Champions League final in Milan highlights Serie A's crisis

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May 28, 2016
AC Milan's Mario Balotelli, left, and Udinese's Ali Adnan, vie for the ball, during a Serie A football match at the Friuli Stadium in Udine, Italy, on Tuesday, September 22, 2015. (AP Photo)

MILAN, (AP):

AC Milan failed to qualify for Europe for a third straight season and club president Silvio Berlusconi is in negotiations to sell a majority stake in the club to a group of Chinese investors.

Inter Milan will miss out on the Champions League for a fifth straight season and is scrambling to avoid financial-fair play penalties.

When Madrid's two clubs face each other in the Champions League final at Milan's San Siro stadium today, it won't merely highlight the recent domination of Spanish football. It will also serve as a reminder of how far the Milan clubs have fallen in recent years and Serie A's problems in general.

Whether Real Madrid or Atletico Madrid win the trophy, it will mark the third straight year that a Spanish club has won the elite competition. The same goes for the second-tier Europa League, which Sevilla has won the last three years.

No Italian club made it past the Round of 16 in either the Champions League or Europa League this season. Juventus, last season's Champions League runner-up to Barcelona, was eliminated by Bayern Munich in the first knockout round and Roma was shut out 4-0 on aggregate by Real Madrid.

Earlier in this millennium, Italian clubs were feared in Europe.

WHAT HAPPENED?

AC Milan beat Juventus in an all-Italian Champions League final in 2003, then won the trophy again in 2007 after a runner-up finish to Liverpool two years earlier. Inter beat Bayern Munich for the title at Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu stadium in 2010, when Jose Mourinho coached the Nerazzurri to an unprecedented treble.

So what happened?

"Until six years ago we were still the reference point. But the world changed. The European economic crisis was a big blow for the owners of the Milan clubs. One club was sold and the other has had to reorganise itself," Umberto Gandini, AC Milan's executive director and sporting organiser, told The Associated Press.

"Italy has become a transitory market. It's no longer a definitive destination for the top players because there's a lack of resources to keep them in place."

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