Reuters Soccer Blog
World Soccer views and news
The silly season has been packed with strange stories, none more so than the mafia trying to buy Lazio.
Italian authorities believe a bid by a consortium in 2006 was actually a front for the Casalesi, an organised crime gang within the Camorra – the Naples version of the mafia.
Corruption and scandal have been rife in the Italian game, as proved by the 2006 match-fixing affair and fresh allegations from last season, but nothing could have matched a Serie A club being secretly controlled by the mafia.
One can only wonder what would have happened if their audacious bid had been successful. Would they have made sure Lazio won every game? What would have happened to the coach if they failed?
Amongst all the talk of football and footballers losing touch with the common fan, supporters in Italy are fighting back.
There have been at least four recent incidents where fans have protested against potential signings they did not like. Juve supporters failed to stop Monday’s purchase of Christian Poulsen but did prevent a bid for Inter Milan’s Dejan Stankovic.
The worst kept secret in football has finally been made public – Jose Mourinho is Inter Milan’s new coach.
Rumours the former Chelsea coach would take over at the San Siro have been rampant for months and they intensified when Roberto Mancini was sacked last week despite leading the side to a third straight Serie A title.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic had been out injured for a month and a half, about the time Inter Milan had managed to flitter away an 11-point lead in Serie A.
On Sunday the Swede climbed off the bench to bag both goals in a 2-0 win at Parma which relegated the hosts and gave Inter their 16th scudetto and third in a row on the last day of the season.
Having won the previous two championships, you wouldn’t have expected Inter Milan to succumb to nerves in this season’s Italian title race.
Roberto Mancini’s side are doing their very best to throw the scudetto away. In February they were 11 points clear of AS Roma but after Sunday’s 2-2 draw with Siena the gap is down to a point with one game to play.
Italian players used to stick to their own league until relatively recently.
Then Gianluca Vialli and Gianfranco Zola wowed Chelsea and the floodgates opened with the likes of Fabio Cannavaro, Gianluca Zambrotta and Luca Toni going abroad.
Now AC Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso has hinted he may want a fresh challenge away from Serie A.
It is hard to know when to say goodbye.
A footballer’s career is short and it can be tempting to play on as long as possible. But soccer is cruel and past achievements mean nothing when clubs plan for the future.
AC Milan captain Paolo Maldini, 39, will soon decide if he will retire at the end of the season following 23 years at the San Siro. The defender had been due to quit in May but is having second thoughts. It may all hinge on whether Milan snatch a Champions League place.
A Ronaldinho move to AC Milan now just seems to be a matter of time, after the club and the player’s agent both announced that personal terms have been agreed.
“There is a general agreement with the player,” Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani said on Saturday. ”Now a deal has to be reached with Barcelona. Give us time.”
He broke records galore in seven years at AC Milan, but his two seasons at Chelsea have been utterly miserable. Injury has played a part in his fall from grace, but generally the 31-year-old has been too slow for the demands of English football and has lost his magic touch.
After winning promotion to the top flight, most clubs would be happy just consolidating their position for a season. But not Juventus.
Claudio Ranieri’s side are third in Serie A, an excellent achievement following their demotion for match-fixing two seasons ago and the loss of Fabio Cannavaro, Emerson, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Patrick Vieira, Gianluca Zambrotta and Lilian Thuram.