Serie A is boring, again. Last season saw an end of season run-in where four sides were potential candidates for the Scudetto. Post-World Cup seasons can often throw up surprises, perhaps because players in the top sides will have exaggerated schedules.
The league enthralled neutrals worldwide as Napoli, Udinese and Lazio chased Milan all the way to the title. This season, though, we are seeing a return to the normality of the pre-Calciopoli era – at one point Inter even threatened to re-assume the position of perennial losers.
Genoa fans must be the most confused fans in the entire Italian peninsula. Take for example the protagonists of our story: Aldo, Giovanni and Giacomo. Here is the recounting of a conversation had between the three of them at the last Genoa home game.
Serie A was due to kick off two weeks ago, but because those poor, disenfranchised players couldn’t agree a deal for a standard contract with those mean, horrid, nasty chairmen there was a strike and they will now be kicking balls into goals starting from this Friday. The only positive to have emerged from this scenario is that it has given us time to collate our thoughts for a Serie A preview which will be judged upon when the season ends, making us look like ridiculous court jesters.
On the panel will be: -
Rocco Cammisola (@rcammisola) – Editor and writer for this fair site, you’ll also find him tweeting about Serie A-D. Searching out obscure stories from deep in the Italian leagues, trying too hard to be a hipster.
Andrea Pirlo won’t look back at 2010 with too much fondness. The Milan midfielder had a tumultuous time. He made a cameo appearance at centre back in the second half of Milan’s round of 16 second leg demolition against Manchester united, was part of the Italy squad that were eliminated from the World Cup in disgrace and his 2010/11 season has been heavily disrupted by injuries to top things off.
His limited involvement was initially seen as a huge problem. Questions were asked about whether this Milan side without a creative midfield influence could maintain their momentum. The answers lay in dependency on Ibrahimovic and the Milan of the mediani – box to box midfielders. So far Milan has been able to remain at the top of the table, despite the regista’s absence.
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A few weeks ago, in the wake of Milan’s defeat and elimination to Tottenham Hotspur in the Champions League last 16, questions were asked of Zlatan Ibrahimovic once again. The Swede is a man who has divided opinion for a considerable period of time, some rejoice in taking in his sumptuous first touch while others are aghast at his nonchalance and attitude when things aren’t going his way.
Ibrahimovic is also often accused on a regular basis of going missing in the ‘big games’. Guardian journalist Paolo Bandini proposed, with some certainty, that the big bad Swede often tends to falter around February and had done for the last few seasons. So in the name of science, and curiosity, it seems only fair for the numbers to do the talking.
New writer, Guido Nunes joins The Football Express and takes a fine tooth comb through Ronaldinho’s move to Flamengo from European giants A.C. Milan. Will the partying be put on hold in hope of achieving a place in the Brazilian National team? Will it all end in tears?
Antonio Cassano has had a career marred by controversy, however of late he appeared to had settled down and was finding a new maturity at Sampdoria. He was recently married and there is a child on the way, performing well for the club and then a moment of madness appears to have scuppered all of that. A move to Milan now looks very likely, but whether or not this is a good move for both parties is another question.
Riccardo Garrone, Sampdoria chairman, took Cassano to the arbitration courts over a 30 minute outburst in October where the striker allegedly threw countless obscenities at the chairman. Garrone asked the courts to rescind the player’s contract due to the indecent comments made towards him.
This week the case finally reached a conclusion, however the decision was a complete formality. It had been apparent for some time that Cassano would be leaving Sampdoria very soon, one way or another. He had stopped pleading with the Genova club to let play and had even begun to take legal action for damage done to his image and loss of national team status. The courts ruled in favour of Cassano, insisting that the player would be suspended without pay until 1 February and then see out the rest of his contract being paid 50% of his current wage. It seems very likely though that Cassano will not play for Sampdoria again.
Prior to the verdict, and indeed as soon as he was excluded from the squad, the press went wild publishing articles speculating over his next destination. Every owner and manager had been asked in press conferences in interviews whether or not they would be willing to take Cassano on board, and if they were planning to bid for the ‘soon to be homeless’ striker.
Numerous of those asked were very quick to distance themselves from the problematic Cassano. Even managers at clubs who had no chance of seeing Cassano grace them with his presence; Zdenek Zeman at Foggia was very forthright saying that he would “never want him [Cassano] in my squad”.
The front runners to pick up the Bari born striker’s signature were Genoa, Milan and Inter. Cassano had professed his desire to remain in Genova, which would have made the city’s other club a good fit but this move didn’t even get off the ground. It now appears that Milan CEO Adriano Galliani has pushed the right buttons and will be signing the player for ‘free’ until 2014. Galliani hopes to have Cassano at Milan before the turn of the year.
Galliani has pulled some fine deals out of the hat in the last few months and it looks like yesterday evening’s dinner with Cassano’s agent will produce yet another fine acquisition, or will it? There are a number of issues which still need to be cleared up before the transfer can go through.
First of all, it won’t be a free transfer. Even if Riccardo Garrone is prepared to let his star striker go for free as a matter of principle – he may be cutting his nose to spite his face – there is a sell on clause in the contract with Real Madrid. The Spanish side have asked for a fee in the region of €4-5 million euros, though Milan may be able to do a deal and knock the payment off of the instalments Real are paying for Kaka. Milan may even argue that the clause is null and void because the player’s contract was rescinded.
It also looks like this is the end of the road at Milan for one of Pippo Inzaghi or Ronaldinho. This would have almost certainly been Inzaghi’s final season had he not finished his season by injuring himself, it appears that Milan will give him one more season to say his good byes and possibly break Raul’s European goal record. Ronaldinho has been out of favour since Allegri decided on his new system with 3 mediani and 2 strikers. The Brazilian has been very heavily linked with a move to either the MLS or back to Palmeiras in Brazil, but Milan continue to deny that he will be leaving soon.
It is difficult to see where in Allegri’s formation Cassano will be able to slot in seamlessly at the moment. Allegri started the season pandering to the wants of Berlusconi and tried to play a 4-3-3 with Ibrahimovic, Pato and one of Ronaldinho or Robinho. The experiment failed and he has been able to implement a more robust 4-3-1-2 with 3 box-to-box players behind a trequartista providing the energy that Milan had lacked previously. A front 2 of Ibrahimovic and Robinho have been able to take Milan 6 points clear at the top of the table and they look like the strongest contenders for this season’s scudetto.
The most logical place for Cassano to play would be as a direct replacement for Robinho, but the Brazilian is in a fine vein of form and it seems very unlikely that he will start ahead of him. Thus with a change of system out of the picture and a better player ahead of you in the starting line up, it would appear that Antonio will have to make himself happy with a place on the bench. I hope he’s still got his gameboy.
There may be the possibility of a rotation policy allowing the player to get some time on the pitch in Serie A and the Coppa Italia. Cassano is cup-tied for the latter stages of the Champions League owing to the fact that he played in the play off round against Werder Bremen.
Many suspected that his career may have followed a path similar to Roberto Baggio, whom after his glory years at Fiorentina and Juventus signed for the smaller provincial sides of Bologna and Brescia. While it may turn out to be a magic partnership between 2 of the game’s most precotious and ostentatious players, it looks like next time we do see Cassano he’ll be rooted to the bench of the San Siro in mid-January with a blanket over his knees and huddled up close to the grizzly Gennaro Gattuso trying to keep warm. Perhaps Cassano would be happier at a club where he was the star attraction, somewhere where he would inspire the fans to dream rather than a club that has little need for him allowing him to regress into a past where he was the butt of many cake based jokes, and where people spoke more often about the number of women he’d bedded than the goals he’d banged in. I hope I’m wrong.Next Page »