The days of stalemates and ratings-killing catenaccio are over for Italian football after Italy’s biggest game delivered thrills, spills and spice says Vieri Capretta
“Juventus-Inter was at Champions League level.” Powerful words by Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri after his team put one past Inter to win the Derby D’Italia. Words that mean something and that haven’t been heard before. Because in recent years Serie A has become a black & white affair, with Juventus winning five consecutive league titles without anyone even getting close to them.
The most recent Juventus Stadium encounter between two of the biggest rivals in Italy showed that Inter are growing and that the Bianconeri are still too good to fail winning this season’s title, but come this time next year they could have a concrete opponent: the Neroazzurri.
Sunday night’s game showed Serie A is slowly moving away from the one-team hegemony installed by Juventus under Antonio Conte and continued by Allegri. Inter, owned now by superpower Suning, have already demonstrated they now have the financial basis to compete with Juve, after signing Roberto Gagliardini for almost €30 million in the January transfer window.
Bringing in coach Stefano Pioli after the disastrous spell of Frank de Boer has given the Neroazzurri a focus that had produced seven consecutive Serie A wins before falling at the Juventus Stadium. With the club finding stability and results coming on the pitch, the future seems bright.
The present remains black & white, though, as Juve won the game and deserved to as well. Not only because of Juan Cuadrado’s beautiful and decisive belter: the Bianconeri had at least four other chances to legitimise their triumph.
Winning helps winning, and Juventus have built this over time. Time that Inter still need to reach that level. It is fair to say the Neroazzurri are on the right path, and the message they are sending to the other clubs – Roma, Napoli and AC Milan especially – is that they are truly back with the intention of returning to that top club status that is historically theirs.
The Derby d’Italia could be a turning point for Serie A as a league and as a brand to become more attractive, especially outside of Italy. It was a spectacular game between two huge teams that are recognisable worldwide. What’s more it was played in the newest stadium in the country rather than in council-owned monoliths with sparse crowds.
This should be normality, as we see in the Premier League or La Liga, but Serie A has been well left behind in the past decade. Inter challenging Juve is a sign of the times to come and a possible change for the good in Italian football.