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.
As Atalanta signed off for the winter break with a 4-1 thrashing of Cesena, coach Stefano Colantuono could look back on the season so far work with a degree of satisfaction after all he has contended with. The club had it’s proud name dragged through the mud in the Calcioscommese match fixing scandal that initially cost them six points at the start of the season and continues to drag on, with former Nerazzurri hero Cristiano Doni again implicated for fixing Atalanta games in their successful Serie B promotion campaign last season.
After the 2006 ‘Calciopoli’ scandal, many – perhaps naively – felt that the Italian game was now clean and that those involved had been implicated in the trials and subsequent sentences that rocked the Italian game to its core. But this summer, another investigation was concluded after suspicious betting patterns emerged during games throughout the 2010/2011 season, which were then followed up by intercepted phone calls clearly alluding to games being fixed across three divisions and involving a host of people including current players and even former Italy striker and Lazio legend, Giuseppe Signori.
The impact of the investigations and convictions have been felt throughout Calcio, with Atalanta in Serie A being the most famous club punished, with a six point deduction before the Serie A season started and have had star player and club icon Cristiano Doni banned for three and a half years. But perhaps the biggest ‘victims’ are clubs in Lega Pro where numerous clubs have been relegated, fined and had points deducted before the season started. Here I briefly look at the investigation that took place, those punished and the impact it has had on the game in the lower leagues.
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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.
A decidedly French feel to this week’s links, at least to begin with. Most of this has been influenced by the recent goings on at PSG where their new shareholder appears to have given them license to print money, bringing in a number of new players. One such star has been Javier Pastore, whom I wrote an ode to at the weekend (go and read it if you haven’t already). James Horncastle has written a comprehensive profile of El Flaco’s career complete with a number of very interesting quotes from former coaches Angel Cappa, Walter Zenga and Delio Rossi. You can read it here.
Continuing our promenade, Ben Lyttleton sums up the ten storylines worth keeping track of in French football this season for Sports Illustrated. Storylines such as ‘Are Paris Saint-Germain the new Manchester City?’ and ‘Is this Yoann Gourcuff’s last chance?’
Whilst there has been a huge exodus of talent from Serie A this transfer window, there have also been a couple of names arriving. Michael Cox (of Zonal Marking fame) profile one such arrival in the form of Bojan Krkic, who has moved from Barcelona to Roma.
Football stickers are great. Three Match Ban have produced a player quiz based on football stickers that is quite fun. See how well you get on with their latest offering on Copa America stars (old and new).
Over at the Oval Log, @FilippoInzaghi (not THE Filippo Inzaghi) takes a look at the shambles going on in Argentina with the league restructuring which initially appears to be happening entirely in order to save River Plate.
It wouldn’t be right for an Italian summer to pass without some reason for football fans to be cynical and concerned. The latest betting scandal could see Atalanta captain and club legend, Cristiano Doni banned for three years – effectively ending his career now that he is thirty eight years old. James Horncastle (again) explains how he got himself into this mess and why he’s regarded so highly by the locals of Bergamo.
Finally, a video of Javier Pastore put together by @AlexSLDN. Enjoy.