Football fans are enjoying how Borussia Dortmund are standing toe to toe with Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga this season, the world marveled at how Monaco triumphed with Ligue 1 in 2016–17 and the Premier League and La Liga are always filled with Helter Skelter entertainment.
Yet as Juventus are continuing their dominance over the Scudetto for the eighth season in a row, people cannot help but wonder why Calcio fans have been watching a movie knowing they’ll be stuck with the same ending every single time.
BTL’s Ramez Nathan spoke with a number of fans/experts on the topic and they’ve given us their verdict on what made them still devoted through those eight campaigns.
Conte’s rejuvenation of the Old Lady
Following the Calciopoli scandal, Juventus were relegated to Serie B and even after their return to the top flight they spent five campaigns struggling to fight with the big dogs at the top of the table.
We spoke with Rav Dhillon the founder of Juvefc.com on the impact of Antonio Conte once he took charge back in 2011, to start the Bianconeri’s reign over Italian football.
“Antonio bought what Juventus lacked at the time: Grinta,” says Rav. “He reminded the squad what it meant to play for Juventus, harkening back to his time at the club under Lippi where he was the general on the pitch, while the field Marshall looked on from the sidelines. He evoked a kind of hunger that had lay dormant in the players and he utilized that, along with a dramatic tactical shift, to get the best out of a team that had the makings of champions.”
“That, combined with his ability to fire up the team at half-time if the result wasn’t going their way, was enough to get them over the finish line in his first season, remarkably going the entire campaign unbeaten. It was an extraordinary feat, and in the years that followed, he only consolidated the lessons he had taught his players while the management behind the scenes added finishing touches to the squad by strengthening them in the weak spots. As much as Conte played the key role in making Juve champions on the pitch once again, it was the diligent work of the management who worked within certain budgetary constraints that helped transform Juve off it.”
Higuain breaking the all-time scoring record and leaving Naples
Serie A has always been full of controversial transfers, however Higuain’s move from Napoli to Juventus has by far seen the worst responses over the last decade. Partenopei fan and Far From Vesuvius writer Eric Passariello commented on the story.
“As a Napoli fan, Higuain’s record breaking 36 goals in the 2015/16 season is bittersweet,” said Passariello. “At that time, and in that moment, it was a great feat that shined a spotlight on Napoli and Sarri’s system and proclaimed, we are in Serie A and we can play an exciting style of football.”
Then after losing the Scudetto by nine points, Higuain left Sarri’s Napoli to join the team they rivalled, Juventus. The next year Napoli finished third to Juve but only five points behind and then the season after that, a mere four points separated Napoli from the title.”
“The record breaking moment was lost, and instead of a statue in his honor, the Napoli tifosi printed his face on rolls of toilet paper. The big winner was Serie A. They gained an exciting style of play with Sarri’s Napoli, and a record breaking achievement to solidify it with Higuain’s hat trick against Frosinone. Having a rivalry at the top for a few years also kept things interesting.
“One can only speculate what might have been for Napoli had Higuain remained.”
The Youth Brimming with Hope
Throughout these years, Italian football witnessed the rise of the most talented youngsters, Zach Lowy, founder of BTL gave his take on those that shined the brightest.
“Moise Kean has emerged as a lone bright spot for Juventus in a season filled with regret and disappointment. With Mario Mandžukić aging, he represents the future, he’s Juve’s next great striker.”
“Other stars like Nicolò Zaniolo, Stefano Sensi and Lorenzo Pellegrini have also impressed this season. The future of the Azzurri is bright.”
“Throughout the years, there’s always been promising talents that have captivated the eye of football fans from afar. Not everyone has delivered on their promise, such as Panagiotis Tachtsidis and Ibrahima Mbaye, but there’s also been so many gems who have turned into world-beaters before our very eyes, like Paul Pogba and Krzysztof Piątek. No matter how what, Italy will always find a way to produce talents.”
Veterans leading the scoresheets
With Fabio Quagliarella topping the Capocannoniere race this season, Italian football’s lifelong expert Giancarlo Rinaldi gave us his verdict on the issue.
“There’s still a thrill in watching a hero of years gone by recapture his past glory that is pretty special. To see old greats like Toni, Di Natale, Totti or Quagliarella defy the ageing process – even though we know it cannot last – is a magical thing. Serie A still has room for this romance as its veteran hitmen find new ways to unlock defences,” said Rinaldi.
“The pace of youth may be gone – if they even had it in the first place – but their genius for outwitting an opponent remains undiminished. We count ourselves fortunate to watch them rage against the dying of their footballing light.”
Fighting for survival and the Crotone miracle
It’s not always about who will finish on top, sometimes just staying in the top flight is considered a phenomenal achievement according to Serie A writer and State of Play Pod co-host Matthew Santangelo.
“Unlike Ligue 1 which you could argue is the closest to Serie A in terms of one club running the table and the rest falling way under, Serie A always tends to have something to play for in the final few match days instead of just a few meaningless fixtures before players head into summer holiday,” said Santangelo.
“As we saw last season, Lazio and Inter fought tooth and nail until the very end of the final match last season, and the drama had eyes from all over on the finale. The same could be said about Crotone’s great escape a few seasons back, and the fascinating promise manager David Nicola made to the Calabrese that if they avoided the drop, he would cycle from Crotone to his hometown of Turin. Sure enough, they pulled it off and the Italian boss rode the 1300km and delivered on his promise.”
“Aside from certain objectives related to the table, Parma were a major focus for all football fans this season after making the improbable climb out from their hole due to declaring bankruptcy back in 2015 and earning three consecutive promotions from Serie D back to the Italian top flight. While they are currently clinging to a 14th place spot and still not out of the woods yet in the relegation battle, it just goes to show you silverware isn’t the only factor that makes a league worth the watch on a weekly basis.”
Football’s beauty out of life’s tragedy: how Fiorentina players are fighting for the memory of Davide Astori
Almost one year ago, we’ve received the tragic news of the sudden loss of Fiorentina’s Captain Davide Astori. One of the club’s biggest fans and its best writers over the internet Chloe Beresford recalled to us the incident and the players’ reaction to what happened.
“In the weeks following the death of Davide Astori, somewhat of an incredible transformation fell upon Fiorentina’s players,” said Chloe. “Their first match was just one week following the terrible tragedy, and the emotionally exhausted players dropped to the ground in a mixture of sheer grief, relief and sadness after taking a 1-0 victory at home to Benevento. In the weeks that followed, the young side – who had been average up until that point – notched up a total of five consecutive wins and a draw, their strength coming from the shared tragedy that had happened before.”
“This term, Coach Stefano Pioli has faltered, however with new boss Vincenzo Montella in charge, this band of inexperienced players look galvanised. They face a Coppa Italia semi-final second leg with Atalanta, the scores currently tied at 3-3. So many of the Fiorentina players that remember Davide Astori have stated that they would like to win the trophy this year in order to dedicate it to their former Captain, and this would become a tangible way to mark their bravery since his passing.”
Roma’s Historic Rimonta against Barcelona
If you are reading this in 2019, you’ve probably witnessed what happened at the Stadio Olimpico last year, no words can describe the feeling of every Romanista watching such a farfetched comeback.
On the other hand, there are parts of the story that none of us know anything about, it’s concerning the die-hard fans that desperately live for moments like these.
Flo Sports Serie A writer Wesley Davidson spoke of what that win meant to him: “As a Roma supporter, I do follow one of the larger clubs but experiences of domestic and continental triumphs have been admittedly few and far between,” said Davidson. “That makes my fanhood no less authentic or enjoyable, and the breakthroughs are that much sweeter when they do arrive.
“I’ll never forget the euphoria of watching the Giallorossi topple Barcelona in miraculous fashion last year to book a spot in the Champions League Semifinals. The time difference between the States and Europe typically makes watching midweek games tricky, but that only adds to the joy of watching your team pull off the impossible. My viewing method and venue of choice? ( or rather necessity) – mobile stream in the parking lot of a Lowe’s Home Improvement store just moments before coaching at a nearby school.”
“So, you think Serie A is boring? I’m not mad, I only ask that you take a moment to give the different flavors Italian football offers a chance. You just might come away feeling infected.”
The arrival of the most popular footballer in the history of the game
At the start of the 2018 season, the biggest name in football’s box office decided to move to Turin.
Indian Juventus fan Arjun Pradeep told Breaking The Lines about how the acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo transformed the club’s mentality in European competitions.
“The effect of CR7 on Juve’s fanbase has been incredible, really,” said Pradeep “He has changed our mentality in such a limited period of time. He has given us a different perception about football, something I didn’t think was possible”.
“Let’s consider this. Juventus have lost two European Cup final and five Champions League finals. I’ve witnessed three of the Champions League loses. Hence, since the 2017 Cardiff final, we’ve been negative and lacked belief in Europe. Even before that, there was still negativity about Juventus in Europe, as a fan.”
“Ronaldo has changed this. We witnessed the atmosphere at the Allianz Stadium against Atlético Madrid when we were trailing 2-0 from the first leg. Yet, there was a lot of belief! Then he goes and does that hat-trick. I believe when you’re positive, sometimes you can force certain outcomes and he really brings positivity to the entire club as a whole, but especially the fans. With him every target seems achievable.”
The Joy of Gasperini’s Atalanta
The good old days of the grey-headed mastermind were long gone since he left Genoa in his first spell back in 2010, six years later he took charge of Atalanta and through the past few years, Gian Piero Gasperini managed to create a forever young beast of a team that crushed the country’s finest clubs.
The Gentleman Ultra’s Yousef Teclab told Breaking The Lines: “In a sport where money talks, there’s something refreshing in the originality of Atalanta’s growth since the arrival of Gasperini in the summer of 2016. To take Atalanta to 4th place in his first season, qualifying for the Europa League is a fantastic achievement.”
“Yet the real marvel of Atalanta is how they maintained their success despite selling assets like Andrea Conti and Roberto Gagliardini,” said Teclab. “Thanks to their excellent scouting network, Atalanta have been able to use the proceeds from transfers to acquire players at a reasonable price. Signings like Hans Hateboer, Timothy Castagne and Josip Iličić to name a few have flourished for the Bergamo based club.
“Duvan Zapata is another shining example of this sustainable model. Bought on a two year loan deal, his 20 goals this season have propelled Atalanta up the table this season. Coupled with their youth system, it has allowed Gasperini to brilliantly mould an effective team now challenging for Champions League football next season.”
“The fact Atalanta is going toe to toe with some of Italy’s most illustrious clubs, who have far bigger resources to compete in, is a story that warms the heart of any Italian football fan.”
By: Ramez Nathan
Photo: Gabriel Fraga