MILAN - A new stadium for Juventus and AS
Roma's ambitious plans to imitate Barcelona's playing style have
injected welcome optimism yet Serie A remains beset by old,
Atalanta will begin the new season next week with minus six
points for their part in the latest match-fixing scandal,
Juventus are still bickering over the 2006 title and there is a
risk that a players' strike will delay the league's start.
Decrepit stadiums, crowd violence and scandals have combined
to drain Italian football's credibility over the last few
seasons and Serie A has fallen way behind the English Premier
League and Spain's La Liga in terms of prestige.
This season Italian teams will be playing for only two
direct Champions League places instead of the previous three,
having fallen below Germany to fourth place in the UEFA
co-efficient which decides the allocation of berths.
Juventus will open their new stadium in September and, in
many ways, it is ground-breaking - not least because they own
it, the only Serie A side to enjoy that privilege.
While their rivals, including title holders AC Milan,
continue renting out municipal stadiums, Juventus will be able
to use their ground for other events to generate income.
It also gives them an advantage under UEFA's new Financial
Fair Play policy, which bans clubs from spending more than their
generated revenue but exempts money invested in stadiums from
The stadium has been built on the site of the old Stadio
delle Alpi. Its capacity of 41,000 is around half that of its
predecessor and with no running track to distance the fans from
the pitch, the club hopes it will provide an inspirational
"The new stadium will allow us to return to the highest
level, not only in Italy but in Europe as well," said former CEO
Jean-Claude Blanc, who remains on the board of directors.
"The key word is planning. We bought the old Delle Alpi 10
years ago now and we focused on saving the club after Calciopoli [match-fixing scandal]. Despite Italy not getting to host Euro
2012, we did not give up on the project.
"Inter and Milan are lucky enough to have a great stadium
with a huge capacity but it is not a decisive factor in their
turnover. Our stadium is ready and will help us generate a lot
of revenue even if it will take time."
Juventus have never fully recovered from being stripped of
the 2005 and 2006 titles in the Calciopoli scandal, and they
have spent heavily in the transfer market.
They splashed out 37 million euros to sign
previously loaned players Alessandro Matri, Fabio Quagliarella,
Simone Pepe and Marco Motta, then strengthened the midfield with
the signing of Chile's versatile Arturo Vidal.
They added Montenegro striker Mirko Vucinic from Roma for 15
million and replaced coach Luigi Delneri with former midfielder
Antonio Conte in their bid to improve on last season's seventh
Roma have been rebuilding with new coach Luis Enrique hoping
to use his Barcelona playing experience to mould them into a
team with a similar style to the Catalans.
"When I spoke to the directors during contract negotiations,
they told me the idea was to have an attractive side," he told
reporters. "We'll see after a few months if we've achieved this
but I don't know another way of playing."
As a statement of intent, they signed 19-year-old Argentine
Erik Lamela, a tall, elegant midfielder regarded as one of his
country's brightest prospects, from River Plate.
Serie A has also allowed clubs to sign two non-EU players
instead of one in a bid to make the league more enticing.
return of the two non-EU players is important for Italian
football and to revive the competitiveness of the squads," said
Serie A president Maurizio Beretta.
However, they have not managed to lure any big names, with
Argentina's Sergio Aguero preferring Manchester City to
All this has gone on against the usual backdrop of
bickering, suggesting that a long, rocky road lies ahead for
Juventus have promised to fight on in their attempt to have
the 2006 Serie A title wrested from Inter after a Napoli court
investigating the case heard evidence of more widespread
attempts involving Inter to influence the selection of referees.
The Italian federation said it did not have the power to
revoke the decision which stripped Juventus of the title.
A more recent match-fixing scandal has resulted in a
six-point deduction for promoted Atalanta and a three-and-a-half-year ban
for their veteran captain Cristiano Doni.
Of more immediate concern is a threat by the Italian
Players' Union to strike if a new collective agreement
guaranteeing players' rights is not signed by the league before
the opening weekend of August 27/28.
Strike action was narrowly averted twice last season after
negotiations stalled in the year-long dispute.
A new "solidarity contribution" tax announced by the Italian
government this month, to be paid by anyone earning more than
90,000 euros a year, has also added to the discord.
The players and the clubs say each other should pay this
while right-wing cabinet minister Roberto Calderoli described
the players as "spoiled."
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