27-year Serie A veteran says with big clubs floundering, the Italian league is broken

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Longtime manager Alberto Zaccheroni, who won a Scuddeto at the helm of AC Milan in 1999 and has spent nearly 30 years in Italian soccer, bashed the league for its archaic way of progressing despite changing times.

The 61-year-old, who resigned from his post as manager of the Japanese national team following the 2014 World Cup, says the league has failed to adapt despite declining resources which reduces the quality of players available to clubs, and believes the country needs to get back to producing its own wealth of talent.

“It seems simple – we have less resources than we did before, but we still adopt the same method,” Zaccheroni told Italian publication Gazzetta dello Sport. “The great families that invested in football are not there anymore – names like Agnelli, Berlusconi, Moratti, Sensi, Cragnotti and Tanzi. If there is no money, we must start again from the local pitches, from the day-to-day work, cultivating our youth properly.”

Zaccheroni, by invoking the names of former owners from clubs like Juventus, Roma, Lazio, and Parma, gives his thoughts a bit of an outdated feel, but he may have a point.

The two big Milan clubs especially have fallen on hard times recently, with both missing out on European play altogether for some time and are yet again in serious trouble. AC Milan currently sits in seventh, three points back of a Europa League spot, while Inter has slipped all the way down to 12th position, seven points back of a European position and doubled up by leaders Juventus on points.

Even the Old Lady, which is dominating the league, continues to struggle when playing abroad, serving to suggest the league has slipped below the other power leagues across Europe. Other historically strong Italian clubs such as Fiorentina and Lazio have also found themselves on the outside looking in this season.

With the likes of Genoa and Sampdoria currently in European places, it’s hard for smaller clubs who have stumbled upon more recent success to make up for the lack of funds generated by those usually playing abroad suddenly missing out. While this is good to have turnover and parity in a league, it also has spread the resources thin and caused top-level talent to become somewhat scarce, according to Zaccheroni.

“We must buy less – and with greater carefulness – from abroad,” said the former Milan, Inter, and Juventus boss. “We take up a massive load of foreigners without familiarizing ourselves with them, without following them first, without knowing what their qualities or their personalities are. The first-class foreigners, those who need no introduction, are beyond our economic means now.”

With smaller clubs seeing success on a recent basis, that is actually hurting the league long-term, he says.

“The coaches of our most prominent youth teams – like those of the smaller clubs – only ever think about winning, so they neglect a fundamental process called growth. In Serie A and Serie B there are more and more players who know neither how to defend nor how to attack. At most they know how to interpret their role within the formation chosen by the coach.”

It’s hard to say that such generalized and broad thoughts are right or wrong, and a higher degree of specificity is required to truly have an effect. The view is an old-school one for sure, but if Zaccheroni is to see out his vision, serious changes must be made from the top down. Others like Zaccheroni may argue that European soccer is better with teams like Inter and AC Milan in the mix for titles. Nevertheless Serie A has seen a balance of power few could have seen coming just four years ago when Inter completed their historic European treble, and it has some old boys experiencing a form of change-induced vertigo.