Inter/Bayern match-up highlights problems facing the Italian game

Four ties, three defeats, a draw, two goals for and five against make yet more dismal reading for Italians clubs in Europe.

It’s no wonder Thursday’s headlines were peppered with terms such as ‘flops’, ‘second-rate’ and ‘too poor to compete’.

La Gazzetta dello Sport summed up the general mood of doom and gloom when it comes to Serie A’s standing alongside the rest of the continent, by claiming: “We are no longer good enough to compete with the top teams in Europe”, before laying the blame on an inward looking mentality more concerned with avoiding defeat than attempting to win games.

Certainly the lack of goals adds some credence to this theory: Inter followed in the shallow footsteps of AC Milan and Napoli by failing to score at home - and only the latter avoided defeat in their first leg tie.

Inter, like their city neighbours, went down to a one goal defeat at the San Siro, and while AS Roma actually did manage to score twice, the three goals conceded to Shakhtar Donetsk leave all three Italian representatives having to play catch-up on the road in the Champions League.

Napoli could exit the Europa League this evening when they travel to Spain for their return leg against Villarreal, a place where no Italian club has ever won, although in this instance a score draw would do rather nicely - especially with Walter Mazzarri already focusing on the top of the table clash with Milan next Monday and ready to leave his regulars on the bench.

But another Italian defeat in Spain would seem the more likely outcome, especially when you take into account the Azzurri’s lack of away success in the group stages, where they drew against mediocre opposition and were well beaten by Liverpool.

Wednesday evening’s clash between Inter and Bayern Munich was not only a rematch of last year’s final, but also a tussle with representatives of the league now set to supersede Serie A as the third ranked in Europe behind England and Spain.

There was little difference between the two teams on the pitch, with Leonardo hindered by a lack of attacking options – Diego Milito was injured and Giampaolo Pazzini ineligible – which left Samuel Eto’o to take on the German defence single-handedly.

The San Siro was full to the third tier for once, and both sides kept plugging away looking for that vital goal which made for a vibrant encounter - although the Nerazzurri now look set to become another one season wonder when it comes to retaining the trophy.

Not that Inter successfully defending their crown would offer much succour to the domestic game, where stadiums lack even the most basic amenities and the commercial and merchandising sectors generally seem to consist of a trader flogging knock-off shirts outside the ground.

A comparison of Inter and Bayern’s balance-sheet shows the Bavarians in the black by nearly €3 million in 2010, compared to Massimo Moratti’s massive €69 million black hole.

While Bayern can point to a healthy profit of €31.2 million over the last five years, the Italian champions are left staring at losses of €609 million over the same period – no wonder Moratti has reined in his free spending transfer policy.

Inter can of course point to the fact that they do not own the San Siro, drawing just over €40 million in gate receipts compared to the €66 million Bayern pocket a year from matches at the Allianz Arena.

Television revenue accounts for 62 per cent of Inter’s revenue and only 26 per cent of Bayern’s, and with more Italian fans staying at home to watch their favourite team on the box, Serie A clubs are losing on average €100 million a year at the turnstiles.

Inadequate stadia and the perceived threat of violence are keeping families away -  hence the commercial and promotional side has little hook to draw in the crowds – and everyone is feeling the pinch.

While you may be able to see fans in Inter shirts from New York to Beijing, the club’s overall marketing revenue is only €34.6 million a year, with Bayern enjoying a very healthy €159.7 million.

On-field success is still the top priority, but revenue needs to be drawn as evenly as possible from the three areas of match-day receipts, television and marketing.

At present there is an over-reliance on broadcast revenues and if Italy continues to be blinded by the bright lights of the big European evenings, the resulting diet of constant domestic football will eventually lose its appeal.