Rome

Soccer: Juve boss calls for patience, sounds Italy alarm

Conte can't see any Serie A club winning Champions League soon

Soccer: Juve boss calls for patience, sounds Italy alarm

(By Paul Virgo) Rome, April 11 - Juventus boss Antonio Conte said time, rather than a few big signings, was needed for the Turin team to be able to be a genuine candidate to win the Champions League after they were turfed out by Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals. The coach also sounded the alarm for Italian football, saying he could not see a Serie A side winning the Champions League in the near future after its only remaining representative in the competition exited the last eight 4-0 on aggregate. Serie A sides ruled the roost in Europe in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but the Italian top flight has lost competitiveness in recent years. The domestic game has been dogged by problems, including hooliganism, racism and match-fixing, and even the biggest clubs like Juventus, AC Milan and Inter no longer have spending power to match that of top continental outfits. Most Italian teams do not own their stadiums, but rent them from local authorities, which means they cannot use them to generate revenue - a factor seen as playing a big role in the loss of economic muscle. As a result, Serie A has fallen to fourth in the UEFA ranking after being overtaken by the German Bundesliga, so now there are only three Italian teams in the Champions League, rather than the four they had before this season. "The way things are right now, I don't see any Italian teams winning the Champions League for the next several years," Conte said after seeing his side soundly beaten 2-0 by Bayern Munich on Wednesday. Juventus are better off than most as they are the only Serie A club to own their own stadium after opening a slick modern complex featuring shops, restaurants, conference facilities and a museum in 2011. But there is still a big gap between their financial firepower and that of the likes of Bayern, Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and Manchester City. Given this situation, Conte believes the only way for two-time European champions Juve to regain their position at the top of the game is to work hard and have lots of patience. "There's a great deal of work to do, but we already knew that," Conte said. "It's no good thinking that two or three big signings will enable you to win the Champions League next season. Patience is needed. "Bayern aren't just technically strong, they're also physically powerful, they've got young players and will remain at the top of European football for many years. "There's bound to be a gap when you take on such an organised club and a team that has reached two Champions League finals in the last three years". Conte has revived Juve's fortunes since taking over his former club in 2011. He led them to the Serie A title in his first season in charge to end the long trophyless spell they endured after being relegated to the second tier and stripped of two league crowns for involvement in the 2006 Calciopoli match-fixing scandal. His men are on course to retain the scudetto, as they are nine points clear at the top of the table with seven games to go. The coach said he was satisfied at the European campaign despite the exit. "Given that two years ago we weren't even in the Europa League I have to congratulate my players for getting this far," said Conte. "They've worked really hard to make a mark in this competition over the past two years. "They (Bayern) were simply stronger than us and we can only congratulate them". Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon agreed that Juve have a lot of work to do, but said they have strong foundations to build upon. "Juventus are among Europe's eight best sides," Buffon said. "That's an irrefutable fact and it's the basis from which we'll start from in order to improve further".

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