It has been 7 years since Mourinho’s Internazionale completed their historic treble with Champions League glory but Italian teams have failed to make such an impact in Europe ever since. Will the Spanish domination continue or is it only a matter of time until an Italian team wins a major continental trophy?
Last week spelled only more doom and gloom for Italians in Europe. Napoli crashed out of the Champions league against the competition’s holders Real Madrid and Roma got off to a poor start in their Europa League round of 16 tie as they lost 2-4 in Lyon.
Once again, it appears that Juventus are the league’s only hope of success in Europe. The bianconeri won the away tie of their Champions League clash against Porto and are favourites to make it through to the quarter-finals. However, for a team that looks set to win their sixth straight domestic title, Juventus have been unable to replicate their dominance outside of Europe. Is Italy’s problem simply due to bad luck or do Serie A clubs lack European DNA?
Only 2 years ago Juventus appeared to have broken the curse when they reached the final of the Champions league only to be defeated by Barcelona. While the Turin-based club ended up losing 1-3, it is hard to imagine that any other team in Italy would have been able to put up such a fight raising the argument that there simply is not enough quality in Serie A compared to other leagues.
Using Napoli as a reference point, they have been one of the stand-out teams in Serie A over the last few seasons, but when matched against the Champion League holders, Real Madrid, they were outclassed over the span of the tie. Italy also had less teams in the round of 16 than England, Spain and Germany. All this would suggest that the league, as a whole, must improve in able to bridge the supposed gap in quality between Serie A and Europe’s other major leagues – something that isn’t helped by Juventus’ domestic dominance.
However, the 7-year wait must be due to something more than just a simple lack of quality; Juventus have reached the Champions League final while Napoli made it through to the Europa League semi-final during this period suggesting that perhaps these teams do have the ability to succeed. This is where the argument about a lack of European DNA comes into play. When AC Milan began to lose ground in Serie A, they still proved to have some success in Europe due to their ability to adapt and perform well against foreign competition. This level of experience is something that the likes of Napoli, Roma and Fiorentina lack and could be to blame for their constant failures in recent history;
Napoli were knocked out by underdogs Dnipro in the Europa league Semi-Final a few years ago and Roma have started off on the wrong foot in the same competition despite being labelled as one of the favourites. If a lack of European DNA is to blame then, unfortunately, Juventus seem to be the only team in Italy who are building a team capable of beating Europe’s elite.
Unfortunately, it appears that Serie A clubs are doing little to improve their performances in Europe. Only Juventus seem to be signing the types of players that add depth and quality to compete in multiple competitions but it is their domestic dominance that is preventing other teams from doing the same and, paradoxically, is preventing the growth in quality of the league.
Teams with the knowledge and ability to perform well in Europe such as both Milan clubs have been unable to qualify for Europe’s elite competition and those teams that have qualified in their place such as Napoli and Roma have choked due to their lack of European experience and expertise. For now, Italy can only pin their hopes on Juventus but, for a brighter future, must follow the example of La Liga who, rather than having one dominant team, now boast having a handful of teams who could potentially win in Europe – The wait for Italian success in Europe does not seem to be coming to an end anytime soon unless Juventus’ domestic rivals bridge the gap in quality with players who have experience in Europe.