Serie A's failure to have a single representative in the quarterfinals of the Champions League this season is down to the level of wages paid out by Italian clubs, according to Inter Milan coach Walter Mazzarri.
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AC Milan's 5-1 aggregate humbling in their last-16 tie against Atletico Madrid, coupled with both Juventus and Napoli falling at the group stages this term, means there will be no side from Italy’s top flight in the last eight of the competition for the first time in five years.
Clubs from a league which attracted arguably the best players in world football up until a decade ago are now struggling to compete on the European stage, and Mazzarri believes the financial problems in Serie A are the root cause of the decline.
"The wage bill almost always translates into the value of the team on the field," he told Il Sole 24 Ore. "If a player earns a lot of money, it's because he's shown in the past that he deserves such amounts.
"Quality always makes the difference, and quality costs money. If you reduce the wage bill to balance the accounts, then it's only normal that you don't get the results."
Not only has Italian football been left behind in terms of investment in players, but Mazzarri believes one of Serie A's biggest failings has been when it comes to producing young talent.
"Because abroad, they continue to carry forward different policies," he said. "With time, if you create players in your own home, you can get back to being competitive internationally, but you need a lot of work, and a lot of patience."
Fortunately for Mazzarri, Inter have that patience and so he does not feel under any pressure to deliver immediate results.
"It's been one of the biggest misunderstandings which has accompanied me throughout my career," he said. "I arrive in situations in which nobody can expect anything and then I start getting good, unexpected results and people start asking even more of me.
"You've always got to consider where the side you have been given comes from and what they did in previous years. That's why I want to finish this year well because if we do that, then we can start off even better next year."
Step by step, Mazzarri plans to restore the 2010 Champions League winners to a place among Europe's elite, and he insists winning the continent’s top club prize is not beyond him.
"It depends on the quality of the squad I'm given, but I think I can [win the Champions League]," he said. "A coach can make a huge difference, but he can't perform miracles. Having said this, though, I don't think I'm that far away from winning it."