Prandelli: Italian football at a new low
Cesare Prandelli believes Italian football has reached a “historic low” after a disappointing week in the Champions League that was marred by off-field violence.
Serie A, which has been limited to three entrants in the Champions League since 2011, will have only one representative in the knockout rounds of this season’s competition – AC Milan -- after Juventus and Napoli crashed out.
Italy boss Prandelli noted that there were mitigating factors, with Juve losing 1-0 to Galatasaray on a pitch ravaged by the weather and Napoli exiting on goal difference after ending their group level with Borussia Dortmund and Arsenal on 12 points.
However, he stressed that he believed Italian football was facing serious issues, telling a news conference: "The numbers say that our football has reached a historic low,".
"I'm disappointed because I expected them all to go through. It would have been important, also in view of the World Cup, for the self-confidence of the players.
"Juve should not have played, and for Napoli to go out is ridiculous. It's a shame and there was a lot of bad luck, but we need to reflect on the quality of our football. We're no longer the best and we've got to accept it."
For the first time since 1999, Italy have just one team in the second round, AC Milan securing second place in their group with a 0-0 draw against Ajax at the San Siro.
But even that success brought negative headlines as violence erupted prior to the game, with six Ajax fans requiring treatment for knife wounds.
Prandelli warned that there was a danger Italian sides could be banned from Europe if the situation did not improve.
He said: "What happened really upset me. I hope it doesn't reach the point where FIFA and UEFA turn to us in a few years time and say that Italian football has got to be stopped. Then we wouldn't be concerning ourselves with which sides go through in the Champions League or the Europa League.
"We're lagging behind when it comes to violence, and I've been saying it for ages. We're all involved and we all need to improve our culture and our behaviour."
Meanwhile, Demetrio Albertini, who won three European Cups with Milan, praised his former club for progressing but, like Prandelli, accepted that there were problems to be addressed.
"I think it's a good sign also for the Italy national team that Milan have gone through and that several players who wear the Italy shirt will continue to play in Europe," Albertini, vice-president of the Italian FA (FIGC), said. "Their performance gives us hope for their near future, both in the league and in the Champions League.
"But here we are again talking about a crisis in Italian football. Words are no longer enough -- we need to find the right path because things are not going the right way. We carry on dropping further and further. There has been talk of reducing the size of Serie A. Perfect, let's do something concrete."