Serie A is in serious need of a makeover and Inter Milan may be able to help in more ways than one.
With Inter’s resounding defeat of Barcelona, they’ve already restored some of Serie A’s lost prestige. Bragging rights over La Liga and the EPL have at least been made relevant again, even if it is only for the short term.
That said, with Bayern Munich also moving on, the Champions League final represents an even bigger matchup than the casual observer would pick up on.
As we talked about in the Pink Shirt Wise Guys podcast this week, the Bundesliga had the chance to overtake Serie A for third place in the UEFA league coefficients, depending on the fortunes of Inter, Bayern, and Hamburg in UEFA competitions.
The picture is even more clear now than it was then. On May 22, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich will face off for the UEFA Champions League title, and also which league will claim third rank for the 2011-2012 season of European club competition.
While the battle for third may seem like somewhat of a consolation prize, it is actually extremely valuable. The third place league in the UEFA coefficients has one more Champions League spot than fourth place, meaning extra European exposure and just as importantly, valuable income.
In the last few years, Serie A has been viewed as a less prestigious league than the EPL and La Liga for potential transfer targets, given their penchant for monstrous transfer fees and results in the finals of European competition.
If teams want to have the best players, then they need to have the money to sign them, but also enough exposure for the players to feel it is worth playing for that club. Both the Champions League and Europa League provide this stage, so leagues with more spots obviously have more teams attracting top talent.
Given that any team making the group stage of the Champions League will make between $6.8 and $14.9M Euros, the money for each spot means incredible income to a club and likely ability to buy an extra good young player each year. Teams that make it all the way to the Finals could earn another $15M on top of that.
The talent level in Serie A obviously depends on how well the clubs develop and cultivate their young players, but also on the talent they’re able to purchase from other leagues. UEFA money is a big part of those transfer funds and directly contributes to the overall talent level in any league.
Finally, leagues tend to measure themselves by the champions they produce.
Of the previous nine finals, two have been won by Serie A (AC Milan), two by the EPL (Liverpool and Manchester United), three by La Liga (Barcelona and Real Madrid), and one each by the Bundesliga (Bayern Munich) and the Liga Sagres (FC Porto). A win by Inter would put the Serie A in a tie for the lead with three of the last 10.
At that point, Italian football could rightfully claim its place back among the elite and possibly earn some “street cred” at the expense of England and Spain. I hate to say it, but I’ll actually be cheering for Inter on May 22.