To sum up the strength of Italian football towards the end of the 20th century, you need only look at the team that helped Parma dismantle French outfit Olympique Marseille in the 1999 UEFA Cup final. On the night, a 3-0 win at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium cemented their dominance. These were calcio’s glory years, Serie A was the place to be and European titles were never far away.

What made that night so special for il Gialloblu (the yellow and blues) was the talent they had at their disposal, encapsulating the depth in quality not only in their squad, but also Italian football in general. Players like Gianluigi Buffon, who still stands today as the most expensive goalkeeper of all time, Lillian Thuram, a World Cup winner not a year earlier, Fabio Cannavaro and Hernan Crespo, the opening goalscorer, could all claim to be world class, but they were playing for a club who had never won the scudetto.

Seventeen years on from their crowning glory, Parma could not be further from adding to that success. Financial issues have crippled the club throughout the ensuing seasons. In 2015, though, things took a worse turn than ever before and one of the most nostalgic clubs around swallowed their toughest pill yet, filing for bankruptcy and subsequently being forced to rebuild in the amateur leagues.

Italian football is no stranger to demoralising crises, financial or otherwise, giving hope of a return for Parma one day. Napoli and Fiorentina each found themselves in the same boat and clawed their way back from the abyss, while the mighty Juventus showed no one is above the law after being relegated and deducted points following the 2006 match fixing scandal.

But Parma’s situation was viewed on another level of tragedy by a generation of football fans who remember a joyous era with great romance. It wasn’t just the UEFA Cup win which brings fond smiles, that same year, they won the Coppa Italia and two years prior they came closer than ever to a Serie A title. It was a decade that bared much fruit for the club, with a European Cup Winners’ Cup and UEFA Super Cup double in 1993 as well as other close encounters.

Teamwork and effort go hand in hand with talent when it comes to winning. There have been notable cases of David beating Goliath in recent times, thanks in no small part to Leicester City’s Premier League title win in 2015/16, but what set Parma apart were the names on their teamsheet. Although they couldn’t quite go all the way, the spine of that side mean the team is etched in history, proving in some cases the players can make the game.

Reputations were forged at the Stadio Municipale, and at that time in Italy, it was impossible to predict the outcome of a title race. By 2001, Roma had won Serie A with Gabriel Batistuta, arguably the best striker in the world at that time, as their talisman, while across the capital, Lazio triumphed the previous year having swooped for Crespo, in a then world record transfer, and Juan Sebastian Veron from Parma. Neither side had enjoyed many celebrations like that before.

As so often happens, that great team had to break up. To complete the separation, Buffon and Thuram moved to Juventus for a combined £55million following the sale of Zinedine Zidane to Real Madrid that summer, while Cannavaro switched to the San Siro and Inter in 2002.

Few clubs can match Parma’s alumni over the past thirty years or so, with the likes of Diego Fuser, captain for the 1999 triumph, Colombian maverick Faustino Asprilla and Brazilian striker Adriano, who found true fame at Inter, all passing through. Dino Baggio, Gianfranco Zola, Fernando Couto, Hristo Stoichkov and Carlo Ancelotti, who played for and managed the club, should also not be forgotten.

Many of these players are better known for stints elsewhere, but that isn’t always a good thing. In England, for example, Juan Veron is seen as little more than a basket case who couldn’t get up to speed with the English game at Manchester United or Chelsea, when in fact he was a cultured and intelligent central midfielder who had honed his tactical skills in Italy with Sampdoria as well as Lazio and of course Parma.

Football is a sport with an ever-changing environment, with different ways of thinking developing the game year on year. High tempo is the modern way, but it was the defensive solidarity of the game in Italy that set the country apart in the 1990s. It became abundantly clear Parma would eventually lose the spine of that remarkable squad, but as Serie A struggles to keep up with LaLiga and the Premier League, theirs is a side which defined an era and will always have a special place in the heart of football purists.

About the author – Harry De Cosemo

Harry is a European football writer specialising in English, Spanish and Italian football. He has worked for a number of top publications including MARCA in English, uMAXit football, FourFourTwo and The Press Association

twitter: @harrydecosemo


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The new Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp was ushered into the English game with an incredible fanfare, some even likening it to the revolution that swept the game in the country with Arsene Wenger’s arrival.

We ask is it really such a big deal and was the revolution really Wenger’s?

There was a huge air of inevitability about Jurgen Klopp’s arrival at Anfield. He had been linked with the post since word got out he was leaving Dortmund at the end of last season and the Reds continued to splutter and stall under Brendan Rodgers.

Klopp’s main competition for the post was said to be Carlo Ancelotti who had previously enjoyed a solid spell at Chelsea before being relieved of his duties and heading to Madrid via PSG. The other outside candidate mentioned was the American Bob Bradley, a long shot at best.

The interesting part of all of this is that not a single British – never mind English – candidate was in the frame. It has been de rigour for some time now in the Premiership to shop abroad, not just for players but for the manager or ‘coach’.

Of course, none of this is to say that the English game hasn’t developed immensely by learning methods from overseas. British managers had become hugely stereotyped, either overcoat wearing cigar smoking mavericks such as Ron Atkinson or John Bond from days gone by or ‘up and at ’em’ motivators with little care for aesthetics or niceties, managers such as Neil Warnock or Dave Bassett.

But this is of course to do a huge dis-service to a huge amount of great British managers, many of whom were English. Along the way and going back to the ’80s we have had greats such as Bob Paisley, Brian Clough, Bobby Robson, George Graham, Sir Alex Ferguson and Terry Venables. Glenn Hoddle was considered by many to be one of the great tacticians of his time even if his man management skills left much to be desired.

Along the way however, what has been constant has been the reduction in access to the very top jobs in England – granted that Wenger and Ferguson have had two of the top jobs locked down for the longest time. Few British managers have any experience of managing in the Champions League for instance.

Other than David Moyes’ ill fated nine months at the helm of Manchester United and Mark Hughes’ slightly odd and truncated spell at neighbours City, only Brendan Rodgers and Harry Redknapp have had any real aspirations of managing a team capable of mounting a top four challenge over a period of time and managing in the CL.

The British of course, do have a slightly odd relationship with the rest of the world and there are many assumptions that things are better just because of how they sound or where they come from.

Food will always be considered to be better if it is from Italy or France, a car will be more efficient if it is from Germany or sexier if it is from Italy and footballers will always be better if they have a name that sounds remotely Brazilian.

Jose Mourinho is a prime example if we compare him – and indulge me here a little – with Sam Allardyce.

Mourinho’s teams play a brand of football that Chelsea fans would call pragmatic (and winning) and other fans would just call plain negative. Yet Mourinho is one of the most sought after coaches in the world despite his rampant short termism and typically needing a sizeable transfer budget. He gets results and that is what counts.

Sam Allardyce is not the most popular of figures in English football. Yet, with the playing talent he has had at his disposal, he has done a pretty decent job by most measures, especially at Bolton where he did a wonderful job. He played a relatively conservative brand of football yet was still able to integrate the likes of Youri Djorkaeff, Jay-Jay Okacha and Hidetoshi Nakata into his teams.

Allardyce was laughed out of court and to this day is still sarcastically referred to as ‘Allardici’ for having the temerity to state that he believed he could do a good job of managing the likes of Inter Milan or Real Madrid.

But why is it so ridiculous of him to state that fact? He employs cutting edge methods including nutrition, sports science and by all accounts studies games and players using huge amounts of technology. He is hugely adept tactically also.

But it is of course Arsene Wenger who is credited with revolutionising football in England in these broad terms.

The problem for the likes of Big Sam these days is that they simply are not afforded the opportunities in the first place or given the time to grow in the job in the case of Davie Moyes. I personally find it hard to believe that had he been given the same transfer budget and time as Louis Van Gaal, that United under Moyes would be doing any worse or playing any less well than they are now.

Moyes in turn took the progressive step of going abroad to manage Real Sociedad to attempt to rebuild his career in the same way that Steve McLaren did after his stint in charge of England although that ultimately ended in failure for the Scotsman.

McLaren of course was pilloried for his spell in charge of the national team, and yes they missed out on 2008 but were England really that much better under the vastly more experienced (and infinitely better paid) duo of Sven Goran Eriksen and Fabio Cappello?

Football is of course like everything else far more global these days, only around a third of Premiership players hail from its’ own shores so it is logical that the coaching staff should be no different, and of course Britain suffers continually from its’ utter paralysis in being prepared to move abroad and further their footballing educations that way, mobility suffers from being on a one way street it would seem.

But despite all of this, it does seem that English managers are penalised for being, well English. Even at its’ height a few years ago, there were only so many British managers in the Premier League because someone somewhere had decided that managers born in Glasgow were of almost supernatural powers. Once that theory wore off, the numbers steeply declined again.

One possible explanation may be that much of the world has moved away from the traditional ‘manager’ towards very much a structure where this a first team coach.

Even the great Sir Alex is far more renowned as a man manager rather than for exceptional coaching or tactical abilities. Indeed the likes of Carlos Quieroz were often given the credit for the tactics of the team.

Clubs such as Chelsea and Liverpool have moved very much away from the scenario where the manager is buying and selling the players or indeed even choosing them in the first place. Only possibly Arsene Wenger retains complete autonomy within the English game and even he is said to have little or no involvement on the training pitch anymore.

For all the vast wealth being accumulated, the English game does seem to have got itself in a bit of a jam of late – as European results and the constant and repeated failure of the national team demonstrates – and it maybe just is possible that a bit more faith and perseverance with the domestic talent available maybe wouldn’t do any harm.

About the Author – Steven McBain

Steven is the lead colunmist at One Shot Football. A huge Chelsea fan and season ticket holder slowly brainwashing his children into being young Blues. Aspiring football blogger, radio pundit and all round football fan.

twitter: @duffnguff


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