Monday, June 27, 2011

If French football was showing some signs of improvement, the Italian hit rock bottom. It was a total crisis: from the national team to the lowest level of the game. It was a crisis of vision – the grip of catenaccio strangled the sport at last. Abroad, it was no longer effective – total football proved to be effective against stiff defence. At home, paranoia of losing killed creativity and excitement. Numbers speak best: in the 16-team First Division only 3 clubs finished the season with less than 10 ties – Juventus (7), Roma (9), and Lazio (9). At the other side was Sampdoria, ending with 16 ties in 30 championship games: more than 50%! And look at the away record of Napoli, who finished second: 1 win, 12 ties, and 2 losses. No wonder goals were scarce: not a single club ended with even 2 goals per game average! Napoli had the best attack – 50 goals, but Roma, the third team in the final table scored only 27 goals in 30 games. However, they allowed only 15 goals during the season. Clearly, scoring and winning was not priority… and Roma did not even have the best defense: Ascoli allowed only 14 goals in their net. In this environment ruled by defense only 6 strikers scored 10 or more goals – on the top ended Pulici (Torino) with 18 goals. Second was Beppe Savoldi (Bologna) with 15. And it was interesting to see to what such defensive mentality led: Savoldi was praised to the skies and became the most expensive transfer in Italian history – Napoli paid 2 Milliard Lire for him! For a player scoring a measly goal in every second match on average. 2 000 000 000 Lire does not look big sum today, but it was insane amount in the 1970s, even the notorious Italian inflation did not make it agreeable sum.
May be I am unfair to ‘Mr. 2 Milliard’? May be not… the most expensive Italian player played only 4 matches for the national team, scoring measly 1 goal. True, it was very difficult to penetrate the mighty defense of Ascoli, but why not scoring against foreign sissies?
Second Division was even more pathetic: out of 20 participants, only one ended the season with less than 10 ties – Spal with 9. Catanzaro distinguished themselves with solid record of 19 ties in 38 games. League goalscorer was Bonci with great 14 goals. He played for Parma,who finished last! What kind of attack had the winners then? L. R. Vicenza, Ternana, and Varese were relegated from the First Division, replaced by Perugia, Como, and Verona. The promoted clubs hardly inspired big hopes for change. It was clear that massive radical conceptual change was needed – Italian football fell victim of itself. There were already clear signs of impotence earlier: Lazio, the champions of 1974, were not seen as something fresh, but, at best, as some almost perverse distortion of modern football – in Italy, they were considered a variety of total football. The tugs finished 4th in 1975, yet, even this was kind of miracle – so divided and wild squad had not the making of a dynasty. In Europe, Lazio achieved plenty: three years ban from international competitions!
Chinaglia and Re Cecconi – ‘Fascists’ in embrace – or getting into a fight? Capable of both.
It was easy to blame Chinaglia for everything bad in Italian football, but when the vialin was fed up with acusations and moved to USA, Italian football remained the same… it was not him; it was fundamental crisis of defensive football: playing for a point was no longer successful approach. In the past, the ultra-defensive Italian football was excusable because it was winning; by 1975 it was just losing and ugly.