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Napoli lack alternative plans, they play like a broken record

Napoli have captured the hearts of fans and neutrals with their performances in Europe this season, but in their domestic games they have conspired to shoot themselves in the foot again and again, and again. In Serie A they have beaten the best but have been beaten the weaker sides as well. So why are Napoli enduring such a mediocre season?

Napoli lack variation in their play

Napoli lack variation in their play (Credit: Flickr, TrueArtCrew)

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As you were in Serie A – the imminent return of the natural order

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.

Alessandro Del Piero: a reminder of how things were

Alessandro Del Piero: a reminder of how things were

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.

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Serie A 2011-12: Preview

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.

Matthew Campbell (@mattc236) – Writes for The Football Express, focusing mainly on English football – the Championship to be a little more precise.
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Relative radio silence

Apologies for the lack of posts in the past couple of weeks, I’ve been a bit busy and concentrating on a few other things. There will hopefully be a few posts in the next week or two. In the mean time I’d like to invite you to read a couple of pieces I’ve written for Football Italia.

My  debut for the wonderful Italian football site is The two tides that could, where I compare Napoli and Lazio to the little engine that could in Watty Piper’s children’s story.

A second offering for your eyes to consider is a resumé of Adriano’s stuttering time at Roma and his impending demise. It looks like Rome may be without an emperor once more. You can read the piece titled The Emperor’s demise here.

I hope you enjoy those.

Backdated corruption case fails to shock Italian football

Italian football has never been the most morally guided of sporting arenas. New allegations have emerged from the Calciopoli 2 trials taking place in Naples that implicate the chairmen of sides that played 10 seasons ago. The allegations concern Hellas Verona and Parma in the 2000/01 season. The former Napoli chairman at the time has accused the chairmen of those clubs of colluding to ensure Verona’s safety and send Napoli down to Serie B. The relegation would lead to Napoli’s most bitter years following bankruptcy and sending them to the bottom of the Italian professional football pyramid.

Corbelli’s accusation

Brescian businessman Giorgio Corbelli who owned Napoli between 2000 and 2001 gave testimony at the Calciopoli 2 trial last week – the second round of hearings are being carried out because of evidence presented by Luciano Moggi which implicate Inter (who emerged spotless previously) in the events covered in the first trial in 2006. Corbelli said that the previous owner of Parma, Callisto Tanzi, also owned or had an influential position at Hellas Verona while Giamattista Pastorello was in charge. Corbelli’s hypothesis suggested that Pastorello was a mere figurehead at the small provincial side.

Corbelli emphatically declared that “[He] was right about Tanzi” and that it was “Unbelievable that it should take all this time for the truth to be revealed”. Corbelli had made similar allegations at the time of the relegation. In June 2001 he claimed that he had records of payments between Tanzi and Pastorello and thought that would be enough to bring a conviction. Owning or holding an influence in 2 clubs is absolutely prohibited by article 7 of a FIGC statute, when they are in the same professional area – which we have to assume means at the same level, given that Clarence Seedorf owns AC Monza.

Tanzi says ‘no’

Tanzi has naturally refuted any sort of claim: “I was never the owner of [Hellas] Verona”. Tanzi is also very pointed about ensuring he is not crucified for Napoli’s shocking demise claiming that “[I] don’t believe that it was that game that condemned Napoli, the next round decided their fate.” He is correct that Napoli were not relegated until their game the following week against Fiorentina. If the allegations are true though, his point will be rendered utterly irrelevant. Napoli beat Fiorentina 2-1 away from home, Napoli would have gone into the final weekend 3rd from bottom and with their fate in their own hands if Verona had not taken 3 points at the Ennio Tardini.

Tanzi: 'It wasn't me'

As further evidence backing up his claims that there was no evil doing in the result, Tanzi has suggested that the Neapolitan players and backroom staff couldn’t have ever wanted to perform such malicious acts against their home city. “[that] Parma side had the Cannavaro brothers and Fedele in the back room staff, all Neapolitan. I don’t think they’d want to do that to Napoli”. Player loyalties highlights the number of players who joined Parma from that Verona side – Mutu, Bonazzoli, Laursen, Pisanu and Gilardino name a few as well as coach Cesare Prandelli who left the summer before the event in question – curious circumstances if you ask me.

Tanzi has not denied that there was contact with Pastorello, but he says that Pastorello simply asked him for help in 1997 when he was looking to buy Hellas. He “offered guarantees, but no money changed hands”.

Some of the fans had an inkling as to what was going on

Tim Parks followed Hellas throughout the season in question, writing about it in ‘A Season with Verona’. At the business end of the season he has very specific comments to say about Parma before the game.

“if Parma were willing to do Lecce a favour, then they should be all the more willing to do one for us. Everyone knows that Pastorello worked at Parma for many years. Isn’t Bonazzoli on loan from Parma? Likewise Seric. Isn’t Laursen going to play for Parma next year? Don’t Parma have various old players of ours? Haven’t they already secured a place in the Champions’ League? They don’t need a result. Above all, didn’t Pastorello buy Hellas Verona with money borrowed from the Tanzi family who own Parma?”

Telling comments without the benefit of hindsight, particularly Parks’ final question. The Pastorello family were very much intertwined with Parma. Giambattista’s son Federico – a football agent – was representing Antonio Benarrivo at the time.  Benarrivo was the player who fouled Mutu to give away a penalty that would decide the game.

Tanzi is far from an angel himself though. He was the founder of Parmalat – former owners of Parma – and was found guilty of embezzling some €800 million from the company. The company went bankrupt – the biggest in European history – and Tanzi was sentenced to 10 years in 2008 but will not serve them until an appeals court has approved the sentence.

All smoke without fire

Since the initial Calciopoli trials there has been a concerted effort to clean up the footballing landscape. They have been inconsistent bursts of bans handed out for diving and swearing, clubs have been called up for financial misgivings in the lower leagues. There has also been an effort to reduce the amount of racism in the game, this battle is being fought terribly solely I’m afraid to say.

Sadly though the damage done in the past has irreparable consequences, when mid-table clashes at the end of the season are odds on draws suspicions will be aroused. The FIGC and Lega can do as much as possible to eradicate corruption but until cases such as these are water under the bridge it will be very difficult for outsiders to view Italian football with any form of credibility – it might all be smoke without fire.

Guest article: Glory days returning to Napoli

I’ve written a guest article in the run up to Napoli v Liverpool in the Europa League for the ITV Football website. It’s a brief profile of Napoli’s turbulent history since the departure of Maradona in 1991.

Give it a read here: Glory days returning to Napoli