Reuters Soccer Blog
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The departure of Kaka from AC Milan to Real Madrid marks the end of the Italian era in European football. Not only can Italian clubs not attract the best players in the world to play in Serie A but now, when they unearth a talent like Kaka, they can’t stop them from leaving.
Italians used to describe their Serie A as ‘il campionato piu bello del mondo’ , the most beautiful championship in the world. It was not just because Italians love nothing more than talking themselves up — Serie A was the first league in the world to sign up top foreign stars, bringing in international talent at a time when the English league, for example, stretched no further than Scotland in search of players.
Beginning in the late 1950′s when the likes of Brazilian Jose Altafini (AC Milan) and Welshman John Charles (Juventus) were among the top performers, Serie A prided itself on being the league that had the money to bring in the best in the world.
After the 1966 World Cup, where Italy was humiliated by North Korea, foreigners were banned as part of an attempt to strengthen the domestic talent base and the national team, but when the rule was relaxed in 1980, the top clubs began importing talent again and before long Italy had become the first league to truly take on global status.