Juventus coach Conte slams Italian game after exit
Juventus coach Antonio Conte has called on Italian football to get its house in order or risk becoming a lost giant of the European game, following their quarter-final exit to Bayern Munich.
Juve were outclassed during a 2-0 first-leg defeat to the newly crowned German champions last week in Munich and, despite a far better performance in Turin in the second leg, the hosts again lost by the same scoreline.
Conte, a former midfielder with the two-time European champions before leading the club to their 28th Italian championship in his first season in charge last year, said there was a huge gap between his side and big-spending Bayern.
After second-half goals from Mario Mandzukic and Claudio Pizarro sealed the Bundesliga side's place in the semis for the third time in four years, Conte took aim at Italian football in general.
He said it was time for Italy's clubs to start generating the finance needed to compete on a level playing field with the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Bayern and Manchester United.
If not, Juve could go the way of one of European football's strongest sides in the 1970s, Dutch giants Ajax, who have struggled to get back to Europe's top table in the past two decades.
"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 [Bayern] were simply stronger than us. When you're playing against one of the strongest teams in Europe it becomes difficult for everyone.
"But playing Bayern was a good opportunity to see where exactly we are compared to the big boys in Europe ... what's missing and how do we remedy it? We have to look elsewhere, to Spain, to England and to Germany to see what lessons we can learn.
"But if you have the money, you can buy [players] and win. Otherwise, it takes a lot of patience. The way things are right now, I don't see any Italian teams winning the Champions League for several years."
Inter Milan in 2010 were the last Italian team to win the Champions League, but since then no Serie A side have made the final four of Europe's premier club competition.
Conte said he will now concentrate on "defending our league crown", but he called on Italian football - which has been rocked by match-fixing, drugs and sports betting scandal over the years - to take a look in the mirror, or fall further behind.
"Look at Ajax. They were huge before, now they're nowhere in Europe," he added.