“Now is the winter of our discontent…” the Duke of Gloucester boomed jealously in the opening lines of Shakespeare’s Richard III. Gloucester spoke enviously toward his King, but for Serie A fans this has been a winter of bitter discontent – a rotten transfer window.
The winter window is never a time for glamour. It is often a moment of reflection, a time for sides to re-inject their campaigns with vigour and enthusiasm. Occasionally a chairman will provide a newly appointed manager a raft of new signings.
Most of all though it is a time to patch things up and plug any gaps. Sides are gaffer-taped back together in the hope that they’ll last until the end of the season, at which point they can undergo a more appropriate surgical procedure. The overriding sensation in January 2012, though, leaves a sour taste.
January has seen a sharp fall in spending relative to 2011, a 58% drop, with most of the deals being registered as 6-month loans. The persistence of sporting directors to land deals where players arrive on loan with an option to buy at the end of the season points strongly to a lack of funds in the league, but also to a lack of belief.
In Catania, Maxi Lopez was hauled off the pitch in tears during the Sicilian derby victory late in December. It was his last home game for the Elefanti, they said. He was joining AC Milan, they also said. Lopez was forced to endure a month’s worth of waiting, though. A month of looking on ponderously as the club he was betrothed to chased another man – Carlos Tevez.
In this soap opera Maxi played the downtrodden cuckold, acknowledging his inferiority, coming to terms with his low self-esteem and hoping that Milan would soon grow tired and wearisome. The thrill of the chase, in the end, proved too much for Milan’s sporting director, Adriano Galliani, and the club returned to Lopez – who had remained respectful and steadfast to his word.
Lopez’s deal, though, only takes him to the end of the season. At which point Galliani will be away on business again, free to rekindle his holiday romance with the Manchester City striker. Lopez faces a stressful 6 months where he may hardly play and be shown the door. He would return to a Catania side that no longer wants nor needs him. Ignorance is bliss.
The collateral damage from the chase for Tevez looks like extending further than Maxi. Alexandre Pato was on the verge of being sold to PSG to raise funds for the Argentine – Tevez, that is, not Lopez. Thankfully somebody somewhere vetoed the transfer as it neared its completion.
Pato’s strike rate for the Rossoneri is outstanding – approximately a goal every two games over the last four seasons – but his injury record is appalling. The attempt to sell displays a lack of belief in the Brazilian’s ability to reach his expected potential. It is now perhaps just a matter of time before Pato reciprocates same belief and packs his bags.
Elsewhere, fans are dismayed and disillusioned with their clubs. Lazio’s transfer campaign seemed to be based on an urge to self-harm. Lazio brought in midfielder, Antonio Candreva, from Cesena but the player’s debut was spoiled by booing from his own supporters. The cause of the booing was quotes in some ancient interviews that exposed Candreva as a Roma fan.
Candreva’s agent was quick to quell this theory. A statement went to great lengths to emphasise the player’s “professionalism” and that he “was not a Roma fan”. The speed, at which the statement was released, though, was like a parent walking in on their teenage son. All seemed fine, but the sudden rush to minimize browser windows before slamming the laptop shut in desperation aroused suspicions, so to speak.
Then there was Marco. Marco Borriello signed for Juventus on loan from Roma and was subjected to a volley of abuse from Juventus’ away fans in his first game. A group of Juventus Ultras displayed a banner which read: “Borriello, mercenary without honour or dignity.” Borriello was accused of turning down Juventus on the day he was sold to Roma – how dare he! Things probably can’t have started off any worse for Borriello.
Oh, and, after 340 games scoring 154 goals, Hernan Crespo said a tearful goodbye to Italy.
That was January 2012, a month of thrift, failed exoduses, fan delusion and tearful goodbyes. Glad that’s over with then.
Follow Rocco on twitter (@rcammisola).
Image via Flickr.