x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Serie A: Juventus and Udinese are showing the way for middle-sized teams

Juve are the only Serie A club who own their own stadium. Udinese have plans to modernise their ground on a 99-year lease.

Bayern Munich's Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic scores against Juventus to send them out of the Champions League. Olivier Morin / AFP
Bayern Munich's Croatian striker Mario Mandzukic scores against Juventus to send them out of the Champions League. Olivier Morin / AFP

Antonio Conte, the head coach of a Juventus who have spent almost all of his 21 months in charge at the top of the Serie A table, cut a downhearted figure after Juve's elimination from the Uefa Champions League. At the end of a 4-0 aggregate thumping from Bayern Munich, he declared Italian football "at a standstill".

"When was the last time an Italian club was in a Champions League semi-final?" he asked.

Only three years back, actually, when Inter Milan were on their way to winning it, although that was also the year when the Bundesliga leapfrogged Serie A into third place in Uefa's overall ranking of domestic leagues.

With its modern arenas, built or upgraded for the 2006 World Cup, German football has much to envy. The Italian game has catching up to do, Conte warned. His Juve are the only Serie A club who own their own stadium, and until others follow suit, their potential to generate income is limited.

Some applause, though, for Udinese, who have announced their agreement in principle for a 99-year lease on the ground they currently rent from the local authorities, and plans for modernising it.

In doing so, Udinese, the club who have most suffered from Serie A's drift to fourth place in the Uefa table because their third-place finishes in the last two domestic seasons meant they went into a play-off for a place in the Champions League group stage - and lost both times - have shown the way for other medium-sized Italian clubs.

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