x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Juventus and coaches leading a good Italian job

Look at the honours board and, in many ways, it looks quite a distinguished year for Italian footballl, but in other key respects, the game in Italy showed disturbing symptoms of not keeping pace with the rest, explains Ian Hawkey.

Juventus and the coaching ambassadors leading teams in England and Spain have been the bright spots for Italian football in 2012.
Juventus and the coaching ambassadors leading teams in England and Spain have been the bright spots for Italian football in 2012.

What sort of a year has 2012 been for Italian football? Look at the honours board and, in many ways, it looks quite a distinguished year.

Italian coaching has rarely had so many fine ambassadors. An Italian manager, Roberto Di Matteo, won the Champions League. His compatriots, Roberto Mancini, Antonio Conte and Luciano Spalletti each triumphed in national leagues - the English, the Italian and the Russian.

Italy's national team, down and out at the last World Cup, finished runners-up at the European championship, second only to Spain, the most successful national side of modern history.

But in other key respects, the game in Italy showed disturbing symptoms of not keeping pace with the rest.

For the second year running, no Italian club reached the last four of the Champions League, and the outcome of last week's Uefa draw for the last-16 stage of the 2012/13 competition, with AC Milan designated to meet Barcelona, suggests strongly that Juventus may well, after early March, be left on their own trying to correct that relative slump.

The Italian champions and Serie A leaders must first get past Scotland's Celtic. The Juventus who at the weekend set an Italian record - 94 - for domestic points won in a calendar year, should achieve that. And they have a momentum and swagger that could then take them very far.

Juve's progress might not always be universally appreciated, but the country needs a strong flag-bearer in Europe for 2013.

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