It has been a grim half-decade for Serie A in Europe. Whereas Inter’s 2009/10 Champions League triumph was Italy’s second in four years and they were the nation’s fifth finalists in eight years, the peninsula didn’t produce a single semi-finalist in the following four seasons.
The Europa League and its predecessor the UEFA Cup has been even more of a shambles. They haven’t produced a finalist this century, with the sole semi-finalists in the aforementioned four-year period being Champions League dropouts Juventus last term.
The fog is finally lifting and in some style, with Serie A on the cusp of supplying three final-four competitors across the two tournaments.
In the Europa League, Napoli won the first leg of their quarter-final 4-1 at then-favourites Wolfsburg to take over as [2.78] frontrunners, while Fiorentina are third in the market at [5.6] after doing what nobody else could and avoiding defeat away to Dinamo Kiev.
This progress couldn’t be better timed as the trophy claimant earns a spot in the Champions League play-off round and neither Napoli nor Fiorentina are currently set to qualify by league position. Serie A might have four Champions League entrants next term for the first time since losing their fourth qualifying place to the Bundesliga in 2012.
The third should-be European semi-finalists are Juventus, who are [1.18] to see off Monaco having prevailed 1-0 in the first leg in Turin.
They are [11.5] outsiders to regain the Champions League after a 19-year wait owing to the calibre of Bayern Munich, Barcelona and whichever Madrid club survives. Just reaching the semis again for the first time in 12 years would be a fine feat though, and anything is possible once you get that far.
How fitting it is too that Max Allegri, the coach who did more than anyone to represent Serie A with pride on the continent during the slump is being rewarded by being at the forefront of the resurgence.
His summer appointment as three-time scudetto winner Antonio Conte’s successor at Juventus was greeted with ridicule and protest having been sacked by AC Milan six months earlier when they were 11th in Serie A.
However, the former Cagliari boss is three victories shy of the title, in the Coppa Italia final and 90 minutes away from outdoing Conte’s Champions League personal best, with the latter in keeping with his impressive European record.
Allegri has got through the Champions League group stage in five successive campaigns – four with AC Milan, one with Juventus – never sitting out the knockout phase.
He avoided defeat in half of the Rossoneri’s eight clashes with Barcelona, including during the peak period under Pep Guardiola – and organised his defence so well that Lionel Messi was unable to score from open play in any of the first five of those.
His Milan side thrashed Arsenal 4-0 at San Siro before the Gunners’ round-of-16 exit had become an annual tradition. In the last round, his Juventus team did the double over Borussia Dortmund, whose only prior home knockout loss under Jurgen Klopp came in a tie with Zenit that they comfortably led.
And to think he achieved all that without once exposing his underwear, a fate that befell Europe’s most highly regarded “supercoach” Guardiola as Bayern Munich thrashed Porto this week.