The only teams able to tempt an Italian to go abroad were Real Madrid or Barcelona, which is obvious. Now again, fast-forward to the present and you see some of Italy’s top talents abroad, even the future of Italy is sent out abroad for some bizarre reason. Italy maintains pride in their defensive qualities, all teams have mastered the art of the coveted Catenaccio, but as seen last week with Bayern Munich against Juventus, it was broken. That wasn’t a true Catenaccio, a true master class of Catenaccio is when every single person in defense is comfortable with the ball at their feet, passing it around, wasting time, getting in the oppositions head, passing it all the way up the pitch just to pass it back to your defense who then passes it back to the keeper. You didn’t see that in the second half, you saw a scared Juventus, launching the ball up the field panicking when in possession and getting beaten by pace.
It's not easy, every person who supports the Serie A needs to realize. Yes, Juventus is a powerhouse. Yes, they have the best defense in Italy and the best goalkeeper but Juventus is only one team. Yes, they are the only team in Italy run properly; no debt, keep their young Italians, have a good infrastructure, and own their stadium. Juventus right now is the perfect Italian team and the only Italian team that’ll be able to carry the torch. But for Serie A to reign over the world once again, Catenaccio needs to be installed in the minds once more. It will make a return and when it does it’ll be beautiful, doves will sing, kids will dance in the street and you will see a new reign of power.