Feature

Juventus' sustained success will be Serie A's ultimate downfall

Something happened in the year 2000 that ruined Formula One racing - Ferrari won their first Drivers’ Championship with Michael Schumacher after a drought stretching back to 1979. It was great news for Ferrari but the beginning of the decline of what was once a great sport.

Juventus

Juventus forward Paulo Dybala has scored 11 times in 19 league games this season Source: Getty Images

Schumacher went on to win five championships in a row and Ferrari became so dominant that interest in the sport declined worldwide.

Even the Victorian Government was rumoured in recent years to be trying to rid themselves of the Australian Grand Prix at Albert Park because the economics of staging the event doesn’t add up. The once hottest-ticket-in-town has become a peripheral sport at best with interest outside of Melbourne virtually non-existent.

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Sadly as Juventus continue their climb up the Serie A ladder - now second and just two points adrift of Napoli - and lay claim to possibly their fifth Scudetto in a row, the comparisons with what happened in F1 are all too eerily similar. The great Juventus story seriously risks jeopardising the whole of the Serie A.

The wonderfully refreshing early season story of the Serie A was the success of the other teams: Inter, Napoli, Fiorentina, Roma and possibly even little Sassuolo. However, after 10 consecutive wins Juventus are back in contention, after securing just 12 points in their first 10 games.

It’s like a scene from the movie Jaws, where the predator is closing in. Many experts in Italy are again declaring the Bianconeri are the team to beat for the title.

In a wide ranging interview last week with SBS Radio Italian, well-known and popular Italian Serie A commentator from Rai television Federico Calcagno bracketed three teams to watch for the title - Inter, Napoli and Juventus - but made a special mention to keep an eye out for the grand Old Lady of Italian football.

It’s hard not to feel some despair should Juventus win their fifth consecutive Scudetto. There might be a certain feel-good aspect to it because it would be a remarkable comeback, but Juventus again? Really? It may just be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

In a globalised world, where the Serie A must compete with the best competitions in the world, it cannot afford to allow the dominance of one team to erode away any residual interest in the competition.

The Serie A was once the undisputed best domestic league in the world and the decline in the past 15 years or so has been nothing short of remarkable.

A roll call of Serie A's finest ever players is sensational: Maradona, Platini, Zico, Gullit, Van Basten, Rijkaard, Matthaus, Careca, Falcao, Boniek, Passarella, Krol, Brady, Klinsmann, Gascoigne, Laudrup, Zanetti, Ronaldo, Davids, Thuram, Cafu, Trezeguet, Batistuta, Shevchenko, Ibrahimovic, Zidane, Nedved, Ronaldinho and Kaka - to name but a few.

In Asia, the English Premier League rules and it’s hard to find even a modicum of evidence that Italian football actually exists.

In the fastest growing part of the world economically, where the juggernaut of European clubs such as Manchester United, Liverpool, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Barcelona have their tentacles firmly established, Italian clubs are merely an afterthought in Asia. And that’s being kind.

Juventus, AC Milan and Inter are not household names outside of Italy or the Italian communities worldwide and their aura amongst the football cognoscenti was established in the pre-internet age.

The world has well and truly moved on since then and the Serie A has been left behind. Poor marketing, crowd disturbances at grounds, betting and corruption scandals and poor infrastructure have all contributed too.

The last piece of the demoralising jig-saw puzzle would be to have one stand-out club dominate the field to the detriment of all others.

The Ferrari is a national icon. So too are Juventus but the health of the competition depends on them not dominating.

It’s for this reason that, even as a Juventus supporter of 35 years, I say 'Forza Napoli' in 2016.

Joe Russo is a football writer for Australian-based Italian newspapers La Fiamma and Il Globo.



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4 min read
Published 15 January 2016 at 3:00pm
By Joe Russo