After nearly seven months living in Milan, I now make my way back to the UK this weekend, albeit for a fleeting Christmas visit. This time returning to more familiar shores lends itself to analysing how easy/difficult it has been to begin a reasonably new way of life in a foreign country, with few life – let alone language – skills. There are myriad of subjects we could talk about – food, finance, fine weather and even finer wines. Yes the Italians may sound like they are arguing when they talk excitedly about… anything, and the Milanese may forget the rules of the road as important business awaits them in the office, but these are just some of the many aspects that together form a bustling city, business hub, fashion capital, celebrity centre and a truly Italian lifestyle. In the end, the question comes down to whether you can adapt to the different culture offered by this beautiful country. If you can, Italia will reward you.
David Beckham is about to become another Englishman in Milan, albeit staying in rather more luxurious surroundings than myself (Four Seasons Hotel if the rumours are correct). It will be interesting to see how big a character Becks will become in a country that already boasts it’s own footballers as celebrities, where Calcio stars like Alex Del Piero, Francesco Totti or Andriy Shevchenko among many others, have all popped up numerous times on primetime TV shows (not related to football I might add). Beckham offers something different, being so famous, but also being English. Few make the trip abroad from our island, and so wherever he goes he represents England, and nowhere is this more true than in a country where the association with top English players effectively came to an end some 10/12 years ago (sorry Jay Boothroyd). Let’s hope he has a successful three months in the Peninsula, and who knows, maybe more.
The big news of the week has to be Friday’s Champions League draw that made the Anglo-Italian mix that we all so much enjoy come to the fore, and in some style. These ties will really help to give us an indication of how much the Italian clubs have progressed compared with their Premier League counterparts. In my humble opinion, Roma are more balanced up-front this season with the additions of Bapista and Menez, even if they have lost important players in the summer, and the team they face, Arsenal, are no longer the team to avoid that they once were. Juventus has steadily improved under Claudio Ranieri, and has already shown how dangerous they are in Europe by doing the double over Real Madrid. If Chelsea can be torn apart by a struggling Roma side (they had just lost 4 in a row), then I’m sure the Bianconeri have a chance. This leads us nicely to the battle of the Champions. Manchester United against Inter. For sure Inter are not the same side that have been brushed aside by the likes of Arsenal in recent years – they are stronger, and every side in the world should fear Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But the league consistency has been partnered with Champions League mediocrity that has seen defeats to Werder, Panathanaikos and a draw with Anorthosis Famagusta. In short, if they play to their potential, it will make for a stunning tie, but if they do not, they will be out before the second leg.
This weekend is of course the last before the winter break. The time to rest and recuperate cannot come soon enough for the Rossoneri, who will be naming a substitutes bench made up largely of unknown youth players, such is the injury crisis affecting Milan at present. Carlo Ancelotti will be praying to the Madonina that his makeshift side can keep the likes of Quagliarella and Di Natale, who were both in good form last week, out of the game for as long as possible. Elsewhere Fiorentina have the chance to be 4th going into the winter break when they face a Sampdoria side fresh from a confidence-boosting UEFA Cup victory over Sevilla. Juventus travel across to Bergamo where they face Atalanta, Napoli are without Ezequiel Lavezzi for their trip to Torino, and Inter will hope to finish the first half of the season ahead by at least six points, by beating Siena away.
The winter break will be, for teams and fans alike, a time to reflect on the past few months, whilst also taking an anticipatory look ahead to the second half of what promises to be an exciting Serie A title race mixed with titanic European clashes. Beckham’s arrival will ensure Italy’s top league will once again have an audience deserving as the world’s media descends.