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Bobby McMahon

Bobby McMahon

You can see me on Soccer Central most Mondays and Thursdays on Rogers Sportsnet in Canada. I write a regular column for and and frequently guest on various podcasts and radio shows.


Why Losing a Fourth Champions League Spot Might Be Good For Serie A

Written by on May 12, 2011 | 10 Comments »
Posted in Serie A

With two games remaining in Serie A play for the 2010/11 season there are a few things already signed, sealed and delivered.

Milan are champions for the 18th time, Inter Milan needs only a draw against third place Napoli when they play this weekend to finish as runners-up, while Brescia and Bari are already headed to Serie B.

Lecce are two points out of the third and final relegation spot and have to play Bari away this weekend and then conclude the season with a visit from Lazio.

That final game may bring together two teams with diverse ambitions. Lecce to stay up and Lazio to finish fourth – hoping that might be enough for a spot in the qualifying round of the Champions League next season.

The team trying to catch Lecce is Sampdoria and their final match could bring an identical set of circumstances.

Sampdoria are at home to Palermo on Sunday while they will be away to Roma – also challenging for the last Champions League spot – on the last day of the season.

The third contender for the Champions League spot is Udinese who currently hold a two point advantage on both Roma and Lazio. Udinese finish their season away to Chievo and home to Milan.

But in a series of the oddest circumstances we have a number of teams who will play roles in deciding who gets the Champions League spot being prime examples of the danger posed by participation in Europe’s premier competition.

This will be the last season for quite some time in which Italy will qualify for sides for the Champions League. The year after the fourth spot will go to Germany while Italy will make to with just three.

A look back at how the fourth Italian qualifier has performed in the Champions League over the last few years gives us a good idea why Italy is losing a spot.

In 2005 Udinese finished 4th in Serie A but went out in the group stage after finishing third. The fourth place finish in Serie A was followed by 11th, 10th, 7th, 7th and 15th last season. It has been a long road back for Udinese.

Chievo was the surprise packet in the 2005/06 Serie A season (they also benefited from the penalties imposed in the wake of Calciopoli) and they finished behind Inter, Roma and Milan.

The Champions League performance was a disaster and the team from Verona lost at the qualifying stage to Levski Sofia by an aggregate score of 4-2 (0-2, 2-2).

As it was Levski made a mark on the Champions League but not a positive one. They lost all six matches, scored one and conceded 17. For Chievo it only got worse. At season’s end they were relegated to Serie B.

Lazio were next up and they were unable to progress past the group stage after finishing last in Group C with only one win. Since the end of the 2007 season Lazio has finished 12th, 10th, and 12th.

Fiorentina bucked the trend for one season with consecutive 4th place finishes in 2008 and 2009.

Fiorentina could do no better than 3rd in Group F in the 2008/09 Champions League but the following season they were a shade unfortunate to lose in the round of 16 to eventual runners-up Bayern Munich on the away-goals rule.

However, their good run in Champions League came at a cost in their domestic form. They could only finish 11th and they also started poorly this season before rising to the safety of mid-table.

And to our final exhibit Sampdoria. Last season at this time Sampdoria were the hottest side in Serie A. They won 7 and drew one of their last eight matches and sneaked past Palermo by a single into fourth.

But the Champions League qualifying round was to be a harbinger of bad things to come. After a 3-1 loss to Werder Bremen in the first league Sampdoria would eventually lose after extra time to the German club.

Then, there was the distraction of Antonio Cassano, the departure of Giampaolo Pazzini and the implosion of their domestic form.

At the holiday break Sampdoria sat comfortably in 8th with 23 points after 16 games. Home form of three wins, four draws and only home loss should have provided a solid foundation on which to build – particularly when Sampdoria had gone unbeaten at home the previous season.

As it turned out nothing could be further from the truth. Home form dissolved with only two wins and two draws coming in 10 games while one win, three draws and 8 losses in their last 12 overall has taken them to the edge of the abyss.

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10 responses to “Why Losing a Fourth Champions League Spot Might Be Good For Serie A”

  1. houyhnhnm says:

    Your point is good mr mcmahon,
    italy’s fourth clubs havent done well, though germany’s fourth spots will have a lot to prove as well.

    how well would FSV Mainz or Hannover 96 do, if it was Germany’s this year?

    I have been saying it for a while, the premier league has the best uefa torunament situation, with that money team group of the red and blue london and manchester sides, liverpool and tottenham.

    la liga only has the great two of Barca and Real. serie a has the two milans. Germany has Bayern. France has Lyon and Marseille.

    The reality is, in the modern game, big money makes teams and outside of those clubs above most other clubs are not prepared for continual participation in the CL or Europa cup.

    What the Bundesliga, la Liga, Serie A, and Ligue 1 needs is big money investment into their top sides, like the premier league which will make it where their CL spots are filled with teams brimming with quality.

  2. Boris says:

    I don’t understand why they have to wait for two years to implement the changes. I mean next year someone else could be doing better. Look at Portuguese teams. Their teams should be awarded for their merits after this season and not wait an additional season for the new rankings to be implemented.

  3. gabe says:

    Spanish teams are starting to get big investments. This year Malaga, Racing and Getafe have gotten purchased by foreign billionaires. There are a few other teams that could be next I specially think Real Sociedad, Osasuna, Zaragoza, Betis and possibly Depor could be ripe for take overs by wealthy owners

  4. Boris says:

    Daglish signs a new 3-year contract with Liverpool.
    Man u are prepared to offer 17 mil Euro for the Rangers’ powerful striker, Nikica Jelavic.

  5. Tim says:

    I think having more German teams in the CL will make it more competitive. Wynalda Quote, “never count the Germans out.”

  6. redfan says:

    Wonder if the Spurs players and fans will need earplugs to focus on Sunday? Win or lose, today’s news will have the Kop singing long past the final whistle. I have the video of the January welcome so I wonder what this weekend’s will be like in comparison?

    So glad this issue is done and dusted and the club can now take a big step forward through the summer.

  7. Michael Sebold says:

    Not having done a similar analysis on the Bundesliga, I will just say that the half-empty Italian stadia weren’t exactly of benefit to UEFA — if nothing else, then it’s simply that the economics will do better with fourth German team. Moreover, it’s been said here and elsewhere that German clubs generally sit on a more solid financial foundation than clubs in other leagues, which suggests that the additional CL revenue is likely to strengthen their performance. That said, I’m not sure what the thinking behind the Sahin sale was — perhaps doubling down for journeyman talent with CL experience?

  8. Mary Gillmeister says:

    I reckon that one of the reasons the big Prem clubs do well in Europe is because of the TV rights deal that rewards all the clubs equally and insanely well. In Spain and Italy the clubs have traditionally made their own television deals (I know Italy is supposed to be changing this model, not sure whether that has also happened in Spain just yet) so it is no wonder the smaller ‘unfashionable’ clubs don’t have the financial footing that the traditional big clubs have. And the corollary to that is that they have smaller stadia equalling lower match-day revenues, and lower merchandising revenue. Thus when these clubs get into Europe, they simply don’t have the strength in depth of squad to compete on two fronts in the league and in Europe.

    So if they get the holy grail of CL group stage footy, they get the big pay day that comes with 6 matches. Do they then spend like drunken sailors in January and again the following summer in an effort to ensure they maintain or come back into the CL? If that model doesn’t work, they may get into serious financial straits, become a selling club and it’s all downhill from there.

    I think it’s going to be interesting to see what happens with Spurs in the summer – they’ll have the big money from their good run this year in the CL, and probably not have any European football as a distraction in their efforts to get back in next year. But their ground isn’t big enough, and will they be able to attract the best players, especially once the Fair Play rules come in. (I’ve always been amazed how much they wheel and deal at Spurs, can it go on like this?)

    I think also the EL, despite its importance to the coefficient and seeding is still very much the poor cousin, and it is clear that most clubs of any stature just don’t care about it, (viz. the Italian clubs, especially this year) so they don’t bother, preferring rather to focus on the league, whereas smaller clubs may focus their efforts there and their league form suffers.

    I watch a lot of Serie A, and it is clear that they need to put their own house in order (club finances, equitable distribution of money, empty stadia, assorted scandals) and get the league back to a healthy place where they could actually compete in Europe again. It was really sad to see Milan, Inter and Roma fail dismally in Europe, especially given Inter were the holders and Milan have such a proud history in the competition, but their 2007 win seeming like a life time ago. So yes, I’d agree with Bobby – 3 spots might be good in the short term to help them to better results in the long term.

  9. houyhnhnm says:

    @Boris, the reason is consistency
    the coefficients show the quality over a region of time so it helps stronger leagues maintain positions and forces smaller leagues, even with the occasional greater success to stay in their place.
    unfair but in some ways worthy

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