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Premier League vs Serie A: The Battle for the 4th Champions League spot

Chintan Mehta writes about the battle between Serie A and the Premier League for the 4th Champion’s League spot.

As the new football season approaches, the excitement is uncontainable. Every football fanatic is eager to know what their favorite club is up to and what’s in store for them for the upcoming season. New dreams and new expectations are chalked down and swords are drawn against your mates who support the rival clubs. This season like no other will be a battle for supremacy in the domestic league and European competitions. However, another intriguing battle which takes place is between Serie A and English Premier League (“EPL”), the battle for the 4th champions league spot.

PL Serie A

In the 80’s and 90’s, plethora of stars played in Italy and the charisma of Serie A was unrivalled. A great lifestyle, beautiful women, good food and high wages attracted stars from all over the world. It was considered to be the home of superstars.

As time went by, things began to change. Serie A’s glossiness began to fade and financial problems, obsolete infrastructure along with low attendance in the stadiums lead to the slow painful demise of the league which was once billed as the “most beautiful league” on the planet. The time when Serie A was plummeting to an all time low, EPL took this opportunity to replace them as the most decorated league in the world. With escalating payouts from television rights, shirt and kit deals, sponsors; money was pumped in the league which helped them attract players with huge wage figures and it soon became the most marketed league in the world.

Fast forward a few years and the situation is more or less the same, EPL is still one of the most marketed leagues in the world and Serie A is stuck in quicksand trying to wriggle its way out.

What changed for the Italians and what lead to this prompt rise of EPL? There are multiple factors but a simple answer can be CHANGE. The Calciopoli hit the Serie A hard in 2006 and the league lost its reputation and the sponsorships started drying up. The clubs couldn’t compete with other leagues in terms of wages and transfer fees. The economic meltdown in 2008-09 crippled the Italian clubs further and clipped their wings. The UEFA fairplay made things even more arduous for the Italian clubs as the owners couldn’t invest heavily to buy players as the club’s revenue played a pivotal role. But one of the biggest reasons of the decline is the outdated infrastructure. For the 1990 World Cup, the Italian government and local municipalities invested over 1 Billion Euros to build new stadiums and a few were expansively renovated Stadio Olimpico (Rome & Lazio), San Siro (AC Milan & Inter Milan), to name a few. Things haven’t changed much, two decades have gone by and the clubs haven’t managed to upgrade their stadiums and ground facilities. Plans for redevelopment were drawn by Italy as they bid to host EURO2016 but having lost to France, those plans were shelved. Juventus is the only club which chose to go in the right direction as they managed to build their own independent stadium. Surprisingly, Juventus Stadium is still the only club owned stadium in Italy. Italian Football has stagnated since the 90s and things haven’t CHANGED much during their decline which led them to slip further into abyss.

Whereas on the other side the English adapted and structured their module to perfection. Individually owned stadiums meant an increase in the ticket sales which directly increased the club’s revenue. EPL has greater international appeal, particularly in fast growing Asian markets, which led to new TV and sponsorship deals. More money started coming in and filling all the English club’s coffers. The tide had turned and the numbers were a proof of their supremacy. But, EPL’s biggest advantage is television money which explains why five of the top 10 most valuable football teams are English.

In the 13-14 Season, Serie A pocketed 846 Million Euros whereas EPL pocketed 1.8 Billion Euros almost twice as much as their closest rivals. The figures are quite staggering and shows the financial supremacy of the EPL in the world of football. Juventus, being crowned as champions ended up with 94 Million Euros with Inter coming second with 80 million Euros and their cross country rival, Milan managing to scalp 77 Milllion Euros. When you compare these individual figures with the English clubs, the stark difference between the two leagues is embarrassing. Seven English Clubs managed to pocket more money than the highest earner from Italy. Cardiff City benefitted the least but they still managed to grab a whooping 74 Million Euros which is almost as much as the third highest benefited team in Italy. The figures itself give you a proof on how superior the EPL is in terms of finances.

Things weren’t much different in the 14-15 Season as the Italians managed to earn more or less around the same vicinity as the previous season but the English managed to widen the gap and stamp their authority. 15 teams managed to pocket over 100 Million Euros and 17 teams got more than Juventus. Teams like Everton, Stoke City and others managed to earn more than the traditional European Giants like Juventus, Milan and Inter. It literally sounds unfair but that’s how the semantics of the current financial module works. As per Forbes magazine, EPL will pocket a whooping 2.68 billion dollars from 2017-2019 and the closest rival is Serie A with a meagre 1.08 Billion dollars (2016-18).

Every European League allocates Television Money differently though Serie A and EPL have a more centralized system unlike La Liga who allow teams to have personalized deals. Though EPL produces the greatest degree of equity with its model whereas Serie A has many factors taken into consideration like fan population, previous year’s results, results over the last 5 years, stadium population and more. There is more uniformity and clarity in the EPL module as compared to the Serie A module.

Though it’s difficult for the Italian teams to compete with English teams on the financial level their performance on the pitch can help them trump the English teams. Even though EPL is guaranteed to keep four Champions League spots for 2017-18, that status will be under threat from Serie A in the forthcoming season. As it stands, EPL has 62.748 co efficient points and Serie A has 60.415 co efficient points, a slender lead of 2.33 points, a lead which can be easily surmounted. Since the past 2 seasons, led by Juventus, Serie A clubs have been performing better and coupled with English teams’ failure, the gap is reducing every year.

Serie A’s recent resurgence started in 2014-15 season where Juventus finished runners up to Barcelona in the Champions League and Napoli and Fiorentina ended their Europa League campaign with semi final losses. Whereas English teams had a campaign to forget as all the teams got kicked out in the round of 16 in both Champions League and Europa league. 2015-16 season started off just as positively as the previous campaign for the Italians but despite enjoying a strong group stage campaign, it went downhill for them as no team managed to qualify for the quarterfinals stage in the Champions League and Europa league. This was the first time, a European competition had no Italian representative in the Quarter finals since 2000-01. English teams had a fairly decent campaign with Liverpool losing to Sevilla in the Europa League finals and Manchester City got kicked out by Real Madrid in the UCL semi Finals.

For the upcoming season, a lot depends on Juventus, the Italian flag bearer in the European competition, as the expectation of the peninsula hinges on the Old Lady. With the transfer season they are having; they are definitely one of the favorites to win the Champions League. With the likes of Higuain, Pjanic, Dani Alves, they look like a formidable side. Napoli may have lost Higuain but they have already secured the signing of the young Polish striker, Milik, who had a good EURO 16. Having captured Italian EURO2016 hero Giaccherini and coupled with their passionate fans, San Paolo will be a tough trip to make for any opposition. Roma have been hit hard as Juventus ripped their heart out by buying Pjanic but with their Roman warrior, Totti leading from the front, Roma can’t be underestimated. In the Europa League, Inter can be a force to reckon with. Having bought a promising defender Ansaldi, and Argentinian Powerhouse Banega, Inter will be a determined and a difficult prospect to beat. They will be up against a surprise list of English teams. Barring a few regular names. English representatives might find it a little tougher than usual. English Champions, Leicester City will be playing in Europe for the first time and they will find it difficult to cope up with a hectic schedule and along with Spurs, relative newbies, EPL have it tough in this year’s Champions League. Arsenal’s unpredictability can’t be trusted either. A lot will depend on the Manchester teams, with heavy spending, they will be carrying a whole lot of burden into this year’s European competitions.

EPL teams will be under a lot of pressure and the Italians will look for the smallest window to sneak back in. 4 champions league spots means more money and they do need it. There is no financial parity whatsoever but with their performances they can become the formidable force they once were. Can the English teams widen the gap between them and Serie A? A lot will unfold this season. With both contingents a meagre 2.33 points apart, this season will surely be a humdinger.

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