Italian football is set to mirror the business model of the English Premier League as the country’s top league looks to breakaway from the lower levels. This week 19 of the 20 Serie A clubs agreed to break-away from the current system (Lecce the only ones not to support the venture) and join the Lega Calcio Serie A, set-up by former journalist Maurizio Beretta. There is still a year of negotiations in the pipeline, but one thing that is certain to change is the selling of television rights, which at present is done on an individual, club-by-club basis, and benefits the big sides far more than the others. In the new model the television rights would be sold as in the UK, altogether in a way that means Serie A football, or rather Lega Calcio Serie A, could be back on UK screens quicker than anticipated, by the 2010/11 season. That’s good news for Calcio connoisseurs in the UK, but not so good news for second tier teams – we will see how it pans out in the coming months.
When I heard Napoli President Aurelio De Laurentiis declaring that Fabio Cannavaro was too old to be a defender for his side (35-year-old strikers are fine though), I wondered just what was going through the mind of Coach Roberto Donadoni and hundreds of thousands of Neapolitans who have long awaited his return. The Real Madrid star and Azzurri captain had long declared his desire to finish his career in his hometown, playing in the same side as brother Paolo, and acknowledges that he needs to be playing in Serie A next year to increase his chances of being a major part in the World Cup. Considering that Juventus are favourites to land his signature, and Bayern Munich is among the sides to have had firm offers turned down by the player, it seemed very strange that the film director and owner had felt that he would not have a role to play for the Partenopei next season.
Last week’s surprise defeat for Inter has changed the nature of the end of season run-in, at least for another week anyway. The title is generally acknowledged to be out of Milan’s reach, but to have the knowledge that Inter will at least have to turn up for their remaining fixtures in order to be assured the Scudetto, will make the remaining games far more watchable. Milan fans across the globe will however still be wondering why they could not have won a few more of those mid-to-lower table clashes that they tend to struggle the most with, and that with those points, would be pushing Inter to the line. In retrospect the Rossoneri should be quite pleased with their season, seeking at least second place when Champions League football was the real goal not so long ago, and to have an injury list as long as any in the league really does show that although they have many critics, the depth of this Milan team is as good as any in the league, and perhaps even better than Inter’s. Without wishing ill to come of the Nerazzurri players, I would be extremely intrigued to watch the season “Countdown,” as Mourinho calls it, if they were missing their two lynchpins, Julio Cesar and Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The reality may well hit home for both the Milan sides this weekend, if Lazio fail to win at the Giuseppe Meazza.
At the opposite end of the table, Bologna will need to take maximum points from their home tie against bottom placed Reggina, and fresh from an excellent 2-0 victory over Champions League chasers Genoa, Giuseppe Papadopulo’s side should be favourites, despite Reggina’s brave performance against Juve last week. The main team standing in the way of league safety for the Rossoblu is Torino, one point ahead, but if there was one team they didn’t want to be playing this weekend, Fiorentina could well be it. Back into fourth position ahead of Genoa, and with four wins from five, an away tie at the Stadio Artemio Franchi in Florence is not the formula for victory for the Turin side. Elsewhere, Genoa has as important a derby as ever at home to Sampdoria, as they desperately look to keep the dream of bringing Champions League football to Genova alive, while Juventus will try and raise morale to finish the season in second, facing a home tie with 19th place Lecce.
With five games left it’s all to play for throughout the league, and looks increasingly likely to go down to the final day. You can follow it all here on Football Italiano, bringing you all the goals, previews, and club updates, alongside all our regular features from our team of hugely talented writers – and in the coming week be sure to pop back to the site to see who I caught up with for Football Italiano’s first exclusive celebrity interview… guesses on a postcard.
Inter vs. Lazio – Il Biscione desperate to bounce back
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Genoa vs. Sampdoria – Smells like team spirit
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