Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Juventus on Tuesday is a much-needed short-term boost for Serie A which has struggled to attract top players in the last decade, but the Italian league’s many deep-rooted problems remain.
Five-time world player of the year Ronaldo is the second big name to be lured to Italy since the close season following Napoli’s coup in hiring Carlo Ancelotti, one of Europe’s top coaches, and there have been other signs of a Serie A revival.
Last season’s title race was one of the most exciting in years with Napoli pushing Juve all the way before the Turin side wrapped up their seventh successive championship.
In fact, it was the only one of Europe’s big five leagues which did not turn into a one-horse race.
Serie A was also one of the big winners in the recent reform of the Champions League with its number of guaranteed slots in the lucrative group stage increasing from two to four.
It has also shown itself to be open to innovation as one of the leagues which agreed to experiment with video replay technology (VAR) last season.
But for every two steps forward, Serie A seems to take one step back.
It remains unable to attract the same television money as its English and Spanish counterparts and last month was forced to start a new bidding round for the rights to broadcast matches from 2018-21 after a last-ditch attempt by Spain’s Mediapro to salvage a previous deal failed. Serie A had accepted the offer by Mediapro, a Chinese-owned group, in February for the rights to screen almost 400 games over the next three seasons at just above €1.05 billion.
But it then annulled the contract signed with Mediapro after the Spanish group failed to present the necessary bank guarantees.
Also last month, AC Milan were barred next season’s Europa League because of the club’s uncertain finances. After months of speculation over the state of its finances, prospective bidders are circling AC Milan aware its owner, Li Yonghong, is in a tight corner.
In another setback, the government last week approved a ban on advertising by betting companies, something which Serie A met with “extreme worry”.
Serie A said the new rules would create disparity with other European countries and would bring “competitive disadvantages to Italian clubs”.
More long-standing problems also remain.
Only four Serie A clubs are owners of their own stadiums and although the number is slowly growing, it has a long, slow, bureaucratic process.
The gap between the top clubs and the rest remains huge, especially the teams from Serie B who often go straight back down – as Benevento and Hellas did last season – and Ronaldo might have a shock at the conditions in some of the smaller stadiums.
Ronaldo’s signing could even represent a problem – adding the world’s top player to a team who have won the last seven titles is hardly likely to improve the league’s competitive balance/Reuters.