Originally published in la Gazzetta dello Sport
Whatever happened to the power of the Premier League?
“In the last few years the strong teams have sold important players; like Manchester United, who lost Ronaldo and Tevez.”
Is it a money matter?
“The Premier League felt the world financial crisis too, with the exception of Manchester City. But there is no alternative: who wants to stay competitive must buy at least one or two great players every year. And hope to have made the right choices.”
After Real Madrid and Manchester City, the clubs who have spent the most were Barcelona, Inter and Lyon.
“This backs up what I just said. Three out of the four teams in the Champions League semi-finals made big investments. Man City wants to enter quickly the group of ‘big clubs’ and Fiorentino Perez has plans for an extremely competitive Real.”
Barcelona destroyed Arsenal.
“Arsenal faced a great team in their best form. Only a few weeks before, Barça was struggling. The Gunners were very unlucky, they lost important players like Van Persie, Fabregas, Arshavin.”
Manchester United suffered Rooney’s injury.
“United paid for every mistake. Bayern’s 2-1 in Munich was a last-minute present and their goal in the 1-3 return match happened because of another misunderstanding. The real difference was Rafael’s sending off and Rooney’s injury.”
How close did you come to losing your lion king?
“I completely understand Ferguson. He knows how important Rooney is, he’s psychologically important for the whole team. I don’t think he risked it: if after the fitness tests he played him, he evidently was not so bad.”
Rooney or Messi?
“Both. Plus Cristiano Ronaldo. Three great players with different features. It would be a dream to have the three of them in the same team. When I think that Manchester United already had two…”
What about Inter’s performance at Stamford Bridge?
“Chelsea had played very well in Milan, they could have finished with a better score. And Inter should have played a different match in London. The Nerazzurri were ‘bellissimi’ at Stamford Bridge, it was a challenge between two equally strong teams.”
No English clubs in the Champion’s League semi-finals.
“I’ve always said that Inter is the strongest team in Italy. But it’s also the only club that seriously invested, with six new arrivals.”
Yet they’re not so irresistible in Serie A anymore.
“Maybe their main aim is the Champion’s League, therefore they got distracted.”
What surprised you in this Serie A season?
“Juve disappointed me. I really thought they would get stronger after the summer buys. But from the outside I can’t tell what went wrong.”
Did Milan disappoint you as well?
“They were doing very well till a few weeks ago, then instead of giving it a push, they took their foot off. They missed two opportunities to go ahead of Inter. But Leonardo is doing a good enough job.”
And the Oscar goes to…
“Roma and Ranieri. They are doing something extraordinary. Who would have thought it when they were 14 points behind? The team has always been good, but Ranieri has surpassed himself.”
It was a winning change of Coach.
“When I left Roma, I said that a coach can’t stay in an Italian team for more than four years: on the fifth year the players don’t follow you anymore, they need a shake. Spalletti has been very good, but he as well, like myself, realised his time there was over.”
Italy’s living Calciopoli again.
“Next question, please.”
What about the Italians in the Premier League?
“I’m very happy, they’re all good. Especially Ancelotti with Chelsea, although it’s no surprise: Carlo is a world football icon. Mancini has done well everywhere and he’s doing good at City too. Zola is at the beginning, but with all the trouble the club went through, West Ham’s salvation will be his triumph. Di Matteo’s Premier League promotion with West Bromwich is also excellent, the power of made in Italy.”
Ancelotti says that England is favourite over Italy for the World Cup.
“I agree: we can play equally with all the finalists. And if I’m saying it, it means we can go far.”
How anxious are you about Rooney and the other Crown’s Jewels?
“I’m not superstitious. At this crucial stage of the season anything can happen, whether you cross your fingers or not. I just need the injured to get well in time.”
Will alcohol be banned from England’s get-away at Rustenburg?
“It’s no news. Every England camp with me has been dry. The ban is also for me and the staff. It will be like going to re-hab: we will detox in the hotel.”
It’s going to be long days, between one match and the other.
“We’ll try and come up with something nice not to get bored. But don’t think I’m going to send my players in near-by Sun City’s casinos.”
Are you definitely going to manage England till 2012, whatever happens?
“No problems by me.”
What is it going to happen in 2012?
“I’ll be a TV pundit again, like I was before England called me.”
What if another nation calls you, perhaps from a different continent?
“I’m always up to new and charming situations, and to difficult challenges.”
Including with a new club?
“Being a club Coach is a very different job. But I leave my door ajar”.