Why is Italian football so boring?
"Numero 10" hangs like a curse over the new Serie A season, even if one might see it a little differently at Juventus Turin - and among the allegedly eleven million "Juventini" too. If Juve won the championship this time too, it would be ten titles in a row, such a boring round number that the hopeful marketers of the Calcio are worried. They will be discussed in detail in a moment.
But of course "Number 10" is the most likely scenario for Juve, because they can Gazzetta dello Sport continue to write about the "most mysterious championship in history" for a long time - you want to keep yourself happy in the editorial office. Apart from Inter Milan, no team seems to be able to keep up with the Turin team to the end, at least not at first glance. Maybe AC Milan? Zlatan Ibrahimovic has a season there after a long contract poker. With a fee of seven million euros, they found each other, a proud sum at 38 years of age. When the glamorous striker landed in Milan, he was celebrated like a surprise transfer.
In general, Serie A has become a kind of retirement home for foreign stars. Except for Napoli, who signed the 21-year-old Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen from Lille OSC for 70 million euros, most of the club's poster boys are no longer that young. Pedro Rodriguez, the great "Pedrito", most recently at Barça and Chelsea, now signed with AS Roma at 33. Franck Ribéry, 37, starts his second season in Florence.
One tries to find well-sounding names that one can have cheaply and that are no longer desired elsewhere. Arturo Vidal, 33, who no longer fits into the concept of Ronald Koeman's renewed FC Barcelona, flirts with Inter. And his previous colleague Luis Suarez, also 33, who had the same fate as Vidal, negotiated for a long time with Juve, who had already sent him to the Italian exam for a quick naturalization - initially without any consequences. And then there is Cristiano Ronaldo, who, after his recent tristezza over the playful Champions League (out against Lyon), gives Juventus another chance to climb up to his level. He is 35.
After all, a coach at Juventus is now giving tactical instructions that Ronaldo has to appreciate just for his past class as a player: Andrea Pirlo, the "maestro" - as a coach, however, the world champion is a total beginner. Originally, Pirlo should have taken over the Turin U23 team, he had just obtained his coaching license. The appeal of the velvet foot with the sluggish voice for the first team came like a clap of thunder over Italy's football. Now everyone wants to know whether Pirlo will manage to teach Juve a new, modern, joyful game.
But that's the only really big mystery this season, to put it with the Gazzetta, at least in terms of sport.
Economically, it is about nothing less than the survival of the clubs. Serie A was already heavily in debt before the pandemic: it was 3.7 billion euros in the summer of 2019. Corona tore even bigger holes in the coffers. Juve, by far the best run club in the country, is suddenly with a 69 million euros loss, sales shrank from 620 to 570 million. And it is not yet clear when a paying audience will be allowed to return to the stadiums. At least not before mid-October, the government has already decided that. And then? 20 percent of the respective stadium capacity?
Nevertheless, an "epochal change" is happening in Italian football, as the newspapers describe it, everyone needs expressions from the big days: "The Calcio is making a leap into the future," says the Corriere della Sera. The club association Lega Serie A (formerly Lega Calcio) has just founded a media company, it should finally sell the product Serie A better, all over the world. Above all, it should generate more money for the television rights. At the moment there are only 1.4 billion euros a year, only 371 million of which come from abroad. As a comparison: the English and Spanish leagues take in more than twice as much, around half of it from abroad. Now they want to take a bit of market share away from the English and the Spanish while at the same time keeping the Bundesliga and French Ligue 1 in check.
AC Florence - FC Turin Sat. 6 p.m.
Hellas Verona - AS Roma Sa.20.45
Parma FC - Napoli SSC Sun. 12.30
CFC Genoa - FC Crotone (A) Sunday 3 p.m.
Sassuolo Calcio - Cagliari Calcio Sun 18.00
Juventus Turin - Sampdoria Genoa Sun 20.45
AC Milan - FC Bologna Mon. 8.45 pm
Benevento Calcio (A) - Inter Milan 30.9.
Lazio - Atalanta Bergamo 30.9.
Udinese Calcio - La Spezia Calcio (A) 30.9.
(A) = promoted from series B
The timing does not seem to be the best, empty stadiums are not a very attractive backdrop. In addition, many Italian arenas are old booths that don't offer much televisually. But when the Lega Serie A and its new president Paolo Dal Pino, a manager from the communications industry with no particular affinity for football, tested the terrain, to everyone's amazement, a long line of potent international funds signed up. Apparently they believe in large profit margins - and in the twilight radiance of prominent club names, in the traditional aura of Juve, Inter, Milan, Napoli, Roma.
The "Media Company", in which all 20 Serie A clubs are involved, decided unanimously that external investors should inject capital and receive ten percent of the company in return. Two groups of investors with several funds are in the running: CVC, Advent and FSI are offering 1.63 billion euros; from Bain and NB Renaissance there would be 1.35 billion. An oxygen supply. Nevertheless, it was a bit of a miracle that the decision was unanimous: Italian club presidents tend towards egomania, in the League there have been grotesque Gockelfights over the years.
But now many clubs have foreign owners: Inter belongs to a large Chinese corporation, Milan to an American hedge fund, Roma recently to a powerful US car salesman and film producer, Florence AC to the Italian-American entrepreneur Rocco Commisso, and Bologna FC to a Canadian food company.
So far, Italian clubs have spent hundreds of millions on third parties selling TV rights for them. Now they do it themselves. And if the broadcasters didn't offer enough money for the broadcast, yes, Serie A would probably create its own digital platform. The next call, for 2021 to 2024, is imminent.
Everything should become more modern. Offices around the globe are planned for marketing. The whole world should want to watch Serie A. And that's why it would be good if Juventus and boredom didn't win.
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