After a decade of struggles in continental competitions, Owen Diana believes UEFA Euro 2020 showed Serie A is a force to be reckoned with once again.
Although the focus was on the country and not clubs at EURO 2020, the success of Serie A still stood out. An entertaining Azzurri side composed mostly of domestic-based talents were crowned champions, while a host of foreigners based on the Peninsula produced standout showings in UEFA’s showpiece event.
The statistics support the superiority of Serie A. No league was responsible for more goals (37) or contributed more goalscorers (20), while only the Premier League collected more Man of the Match awards (15 vs. 13).
Italy and England’s top flight have the same amount of players in the Team of the Tournament (five each) while Barcelona and Spain starlet Pedri is the only player from La Liga.
Many of those decisive individual displays were produced by established international stars like Romelu Lukaku and Capocannoniere Cristiano Ronaldo, but a host of up-and-coming talents also burnished their reputations. Federico Chiesa continued to catch the eye after ending the campaign in fine form with Juventus, while Denmark duo Mikkel Damsgaard and Joakim Maehle were key cogs for the surprise semi-finalists.
Atalanta man Maehle was just one of a number of impressive performers for La Dea. Five different Bergamo boys found the back of the net in the tournament, a record matched only by Anderlecht (1984), Barcelona (2000) and Real Madrid (2012).
That stat reflects just how far La Dea have come in recent times, and Italy made similarly swift progress on their way to a second European Championship trophy. After missing out on Russia 2018, a squad containing 23 players who strutted their stuff in Serie A last season helped to put that famous failure firmly in the rear-view mirror.
With former Inter boss Roberto Mancini at the helm, an adventurous Azzurri delighted onlookers while maintaining the traditional commitment to dogged defending. That tactical yin and yang was epitomised in the final by the uncompromising Giorgio Chiellini, who was given license to go forward even after Italy claimed a crucial equaliser through fellow centre-back Leonardo Bonucci.
That intoxicating mix of silk and steel echoes the evolution happening at club level. After a 2019-20 season that averaged more than three goals a match for the first time since 1951-52, Serie A boasted the highest goals-per-game figure in Europe’s top five leagues last term (3.06).
The cradle of catenaccio is now home to plenty of free-flowing football, and the next step is to translate that stylistic shift into continental prizes. More than 11 years have passed since Inter claimed the Champions League in Madrid, and Italian teams have been beaten by Spanish sides in the three European finals they have disputed since then.
That is a wretched record for a league that was once considered the best in the world, but the financial might of the Premier League and mega-rich outfits like Paris Saint-Germain puts the Peninsula at a disadvantage in continental competition. Working behind the scenes to decrease that economic disparity is important, but these Euros proved that the steps being taken on the field to challenge those super clubs are beginning to bear fruit.