At times throughout the history of the game, Serie A has proved to be the most alluring league in the world. In post-war Italy, players from England and elsewhere were drawn by big salaries, luxury lifestyles, and state-of-the-art facilities and training methods. Players who made the switch received substantial signing-on fees and huge bonuses while those in England received a basic wage, no signing-on fee and were tied to contracts with no expiry date.
The golden era
In the 1980s and 90s, many of the world’s best footballers flocked to the peninsula again as the Italian league proved to be the strongest in Europe. This included a mini-exodus of stars from the English top flight.
Luther Blisset, Gordan Cowans, Trevor Francis, Mark Hateley, Ray Wilkins, Liam Brady, Joe Jordan, Graeme Souness, and Ian Rush were just a few of the players from the English top-flight to up sticks and move to Italy in the 1980s. In the 1990s, David Platt, Des Walker, Paul Gascoigne, Paul Ince, and Lee Sharpe were amongst those who followed suit.
Serie A revival
Today, we are seeing another trend pf players heading to Italy. In the summer of 2019, 16 players quit the Premier League and headed to Italy, including big-name stars such as Romelu Lukaku, Alexis Sanchez, Aaron Ramsey, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, and Chris Smalling. They have already been followed in the winter transfer window by Ashley Young and Victor Moses, with Christian Eriksen also on his way.
OFFICIAL: Inter Milan sign Romelu Lukaku from Manchester United ⚫️🔵 pic.twitter.com/xS7u61r5Dw
— B/R Football (@brfootball) August 8, 2019
But why are players suddenly being drawn to Italy? The league is often seen as inferior to the Premier League. Some TV pundits even claimed that moving from Tottenham Hotspur to Inter Milan would be a step down for Eriksen. A quick look at both clubs’ respective league positions and trophy cabinets would suggest otherwise. Eriksen could soon be contesting for a league title, while Spurs are not even in contention in the Premier League betting.
The Ronaldo effect
Serie A received a massive boost when Cristiano Ronaldo arrived in Turin. The Juventus forward has got people watching Italian football again. And they have realized that despite the Old Lady’s recent dominance, the league is competitive and the football exciting. The perception that Italian football is defensive, slow and boring is being shattered by teams like Juventus, Inter, Lazio, Atalanta and Napoli amongst others.
A career boost
For some players, Italy has given them a new lease of life – just ask Wojciech Szczesny. The former Arsenal goalkeeper is now the first choice at Juventus and has two league titles and a brace of domestic cups to his name. Another player who has flourished is Chris Smalling who, after being deemed surplus to requirements at Manchester United, is now impressing at Roma and on course for Champions League qualification and an England recall. The 30-year-old has even been linked with a move to Juventus.
Combine all this with the beauty of the Italian peninsula, the milder climate, and the fantastic food and culture and it’s not hard to understand why Premier League players are being drawn to Italy once again.