The European finals proved an eye-opener not just for the rest of Europe, but for the Azzurri too, elements that Italy's clubs could find of use.
Weeks of pent-up expectation were let out in a massive burst of relief from fans as Serie A finally got underway during the weekend. Starved of meaningful Calcio for almost two months, supporters piled into the stadiums or in front of their TVs to soak up all the action, last vestiges of Italy's exploits at Euro 2012 replaced in favour of regular league action.
Naturally, several scars will continue remaining on the European finals' best player's mind, wholly understandable given how Cesare Prandelli's Azzurri harboured the hopes of an entire nation in that tournament, only to see it shrivel up and come to naught following a 4-0 drubbing at the hands of a mercurial Spain side in the finals. "The Final defeat left only bitterness, cancelling out all the achievements to get there," Andrea Pirlo lamented. "It’s true our journey was positive, but if you don’t win then it feels as if you didn’t do anything."
Little does the 33-year-old Juventus talisman understand how that is all about to change, with the new season serving to exorcise his demons. Given Bianconeri coach Antonio Conte's possible 10-month ban after being implicated in the recent betting scandal, Pirlo and company have the chance to look back at Euro 2012, drawing on and putting into effect the valuable lessons that will help them achieve club success, both domestically and continentally.
By taking on the onus of leading through example on the pitch, lending surrogate coach Massimo Carrera a valuable hand, Juventus stand to gain greatly from the pronouncedly-increased international experience her contingent of Italy internationals can now boast. Ever more aware of their own abilities, the likes of Claudio Marchisio, Leonardo Bonucci and even Emanuele Giaccherini are ready to readopt the responsibilities Prandelli laid on their shoulders with the national team in June, if only at club level this time round.
It is now a new-look AC Milan side that could use some of that belief to enter the coming campaign as composed as possible, especially in light of their nerve-wrackingly unfortunate 1-0 home loss to Sampdoria last Sunday. In order for new talent such as Stephan El Shaarawy and Mattia De Sciglio to come through and show their worth on the big stage, or categorically, for the club to progress as a whole following Zlatan Ibrahimovic's and Thiago Silva's departures, it is an imperative that the squad members all start singing to the same tune, regardless of the tumultuous circumstances currently engulfing the club.
Sprinkle in a dash of world-class, Mario Balotelli-at-Euro-2102-esque talent upfront via the transfer market, and Juventus are ready to impress all the way till Conte returns to the dugout. Euro 2012 proved it is not only the coach who is capable of effecting progress; it lies as much with the players' heart, hunger and desire to grow. Indeed, if the Old Lady's eight runners-up at Poland and Ukraine learnt anything worthwhile, it is the importance of team spirit and a unified body believing in its means and gaining in momentum as the season progresses.
Maintaining hope in the club's prospects for silverware need not necessarily border on blind faith, but at the same time, trouble-makers need to be weeded out. It is ironic that the same man who drew the Italy squad into controversy back in June over gay-footballer issues, striker Antonio Cassano, was the one left sowing discord within the Rossoneri, casting a shadow of gloom on seasonal preparations. While the FIGC could then only play down the significance of his comments following a storm of international criticism, Milan CEO Adriano Galliani and trainer Massimiliano Allegri were ultimately correct not to hinder his defection to city rivals Inter, no matter what the technical and tactical implications might have been.
Counterpart Andrea Stramaccioni appears to have suffered no such estrangement from the former Roma and Real Madrid enigma however, after lauding his contribution on his Inter debut in the side's opening day 3-0 win over Serie A new boys Pescara. Indeed, the Nerazzurri have gotten off to a good start in the new term, recording strong displays also in the Europa League as well as enjoying a solid transfer market in support of their former Primavera coach. With the side oozing flair when they have taken to the pitch of late, the only unknown quantity lingering in the back of fans' minds is how their unseasoned coach will hold up over the course of the season.
Here lies where the 36-year-old, who has drawn unenviable comparisons with Andre Villas-Boas, will be wise to adopt Prandelli's mindset in reshaping the Italy team pre-European finals. Even as tournament preparations, cumulating in a 3-0 friendly defeat to Russia days before their opening Group B game, veered far off-tangent, Prandelli never batted an eyelid, instead choosing to remain calm and opt against deviating from his principles. Never the subject of temptation to rely on containment tactics and negative football, the Azzurri boss' gut feelings vindicated themselves witnessing his team hand both England and favourites Germany footballing lessons. Even in defeat to Spain, the former Fiorentina boss emerged victorious for staying the course till the end.
Ready to assume his place amongst Italy's most promising young coaching talents, tip the man who never played a single game as a professional player to exhibit his worth, as an Inter that must be considered serious title contenders does its talking on the pitch. Never mind that he had never coached on such a prominent stage before. Never mind that he could not bring half the world-beating talent his opposing tacticians could call upon to bear. Prandelli still got the job done. With lavish funding to build the side he requested for already confirming his stint is seen as anything but interim at Appiano Gentile, Stramaccioni will be grateful to hear it takes less than tactical brilliance or genius maneuvers to build up a coach's era; the de facto entity in question remains endurance.
Nevertheless, the same cannot be said for Roma and Napoli, when it has been Zdenek Zeman and Aurelio De Laurentiis respectively taking turns to populate the airwaves and dominate the newsrooms with controversy. If they have learnt nothing yet from Italy's refraining from over-glorified chest thumping this summer, lying low and flying below the radar too has its benefits, as either club aims to rise back into the upper echelons of Serie A.
As Euro 2012 suggested, the day of the underdog will finally arrive, and by drawing too much attention to their clubs regarding petty off-field matters, the Roma and Napoli management only deny themselves their moment when the opportunity does arise, too distracted otherwise to seize it. In order for either team to earn themselves that European qualification spot they both rightfully deserve on paper come season's end, hard work and graft is what will win the day, not turning up on match night all bark and no bite.
This Serie A campaign has all the makings of a classic. With the Italian game having finally ridden itself of the decay it was slipping into just four or five season back, nothing bears stronger reference on where Italian football stands to go than her national team's remarkable achievements at Euro 2012. As clubs fully get back into the swing of things as time passes, fans may one day look back in retrospect and applaud the strong messages Prandelli's men managed to deliver through their feats ranking up there alongside World Cup 1982 and 2006, helping to kickstart a newly, successful era of Calcio.