Too early to say Calcio is back

If you caught a broadcast of a live Serie A match before the season ended on BeIN Sports Middle East, you would have noticed legendary figures in the Italian game, former manager Fabio Capello and players Fabio Cannavaro and Luca Toni watching a reel of Italian teams that qualified for the semifinals of the European club competitions and proclaiming: “Calcio is back.”

After a very long time, there were five Italian teams – Inter Milan, AC Milan, Juventus, Roma and Fiorentina in the semifinals of the European club competitions.

For the first time since 1994, three Italian teams reached the finals of three European club competitions.

Serie A in the 1990s and first half of the 2000s was the strongest and richest league in the world, regularly breaking world transfer records and going deep in European club competitions.

Many Serie A fans became fans from that era, so it is exciting to have that many Italian clubs going to the latter stages of the knockout rounds of the European club competition after a long time.

It also felt like redemption after being left in the shadows of La Liga and, lately, the English Premier League.

Serie A has fallen on hard times to become a selling league where players are developed and then sold elsewhere for big money.

These days, signings are free transfers, loan signings or payments in instalments. Many clubs have had to toe the line of UEFA’s Financial Fair Play to avoid falling short and being penalised.

Italian clubs have done well in European competitions this season because of their playing style.

Teams like Napoli, Inter, AC Milan and Fiorentina are playing in a modern, progressive style or at least marrying it to the typical Italian style for the best-of-both-worlds approach.

Juventus was demoted from the Champions League group stage because their playing style was regressive, but it had better luck in the UEFA Europa League.

Another team that is the master of defensive, counter-attacking football, Roma, made it to the final of the same tournament playing in this manner.

It has also been beneficial for Italian clubs, especially in the Champions League, that they avoided the big teams and played teams that were on par with them on paper.

Many times in the past, Italian sides have come unstuck in matches, but that didn’t happen this year.

A change in the attitude of Italian clubs in the Europa and Conference League helped too.

In the past, Italian clubs would shun this tournament as they attempted to reach the Champions League. However, getting to the final was as good as it got for the Italian teams.

Last season, Roma broke a long drought of Italian teams not winning a European club competition when they won the inaugural UEFA Europa Conference League.

Ironically, the manager of Roma, Jose Mourinho, was the manager of the last Italian team to win a European club competition – Inter in 2010.

Before Roma’s triumph, Juventus lost two Champions League finals in 2014-15 and 2016-17, and Inter lost the Europa League final in 2019-20.

All three Italian teams produced valiant displays in their respective finals this season but came up short by the smallest detail – Roma losing a penalty shootout in the Europa League final, Fiorentina and Inter losing narrowly in the UEFA Europa Conference League and Champions League finals.

It has been a resurgent season for Italian football, but for Calcio to say it is back, it needs to consistently have representatives that would go far in the respective European club competitions and win it.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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