The resurgence of the Italian Serie A, literally on the back of Cristiano Ronaldo, is proof of what one power-packed transfer can do to a league descending into oblivion.
The Italian Serie A used to be the most sought- after league in all of Europe, and the world by extension, during the first half of 1990s. That was the first decade post the Fall of the Berlin Wall, and for football, the first of globalization. Players were now free to be part of the global market, plying their trades anywhere, for whoever who could pay the most. By the 2000s though, the scene changed, with rise of first the La Liga from Spain, and then the almighty English Premier League. Over time, England’s league in particular has become the foremost footballing league, followed across the globe. Both league’s have reaped the benefits of having superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in their ranks.
One of the major reasons cited for this loss in popularity has been the fact that, a lot like neighbouring France and Germany, Italy’s league too has acquired the reputation of being a one- team competition. The Turin giants Juventus, backed by the Agnelli family, which also owns Fiat and Ferrari, has notched by 9 consecutive titles since 2011. During that period, England has seen 5 teams take the throne. The shock summer 2018 acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid merely confirmed this trend. It was expected to further fortify Juventus’s perch. But all that may be about to change, and quickly.
The shock summer 2018 acquisition of Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid merely confirmed Serie A and Juventus’ resurgence.
The Milan Revival
The city of Milan is known to be home to two of the biggest giants in the game. At least one of them should surely capture the title this season. At this point the blue and black half, that is Inter Milan sits on top, with the red and black AC Milan trailing not far behind. Juventus does have a game in hand on Milan (AC), but having played the same number of games as Inter, sit a whopping seven points behind. Napoli almost broke the streak a few years back, but somehow the Lukaku inspired outfit does appear particularly strong this season.
It’s not been all plain sailing for Inter either. The manager Antonio Conte has often faced criticism for his transfer policy of acquiring older players. Ironically, Conte was the one who started the run for Juventus, having coached them from 2011 to 2014. A lot of familiar failings have resurfaced, not least, his one failure then, which was lack of European success. That seems to elude all his teams. His reactive tactics seem to augur better for the long haul of a league campaign. There are also several players at Inter with a point to prove. Romelu Lukaku for instance, has always been mocked for his non-aesthetic brand of playing the game, which belies his amazing goal-scoring return at all teams he has played for.
Watch: Top Serie A Goals in February 2021
AC Milan’s campaign has been anchored by their towering veteran Swedish striker, the much-travelled Zlatan Ibrahimovic. He has carried the team on his 40-year-old shoulders for some time, with good assistance from an able support cast comprising the likes of Ante Rebic, Hakan Calhanoglu, Franck Kessie, Theo Hernandez, Alessio Romagnoli, Simon Kjaer and others. Notably, there is the towering young homegrown goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. The latter’s contract actually expires this summer, so he could leave on a free transfer. Inter arguably has better strength in depth. For Lukaku, to cite an example, they have a Lautaro Martinez. Their right full back Achraf Hakimi is one of the most exciting talents in his position. The likes of Samir Handanovic, Stefan de Vrij, Aleksandar Kolarov, Christian Eriksen, Ashley Young, Milan Skriniar, etc. have hunger in their bellies.
Old Lady and Cristiano Ronaldo
Juventus’ nickname in Italian is La Vecchia Signora, which translates to The Old Lady. The present squad bears a rather ageing feel. The years of donation has somewhat dulled the hunger. Elsewhere in the Serie A, Atalanta, from little known town of Bergamo, continue to be every romantic’s favourite. Napoli, Roma and Lazio continue to be in the thereabouts. Crotone is surely going to go down this year, perhaps not without a fight. Another club that used to be prominent during the 1990s, AS Parma too is struggling to survive. However, Torino and Cagliari are too good to go down.
On the other hand, the likes of Salvatore Sirigu, Ricardo Rodriguez, Tomas Rincon, Simone Verdi and Andrea Belotti don the colours of Juventus’ city rivals F.C. Torino. The Sardinian team Cagliari’s ranks boast the likes of Diego Godin, Radja Nainggolan, Joao Pedro and Kwadwo Asamoah. Benevento and Spezia will surely be on the watch-out, for they could be dragged down towards the relegation battle. Whatever the final outcome, one thing is for sure. 2020-21 will go down as finally the year when the city of Milan woke up from its football hiatus, and challenged the near- monopoly of the Turin giants- Juventus. It’s now pretty much up to Cristiano Ronaldo to tilt the balance in favour of his team.