The most unsurprising piece of news this week, if not this year, is that Ciro Ferrara has finally been sacked as Coach of Juventus. The straw that broke the camel’s back was Thursday’s Coppa Italia quarter-final defeat to Inter, but Ferrara had been a strong candidate for involuntary redundancy since the early stages of a disastrous season for the Bianconeri.
Already Juve find themselves well adrift of the Scudetto pace and out of the Champions League. Ferrara’s unremarkable record shows 11 defeats in just 31 games, pre-empted by some baffling tactical and man-managerial decisions. Installing Ferrara as boss in the first place seemed a bold call from President Jean-Claude Blanc, given his relative inexperience of club management. Ferrara had coached the Juve Primavera and stepped up to replace Claudio Ranieri late last season to guide la Vecchia Signora to a Champions League slot. The rookie boss was backed financially during the summer with Blanc splashing out big money for Felipe Melo and Diego as they sought to end Inter’s league supremacy, but the Pep Guardiola-esque transition never followed. Things started brightly enough winning the first four league games, but it was downhill from there as Ferrara’s lack of tactical awareness became apparent.
The Neapolitan never managed to integrate Brazilian trequartista Diego into the team, opting to constantly fidget with tactics and personnel to a hugely detrimental effect. The heat was on prior to Christmas when le Zebre crashed out of the European Cup with an appalling 4-1 home reverse to Bayern Munich, and although Ferrara was granted a stay of execution through January, the slump was never likely to be reversed.
The man charged with the unenviable task of turning this shambles around is former Milan and Udinese tactician, Alberto Zaccheroni. Zac has been installed on a temporary contract until the summer, with rumours already a-plenty as to who will take the reins full-time. There are strong suggestions linking Rafa Benitez with the post. His circumstances remain hazy, with contradicting reports as to the strength of his relationship with Liverpool’s American owners. After another poor campaign for the Reds it may be an amicable solution to go their separate ways, leaving Benitez in the clear to come to Turin. It is high time the Juventus board demonstrated some managerial skills of their own, as the club has not really found its feet since Calciopoli. For a club once renowned for not sacking their Coaches, Zaccheroni is now the fifth Coach since 2006, all having limited impact. A period of stability is now needed if the club are to return to the glory years of not so long ago.
Given that Ferrara could have been sacked at any point in the last month, the cynics amongst us may have noticed that he was left aboard the sinking ship with games against Milan, Roma and Inter, whilst Zaccheroni faces three sides fighting relegation in his first four games. Cruel or clever? Regardless, Zac’s the man they’ve trusted to bring home that top four finish.
The Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) has confirmed that Fiorentina ace Adrian Mutu has failed a second drug test for banned appetite suppressant sibutramin. The 31-year-old striker has pleaded his innocence, but tested positive for the substance following games with Bari on January 10, and Lazio on January 20. The World Anti Doping Agency recommend a ban of anything between three months and eight years, and are likely to take into consideration Mutu’s previous conviction for taking cocaine back in 2004. Mutu’s appearances have been limited through injury this term, but has still managed to find the net 11 times in 21 games, including two prior to his positive test against Lazio. That result put the Viola into the Coppa Italia semis and the remainder of the quarter-final matches were completed this week. Ciro Ferrara had the indignity of losing his final act as Juve boss to a last minute Mario Balotelli goal as Inter now play Fiorentina. Udinese humbled Milan 1-0 at the San Siro, and will face Roma who lowered Catania by the same score. It is a remarkable turnaround by Claudio Ranieri, with il Lupi also in a strong position to grab a Champions League berth.
This weekend they face lowly Siena hoping to cement a top four slot, but the Giallorossi are being eagerly pursued by both Palermo and Napoli. The Naples giants are on the back of a 13-game unbeaten stretch since Walter Mazzarri succeeded Roberto Donadoni and can extend that further against Genoa on Saturday night live on ESPN.
The transfer window shuts on Monday but activity has all but ceased. Inter have called off the Cristian Ledesma chase after the league’s arbitration panel refused to rescind his contract, the Nerazzurri instead switching attention to Valencia’s Portuguese midfielder Manuel Fernandes, with a deal set to be concluded today. Elsewhere Hernan Crespo has completed a surprise move back to Parma after failing to settle in Genoa. As this is the last chance to peddle idle transfer rumours, it is worth a mention that PSG are after Jeremy Menez, Valon Behrami will be signing for Palermo, Antonio Cassano is off to Fiorentina and Brad and Angelina have split up…