Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The 'A' Team; Italian Top Flight Can't Match Premier League's Wealth but Foreign Stars Have Gone,fans Are on Players' Backs and They Thrive under Spotlightwhen the Pressure Is on in Steamy Manaus, England Must Be Wary Of?

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The 'A' Team; Italian Top Flight Can't Match Premier League's Wealth but Foreign Stars Have Gone,fans Are on Players' Backs and They Thrive under Spotlightwhen the Pressure Is on in Steamy Manaus, England Must Be Wary Of?

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Collomosse Football Correspondent

WHEN England and Italy line up for their national anthems on Saturday night, the odd man out is likely to be Marco Verratti. If he starts in Manaus, the Paris St Germain midfielder will be the only player on either side who spent last season outside Serie A or the Premier League.

In the globalised world of modern football, it is a highly unusual statistic and it means that, more than perhaps any other major match in the World Cup, these teams' opening game in Group D will allow us to compare the merits of two prominent domestic competitions.

On the surface, there should be no story. Both financially and in its global appeal, the Premier League is streets ahead of Serie A and its superior wealth enables the top clubs to attract a higher calibre of foreign player.

Principally because of the economic situation, the world's top footballers no longer consider Serie A to be a desirable destination.

While young homegrown players suffer in both lands because the number of imports in the top division, the higher standard of those in the Premier League should, in theory, help the juniors improve more rapidly.

Players and managers who have worked in both countries say the life in England is more enjoyable. Like potential foreign investors, they look favourably at the higher attendances, the smarter, safer stadia and better training facilities, and turn their backs on Serie A. Giuseppe Sannino, the Watford coach, says it is the dream of a number of his compatriots to have a stint in England.

Most Italian footballers, who are used to working exhaustively on tactics and team shape during training sessions, believe there is considerably less emphasis on these details in England, although Premier League clubs' penchant for foreign managers has changed that trend a little.

Coaches confide that the English player has far less appetite for theory than his Italian counterpart. More per-tinently, there is far more external pressure on players and coaches in Italy. Training-ground protests after a bad result or two are a frequent occurrence; avoiding angry supporters after a poor performance is part of a player's life. Those who grew up with Italian football are amazed to see English teams stage a lap of honour after their final home game of the season, regardless of their work during the previous nine months.

And yet, paradoxically, perhaps some of the very traits that make today's Serie A relatively unappealing are part of the reason for Italy's far superior record in international football. Consider this: in the Premier League era, Italy have won one World Cup, finished runners-up in 1994 and reached the final of both Euro 2000 and Euro 2012. During the same 22-year period, England's best result was a semi-final on home soil at Euro 96. …

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