Martedì, 18 Settembre 2018

Soccer: Serie A looks to learn from Bundesliga


(By Paul Virgo)
Rome, April 26 - Long considered Serie A's poor
relation, Germany's Bundesliga is now being hailed as the model
for the Italian top flight to follow after Bayern Munich and
Borussia Dortmund's spectacular wins in the Champions League
semi-final first legs.
An all-German final is likely after Bayern thrashed
Barcelona 4-0 and Dortmund thumped Real Madrid 4-1 for an 8-1
victory for the Bundesliga over the top two sides in the Spanish
There was an all-Italian Champions League final in 2003
when AC Milan beat Juventus on penalties following a goalless
draw and Serie A clubs have won Europe's top competition twice
since, with Milan in 2007 and Inter in 2010.
But the overall competitiveness of Italian teams on the
continental stage has still declined significantly over the last
decade and Serie A has fallen to fourth in the UEFA ranking
after being overtaken by the Bundesliga.
This means that now only three Italian teams qualify for
the Champions League, rather than the four they had before this
season, with the extra place going to a German side.
There are many elements to the Bundesliga's success and
Serie A's troubles.
German sides have comfortable modern stadiums where fans
can enjoy restaurants, bars and shops, contributing to the
Bundesliga having the highest attendances in Europe and boosting
Most Italian soccer grounds are owned by the local councils
and many in a poor state, largely because clubs have no
incentive to invest in renovating stadia that do not belong to
This has depressed attendances and means Italian clubs,
unlike their rival outfits in German, England and Spain, cannot
use the grounds to generate revenue.
Bundesliga sides are also praised for their sound financial
management, whereas Serie A teams, even in their heyday, have
often relied on piling up debts to attract the best talent.
Inter and Milan in recent years have scaled down their
transfer dealings to stop the dependence on debt, in part to
come into line with new European financial-fair-play rules.
The Germans are way ahead. Bayern, for example, have only
posted a loss once in the last 10 years.
The Bavarians have some of the world's finest players on
their books, such as France's Franck Ribery and his Dutch fellow
winger Arjen Robben, but even so wages only account for 45% of
their annual revenues of 368 million euros.
Part of the reason for this is that German clubs are much
better at generating revenue from merchandising and shirt sales.
Dortmund, for example, generate 97 million of their annual
turnover of 189 million euros from merchandising.
The only Italian club at the same level is seven-time
European champions Milan, who have a much bigger name to sell to
fans at home and abroad, as do Juventus and Inter.
The difference in spending power led Juve boss Antonio
Conte to predict that no Italian side would win the Champions
League again for some time after the Turin outfit were knocked
out of the Champions League last-eight by Bayern.
But there are also footballing reasons for the reversal,
according to some experts.
The German success story has not come about overnight.
Part is down to attention given to nurturing young players,
with the help of national soccer federation financing that has
contributed to over 350 sporting academies coming to life.
Both Bayern and Borussia have young sides featuring many
home-grown players.
The recent change in the spending policies of the top
Italian clubs has given some young players a chance to shine
that they probably would not have had otherwise.
The best example is that of Milan forward Stephan El
Shaarawy, a 20-year-old who became a regular starter this season
after Zlatam Ibrahimovic's departure for Paris Saint-Germain and
is his team's top scorer with 16 goals.
Focusing on home-grown talent can only work if you have
patience, which the German sides have.
Italian clubs do not seem to.
Indeed, the reaction of the League of Serie A clubs to
Italy having no teams in the last four of either European
competition was to ask the federation to up the number of
foreign imports clubs can sign each year from two to three.
Former Italy and Milan coach Arrigo Sacchi argues that
Italian teams are also too focused on getting results
immediately rather than concentrating on developing a positive
playing style, which he says ends up being counter productive on
the long term.
"It will be hard for this (the Bundesliga's lesson) to be
understood in our country, where we almost always go for the
result while ignoring the value of playing sumptuous, generous,
collective, fun, winning soccer," Sacchi wrote in his column in
La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"Almost everything is revolves around buying top players
and debt.
"Unfortunately, you can't buy good football, you create it,
above all with ideas, work and commitment, then with players who
are right for a technical, professional project - all the better
if they have talent. But that comes after".

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