Italy experienced the greatest success in 2006; they had won the World Cup and had achieved ultimate glory. On the flip side though, 2006 was also the year when the country experienced one of the biggest scandals to hit Italian and world football.
Italian football was at the very pinnacle of football at that time, with the World Cup triumph substantiating that argument. The domestic league was thriving with some of the greatest names in football plying their trade there. Juventus were champions of the country yet again and there seemed to be no stopping them with the likes of Buffon, Thuram, Ibrahimovic, Nedved and Del Piero in the squad.
In 2006, investigators stumbled on what was to become the calciopoli purely by accident. Prosecutors were actually in the hunt for evidence of doping but what they stumbled on would rock Italian football to its very core and leave the country reeling till today.
Phone taps found top Italian football officials having direct conversations with refereeing officials where they were pressuring them to favour certain clubs. Although in recent times more facts have come to light that may prove that there may have been other clubs involved, 4 big clubs were found at the middle of the scandal; Juventus, Lazio, Fiorentina and AC Milan.
Juve general manager Luciano Moggi was at the centre of the scandal though he has always denied any wrongdoing. He and Chairman Antonio Giraudo had allegedly even gone as far as to detain referee Gianluca Paparesta and other officials to berate them for not favouring Juve in a 2-1 loss at Reggina.
Out of all the clubs involved in the scandal, Juve by far were hit the hardest with sanctions. They had the 2004-2005 title stripped but left unassigned and were also downgraded to last in the 2005-2006 championship with the title being awarded to Inter in third place (AC Milan in second were given a 30 point deduction). They were also relegated to Serie B in the 2006-2007 season and had to start the season with a negative 9 points.
These sanctions would have a long lasting impact on the league. The aftermath of the hearings and rulings saw a mass exodus of 30 top talents leave Italy for other countries. Juve saw most of their stars leave the club to find top-tier football with only a handful keeping faith like Buffon, Del Piero, Nedved and David Trezeguet.
Even so, Juve still won the league and earned promotion right back to Serie A in that season and it did not take them long to reach back to the top of Serie A.
With the bleed of talent to other top leagues in England and Spain, Serie A has been left to rue the mistakes of a few. Even till today, fans and players are still wary of the league with jokes being made of match fixing if a top team were to even beat lesser opposition. Players themselves are aware of the history and have appeared to be cautious when choosing Italian football.
15 years on, the cloud over Serie A does not seem to be dissipating just yet. The few years after calciopoli saw most clubs spend over-market value for players and leave them financially unstable. Add that to the weak Italian economy, Spain and England enjoying lucrative TV broadcast deals and the caution against the league, Italian clubs have a long way to go to catch up with the rest of Europe.