The Stadio Olimpico Serie A

Italian Serie A

If you could step into the football boots of an aspiring protégé for a year – or maybe even just a week – where would you hope to be heading for? Maybe England itself, with its internationally renowned Premier League known for putting out some of the world’s greatest future stars. Maybe the Bundesliga where, as promising young midfielder Jude Bellingham has learned, they have a reputation for honing the player’s craft away from the flash of the Premier League. Or – and we’re fairly sure this would top a lot of our readers’ lists – maybe you’d be on a flight to Italy before we could even finish our sentence. 

The Serie A is one of the most revered football leagues in the world, and has been since very shortly after its inception back in the first half of the twentieth century. It’s a force – a powerful wind in the sails of so many of history’s most memorable, talented, and arresting of players. It’s the place where legends are made, and where they go on to make new legends of the next generation. 

Serie A’s reputation is simple: excellence, emblematic of that oh-so-Italian style of gameplay: tactical, sure-footed, and controlled. But a simple reputation is rarely underpinned by a simple history. For almost a century, Serie A has been riding its own wave of ups and downs, beautiful moments and hard knocks. 

Here is everything you needed – and wanted – to know about the league. 

Serie A 101: 

  •     Serie A is the pinnacle of Italy’s footballing pyramid, above Serie B and Serie C in terms of prestige. Players from Serie B compete for promotion to Serie A, while those in Serie A are always working to avoid relegation to Serie B at the end of each football season. 
  •     While most commonly referred to as Serie A, it is officially recognised as the Lega Nazionale Professionisti Serie A – or the National Professional League Serie A in English. 
  •     In 2017, Serie A was officially able to lay claim to the largest number of greats the world had ever seen, when FourFourTwo released its list of the 100 greatest plays from history – and no less than 42 Italian players featured. 
  •     Serie A is one of the oldest national football leagues in the world, with more than 125 years behind it (although it did not reach its current format until more recently, in 1929). 
  •     It is one of three professional leagues in Italy. Below Serie C are the semi-professional leagues (Serie D, Excellenza, Promozione, etc..).
  •     Each season, it sees 20 clubs competing in a total of 38 matches each – 19 at home, and 19 away. 
  •     Serie A has evolved alongside Italy’s political landscape, undergoing many changes over the years that, ultimately, served to unite its footballing world, and represent societal progress, too. 
  •     It is one of the most popular football leagues in the world, and supersedes France’s Ligue Un in terms of popularity and prestige – but falls just a little behind England, Germany and Spain. 
  •     Of all the players awarded the renowned Ballon d’Or, more have been playing for Italy’s Serie A (at the time of the award) than any other league in the world, besides La Liga. 
  •     Each season is split into two halves – the andata and the ritorno. 
  •     Each season of Serie A is often referred to as the scudetto – a name inspired by the fact that the winning team is awarded a scudetti (little shield, comprising Italy’s colours) to wear on their jersey. 

A Sweeping History of Serie A

The history of Serie A stems back almost as far as modern football’s own history in Italy – a fact that is testament to quite how captivating the beautiful game is, even for brand-new audiences. 

It was in 1898 – not two decades since researchers suggest modern football landed in Italy – when clubs first pooled together to establish a footballing league for domestic teams to compete in each year. To a time traveller, the league would have looked incredibly different to the way it does now. Not only would the game itself undergo plenty of changes and evolutions over the next century, but the league began life in a fractured state, with regional groups competing (unlike the round-robin format we know today). 

Genoa won the first three seasons, with AC Milan breaking their streak in 1901. Genoa would, however, claim three more consecutive titles in 1902, 1903, and 1904. The team go onto see 5 more titles, with the most recent won in 1924. These days, the club plays in Serie B. 

By the 1920s, Italy’s political landscape became even more volatile, and the country’s footballing history reflects that. Two separate leagues – one for the North, and one for the South, were created – and the Northern League became known as the premier division. The only non-Northern team accepted into this league was Napoli. 

It was in 1929, however, when these two divisions were united, and the round-robin format of Serie A – which sees teams from across the country competing – was instated. Inter Milan would win the 1929-30 season, only to lose out the following year to Juventus, which saw strong success throughout the decade. 

Unlike other prolific national leagues, Serie A managed to keep going relatively late into the war years. In 1943, however, it was replaced with regional championships – although it resumed the following year. Serie A would not be temporarily called off again until 2020. 

From 1944 to 1947, Torino dominated the table until Juventus unseated them in 1948. After that, tragedy would strike when a plane crash meant that many Torino players were lost.

The Mid-Century

The 1950s were largely dominated by two teams: Juventus and AC Milan, although Inter managed to nab a double win in 1953 and 1954, and ACF Fiorentina made a win in the 55/56 season, following a consistent stretch in the top 5. The line-up included (arguably) Fiorentina’s greatest attacking midfielder (and one of the team’s very greatest players), Miguel Montuori, who had only joined the team at the start of the season. They wouldn’t win their next scudetti until 1969, despite some strong performances over that 13-year lull. 

Juventus continued to go from strength to strength throughout the 70s, although their wins are scattered thanks to strong performances from Torino, Inter Milan, and Lazio. The squad saw such names as Roberto Boninsegna, Roberto Bettega, and the Roccia, Panzer or, sometimes, El Tigre, Romeo Benetti.

In 1985, Hellas Verona F.C. won their first (and, to date, only) scudetti. The stars aligned for the club, which was not considered a frontrunner for the title at the start of the season – but, thanks to the combined power of Giuseppe Galderisi and new transfers Preben Elkjær and Hans-Peter Briegel, they were the team to ascend to the podium. 

The 80s also saw SSC Napoli’s two scudetti wins – the first, in the 1986/87 season and the second in the 1989/90 season. The following year, in 1991, U.C. Sampdoria would see its one and, to date, only win in Serie A, before a decade-long fight for the top between AC Milan and Juventus. 

In 1997, Ronaldo Nazário signed with Inter Milan. By the end of the season, he was awarded Serie A Footballer of the year. The following year, he was awarded the Golden Ball, and made Captain of Inter. Unfortunately, in 1999, Ronaldo would suffer one of the most catastrophic injuries the pitch has seen, interrupting an incredible early career in competitive football. 

2005 marked the beginning of Inter’s longest winning streak in Serie A, which would last until 2010 – although the 2006 title was awarded after Juventus had celebrated a winning season, as a result of their relegation to Serie B after the Calciopoli scandal. 

Their treble from 2007-10, however, was entirely their own. Zlatan Ibrahimović sealed their win in 2008, while the appointment of José Mourinho for the following season breathed fresh life into the team. Their streak ended when Mourinho moved to La Liga’s Real Madrid. 

By 2011, a new era for Juventus – who had ascended quickly from their spot in Serie B – began. Between the 2011/12 season and the end of the 2019/20 season, the club went unbeaten, and set their dominance in stone for generations to come. 

Serie A Timeline

  •     1929: the divisions between North and South are finally eradicated, and Serie A adopts the round-robin format we know today. 
  •     1931: The beginning of Juventus’s first big winning streak, which will dominate the first half of the 1930s.
  •     1936: Bologna FC disrupt Juventus’s streak with a convincing win. 
  •     1943: Torino’s longest winning streak begins, although it is interrupted by a break for Regional Divisions during the war. 
  •     1946: Serie A resumes post-war, and Torino continue to dominate the table until the tragic plane crash in 1949. 
  •     1946: 20 players are now accepted to play each season in Serie A. 
  •     1963: Torino sign legendary ‘La Farfalla Granata’ Gigi Meroni, after promotion to Serie A in 61. He would play for the team until his death in 1967. 
  •     1964: Cagliari welcomes Gigi Riva to the fold. He will score 156 goals for them in Serie A, although his success will be regularly disrupted by injury. 
  •     1970: the start of another strong decade for Juventus, although they cannot replicate their winning streak of the 1930s. 
  •     1982: the year is dominated by Italy’s third historic win at the World Cup. Italian football fans will have to wait 24 years for the next success. 
  •     1982: Michael Platini joins Juventus. He will play a pivotal role in the team’s success throughout the 80s. He will go onto score 68 goals across 147 league matches, and win three Ballon d’Or awards. 
  •     1987: SSC Napoli win their first Serie A title. Their second would follow in 1990. 
  •     1991: U.C. Sampdoria win the scudetti for the first time. Genoese fans remain patient for their second victory. 
  •     1997: Ronaldo Nazário arrives on the scene, with one of the most impressive competitive debuts the footballing world has ever seen. His unique style of play, which has to be seen to be believed, wowed international audiences, and put Italy squarely at the centre of global football. He will go onto score 83 goals for the club. 
  •     2001: Daniele De Rossi makes his competitive debut for Roma. He will remain with the team, and make a strong reputation for himself as a versatile defender with an incredible tackling ability, over the course of 18 years.
  •     2002: Ronaldo departs Inter for Real Madrid and an unprecedented number of fans flock to buy his jersey – breaking the existing record. He would play alongside Beckham, Zidane, Figo and Roberto Carlos, but injury and, as a result, poor fitness would haunt him over the following years.
  •     2006: Inter’s winning streak begins. While the following year would see Juventus beat them to the title, a retrospective decision to strip Juventus of their points meant Inter would go down as 2007’s titleholders. 
  •     2008: The first of a triple win for Inter – an incredible moment for fans – under new manager José Mourinho. With Ibrahimović and Adriano as offensive partners, and midfielder Stanković out in front, the team proved an indomitable force.
  •     2016: Serie A is one of the first leagues to test out video replays – a technology that would become fundamental to the sport in just a few short years, despite mixed feelings toward technology’s involvement in sport. 

A Fresh Season: Serie A 22/23

Long gone are the days when Serie A could operate without an international audience looking on. With so much of the league’s history intertwined with the fables of many of football’s greatest players, Italy’s top domestic league has a reach that extends far beyond the country’s borders. 

The Serie A 22/23 season comprises the following teams:

  •     Atalanta
  •     Bologna 
  •     Cremonese
  •     Empoli
  •     Fiorentina
  •     Hellas Verona
  •     Inter Milan
  •     Juventus
  •     Lazio
  •     Lecce
  •     AC Milan
  •     Monza
  •     Napoli
  •     Roma
  •     Salernitana
  •     Sampdoria
  •     Sassuolo
  •     Spezia
  •     Torino
  •     Udinese

Since the start of the season, one thing has been clear: Juventus have a sharp climb to overcome before they can start to regain the footing that they had throughout the 2010s. While, at the beginning of the new year, they found themselves positioned near the top of the table, alongside AC Milan at 37 Points, it is Napoli who currently look the strongest. The team has not won a scudetti since 1990 – the hallowed days of Maradona – so 2023 could be a memorable year for the club, currently led by Luciano Spalletti. Nevertheless, we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves – there are still many matches left to play (and win) if they want to reach that summit. 

This season is also A.C. Monza’s first in Serie A. The club, known to fans as i biancorossi, has a lot to thank striker Christian Gytkjær, who scored a total of 5 goals during the play-offs that, eventually, earned Monza promotion into Serie A after 40 seasons in Serie B. So far, they have managed to stay afloat in the lower-middle of the table, safe, barring any catastrophes, from relegation back into the familiar league below. A 3-0 win against Salernitana in November 22 garnered particular interest from neutrals although, for the most part, Monza have remained hungry for goals this season. 

While Cremonese and Hellas Verona may feel perilously close to relegation, there’s still time – and, in the 21/22 season, a late strong spell from Salernitana proved that even clubs in the diciest of circumstances can claw their way back to comfort. 

One thing is for sure – this is a season, like so many before it, that is well-deserving of our attention. 

DAZN Bet Predictions: Serie A 23/24

In the wake of Juventus’s clear dominance over the 2010s, the 20s feel incredibly competitive by comparison. It’s something of a fresh start for Serie A, with old-favourites AC Milan and Inter (and even older favourites like Torino and Lazio) in for the chance of a higher standing in the table. 

If the current season continues as it has played out so far, and Napoli represent the defending champions, then the mid-20s really will represent a major shift in Italian football. Not since Maradona has the club proven so magnetic to neutrals, and we can’t say we’d be disappointed to be part of that new era for the club. 

For many, the overlapping circumstances behind Juventus’s surprising fall from grace in 2020 are largely in the past now. If this is true, then the club could start to see some higher standings over the next few years – if it can ever recapture that unprecedented success in Serie A, that is. 

However, Serie A is a place clubs from La Liga and the Premier League like to sign both exciting prospects and proven stars. As such, much of the challenge for teams heading into the 23/24 season will be keeping their prized assets. 

A.C. Milan have gone to great lengths to secure the futures of their best talent so fans of the Rossoneri shouldn’t worry too much.

Inter Milan’s Nicola Barella has long been tipped with a move away from San Siro, especially if the Nerazzurri are struggling financially. He’s a world-class midfielder who’d slot into many elite team’s starting XI. Liverpool could be a suitor.

Sergej Milinković-Savic is always, always followed by a potential move to Manchester United. It’s been this way for three or four seasons now. Will this summer finally be the one? Lazio and those associated with the club will hope not, as their big Serbian midfielder only improves, but at 27, he could be as expensive as he’ll ever be.

Tuen Koopmeiners of Atalanta and Sofyan Amrabat of Fiorentina are having seasons that have propelled them into the sights of elite teams too. Liverpool, again, linked heavily with both. Were either to leave their respective clubs, they’d be tough to replace, and both teams would be significantly weaker.

Serie A has long been a league of players you make sure you look out for – players you dedicate part of your Saturday to witness on the TV or, for some lucky fans, live. The 23/24 season will be no different, as established talent will remain and new talents will emerge.