Italy often has refereeing decisions as one of its staple dinner table/sports studio topics of conversation, but in the past three weeks especially, this has come to even more prominence. Andrea Della Valle, the Fiorentina owner has been saying recently that the decisions from the men in luminous green have been costing his team a significant number of points, citing the castigation of Alberto Gilardino’s handball goal against Palermo earlier in the season, and the more recent incorrectly disallowed goal for the same player against Juventus, and the stone-wall – if slightly played for – penalty that Stevan Jovetic failed to win in the same match – one of these in their favour would have given them a share of the spoils.
The recent weeks have seen Inter benefit from a number of decisions in their favour that have helped add points to a spell that otherwise way have been less fruitful than it turned out. But far from being convincing, there have been a number of questionable refereeing decisions that have gone in favour of the Nerazzurri lately. On Wednesday night, with Inter leading one nil, Paolucci had a goal disallowed for “high” feet, against Nicolas Burdisso, where it should really have been seen as a low header from the defender. The match previous to this was a 1-0 home victory over Sampdoria thanks to an Adriano goal, a player who should have been sent off and has subsequently been banned for three matches for a disgraceful punch in the stomach of Samp defender Daniele Gastaldello. In the same game the referee decided against awarding a penalty after Pazzini was hauled down by Ivan Cordoba late on, a decision that could have gone either way. The Coppa Italia match with Roma, that they won 2-1 was won thanks to a clearly offside Zlatan Ibrahimovic goal.
David Beckham turned in a fantastic performance, worthy of man of the match for some people in the Rossoneri’s 1-1 draw with Genoa in midweek. It has taken him just three games to get the right playing style for Serie A, and if he doesn’t play any more games with Milan, which he is sure to do, then the move will have proved a success for both parties in any case. What is interesting is the way the former Manchester United and Real Madrid man reacts to being questioned about his future with Milan. He always becomes more enthusiastic when discussing the possibility of staying in Italy. Look how he reacts, even if seemingly incredibly tired, after his most recent post match interview.
This in my opinion answers the question about where Beckham’s future lies – if he wants to leave LA Galaxy, he will. The Americans will insist he is staying and that they are not interested in selling him, but even they know this is just to keep the transfer price as high as possible, and to show the Los Angeles football (soccer) fans that they are trying their best to keep him, thus avoiding a fan revolt.
I like to dedicate a few lines in the Gazzetta piece every now and then to talk about the ever-interesting Antonio Cassano. I mentioned the other week that Juventus were reportedly interested in bringing the Sampdoria star to Turin, with a view to replacing the retiring Nedved and eventually Del Piero. But although this deal has gone silent, and Cassano prefers the warm climate of the south anyway, it could in footballing terms be a match made in heaven. There were midweek heroics from Cassano, where he scored a fantastic goal in the victory over Lazio, but in the Friuli region we saw Sebastian Giovinco, the “next Del Piero”, struggling to make an impression, and showing some real frailties for a player at this level, notably his strength. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if Cassano wants to become a great star in the world of football, he can, but it will require a move like this one – let’s see what the summer brings.
Turning our attention to the weekend, Udinese will be full of confidence after their win against Juventus, and fans of Calcio everywhere will be hoping this signals the return to top form of striking duo Antonio Di Natale and Fabio Quagliarella. But standing in their way of a push back up the league to safety is Saturday’s tie away to Napoli – two of the early season pace-setters meeting again in one of the key games of this weekend. Udinese’s victims Juve will face a team full of confidence, as Cagliari has three wins on the trot. Ranieri’s men really cannot afford another slip-up if they have any serious ambitions for the title. Roma will be hoping that they can move into the Champions League positions as they play away to bottom club Reggina, Milan face a tough away tie against Lazio, and Inter shouldn’t have any problems hosting the toothless Torino.