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.