Pokémon might be enjoying a revival, with scores of twenty-somethings roaming the streets and chucking balls at pretend monsters, but another classic 90’s staple has fallen on very hard times.
For any football fan growing up in the 90’s and noughties, Serie A was the coolest league in the world. The television coverage with James Richardson in a Florence café with an ice cream sundae was ridiculously cool. The teams were cool, with Fiorentina and Lazio enjoying periods of success, and it was the one league in Europe that could boast seven or eight genuinely top class sides.
The 2016 picture for Italian domestic football, however, is looking a lot more bleak. Juventus are enjoying a period of unprecedented dominance and, having signed the best player from each of their two main title rivals this summer, look to be on the verge of invincibility. They’re too rich, too well run and just too good. It’s ruining the league.
It’s not exactly the Old Lady’s fault. Serie A is still dominated by clubs stuck in the past, playing in half empty and decrepit stadiums. The ultra modern Juventus stadium is full every week – and the revenue received from it has put the Turin giants on a level way above any other domestic challenger.
The happiness felt by Juventus fans should be sorrow for everyone else though, with one of Europe’s most traditionally competitive and entertaining leagues having been turned into an annual procession. The situation is arguably even worse than in Germany, where despite Bayern Munich’s dominance, they now have one genuine challenger in Borussia Dortmund and there are full houses and vibrant fan cultures at play right through the league.
Back to Serie A, however, and no one else is really in a good place outside of Turin. Napoli seem like the most plausible challenges, but the loss of Gonzalo Higuain could absolutely destroy morale in a city where they make idols out of their star players. The Argentinian is a genuine superstar and comfortably the best striker in the league – he will cushion the blow of losing Paul Pogba and then plenty on top.
With Roma also losing Miralem Pjanic to Juventus, both of its closest challengers have been wiped out. Both Milan sides are at least a couple of years away from rebuilding to a level capable of securing a Champions League spot, let alone a title challenge, whilst Fiorentina and Lazio both lack the star power to break into the top three.
BREAKING NEWS.. The Serie A season 2016/2017 season has ended, with who elso JUVE the winner..Isn’t this league boring??
— Taiwo Opeyemi (@nobleman_55) July 23, 2016
The 2016/17 season is going to be a procession for Juventus, whose strength in depth will genuinely allow them to prioritise another crack at winning the Champions League. A first European champion in this decade would rebuild Serie A’s reputation a little bit, but can’t match having a competitive league. The rest of Italy needs to get their houses in order quickly if Italian domestic football is going to avoid slipping off the radar of international fans, something that would be a crying shame for Europe’s most romantic league.