While other nations have chosen to cancel leagues all together, moves which have proven controversial, it appears that we could see the return of top-flight Italian football sooner rather than later, with the country’s Prime Minister, Giuseppe Conte, having recently given the green light for teams to begin training in May. This follows the return to training of German Bundesliga clubs this week, however things are still very much up in the air in England and Spain, despite the desire to complete the 19/20 campaign.
Measures taken by the Italian Government mean that players will be allowed to train individually from the 4th May, before group sessions can commence on the 18th. Having been one of the worst hit nations when it comes to the Covid-19 epidemic, the move came as a surprise to some, especially given the fact that the Dutch Eredivisie season was cancelled just days prior.
Important measures are to be taken to ensure that training sessions are completed safely, working with scientists and top league officials in the process. The last Serie A match saw Sassuolo defeat Brescia 3-0 on the 9th March, with plenty still to play for in terms of the title, European qualification and the battle to avoid relegation. Games are almost certain to be played behind closed doors when they do return, however no definitive date has been put forward, with Juventus hoping to claim a record 9th consecutive title when action does resume.
Despite having proposed that teams return to training in May, the Italian Government are still acting cautiously, with matches only taking place if it is safe to do so. The likes of Juventus’ Daniele Rugani, Sampdoria's Manolo Gabbiadini and Fiorentina Striker Dusan Vlahovic all contracted Coronavirus before matches were suspended indefinitely, with the risk of further cases for players, officials and ground staff remaining high.
Strict medical protocol has been drawn up, which must be adhered to by all clubs, with both players and staff being tested and then isolated together in training camps. With 12 matches per team remaining in the Serie A season, Italy is still recovering from being one of the hardest hit nations in terms of the Coronavirus pandemic. While German top-flight matches look set to return in the opening weeks of May, it is clear that Italy will be in no such rush. With Covid-19 related deaths in Italy being over quadruple the amount recorded in Germany, safety is still paramount, meaning that a return to training may not signal a swift return to competitive action.
Similarly, Spain is also proceeding with caution, with the resumption of training having recently been delayed yet further due to a lack of player testing. At present, proposed dates for the resumption of training in Spain have been proposed, 29 May, 7 June and 28 June. The longer the wait goes on, the more unrealistic the completion of the season becomes, with some still suggesting that Europe’s top leagues will ultimately have to void the campaign, likely meaning that no champions and relegated teams will be recorded. UEFA has urged European leagues to communicate a planned restart of competitive matches by May 25th, this too would appear unlikely at present.