Serie A would be smart to ‘now copy England’ says Juventus great Gianluca Vialli

As Italy's top flight lags behind the rest of Europe in drawing top-dollar for its product and clubs like Inter Milan and AC Milan flounder, Gianluca Vialli says Serie A needs to reconfigure the way it works.

A view of the San Siro from Inter Milan's 2008 Serie A title celebration. Luca Ghidoni / AFP / May 18, 2008
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Serie A struggles to match the cash-rich English Premier League because it is not a product that appeals to foreign investors, according to former Italy striker Gianluca Vialli.

The Premier League can offer higher salaries to its players than the rest of Europe due to the spiralling income it receives from television broadcasters Sky and BT and the way foreign investors bankroll some of the leading clubs.

Vialli was part of the golden era of Italian club football in the mid-1990s, winning the Champions League with Juventus before ending his career in England with Chelsea.

However, only one Italian club have won the Champions League in the last eight years – Inter Milan in 2010 – and the country’s top teams cannot compete in the transfer market because of a lack of finances.

“I don’t think Italian football is a particularly appealing product for anyone that wants to invest unless they are Italians that understand exactly what goes on in our country and the way things are done,” Vialli told Reuters in an interview on Monday.

“If I was a wealthy foreigner I wouldn’t want to invest in Italy because there are so many uncertainties, all the scandals related to corruption and match-fixing.

“Then there is the Lega Calcio, an institution made by owners who are fighting with each other all time. It is a very unstable environment, not ideal for someone who wants to invest in football,” added Vialli who is in Manchester for the Soccerex convention.

“We have got revenue from Italian broadcasters but we can’t sell our product abroad like the Premier League because our product is not as appealing.

“Our game is a bit too tactical, the stadiums are not great, the way we play the game is a bit slower tempo, it is not a product that will appeal all around the world,” he said.

The former Chelsea player-manager added that Serie A missed out on the chance to market itself globally in the era when the world’s top players, such as France’s Zinedine Zidane and Brazil’s Ronaldo, performed in Italy.

“Unfortunately we were left behind. We didn’t think about the future, only about the present and taking the money, without investing in our future. We are behind but we try to catch up quickly,” said Vialli.

The former striker, who is representing the football club-funding company Tifosy at Soccerex, said he was at least encouraged by signs of progress in Serie A.

“Things have started to change recently and more importantly I think we have to now copy England and put rules in place, such as vetting potential owners, whether you are wealthy enough, if you are trustworthy and honest and if you have the future of the clubs at heart,” added Vialli.

“This is something we didn’t have before. It has been put in place but you need people to assure that the new rules are respected.”

Foreign money has started to come into Italy with American James Pallotta now in charge of AS Roma and Indonesian Erick Thohir at the helm at Inter Milan while Juve have made progress since they built their new stadium.

“It is all about setting the right example. I am glad to see there are some football clubs that are trying to change the trend and move it towards a British way of running clubs, obviously with a very strong Italian identity,” said Vialli.

“Having foreign owners will help but we need to deserve them, we need to do our best to appeal to people who want to do big things.”

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