A sad week for Italian football but also some good news for those with Eurosport.
Last week saw the death of Giovanni Agnelli, the patriarch of Italian sport. Best known for Juventus and Ferrari, as well as FIAT, Agnelli was a true European aristocrat and he'll be sadly missed. Foreign players such as Platini and Zidane lauded him, and it is testimony to the high regard he is held in that all over Italy respects were paid by the various fans before their team's matches.
We'll look at off field matters again later but now to the action on the pitch. I try not to let my Napoli bias interfere but special mention is due to the 50,000 in the San Paolo last Monday who roared gli azzurri to a 1-0 victory over Catania. We Rangers' supporters could learn from them, give them hell when they don't perform but make the stadium a cauldron, not a library, when the team turn it on. After Napoli's victory, Toshack resigned from his post as Catania coach after the Sicilian's Chairman had a go at him and the players. Funnily enough, their last coaches were sacked after a home defeat by Napoli in November.
In Serie A last weekend the shock result was Milan's 1-0 defeat in Udine. They now share top spot with Inter who beat Empoli 3-0. Juventus also won to close the gap to a point but Lazio and Chievo both lost. The most controversial match was in Como where the relegation certainties Como beat the giallorossi 2-0. They did have help though, the ref all but scored for them.
Off the pitch, there is good news as Eurosport are going to be picking up live coverage of the world's best league. Their schedules are notoriously hard to decipher but my understanding is that they will always show the Sunday night game, usually the pick of the weekend's matches and also, from time to time, perhaps all the time, an afternoon fixture. This weekend that means Torino - Inter, 7.30pm in the evening and also a game at 2pm. Well done to Eurosport.
During the past week in Italy some, notably Inter officials, have been trying to link Adriano Galliani, head of the Italian league and Milan's vice-president, with the rash of penalties awarded to the rossoneri. They claim a conflict of interest but as Fabio Capello rightly stated, they voted him in so why complain now. Most neutrals would agree that Milan are a fantastic team this year, that probably explains the penalties they get. Juve will certainly be pleased as this is usually an allegation levelled at them. It does raise an interesting issue though. The standard of refereeing has been very poor in Serie A, some being as bad as Moreno (remember him) or even Willie Young (arruso). Emerson referring specifically to Roma, has come out to say "referees, let us play", pointing out that it is unusual to finish a match with 22 players on the pitch. Final word on this to Fabio Cannavaro, he said that maybe Milan get a lot of penalties because they attack a lot. Wise words Fabio.
The papers are talking of "calcio in crisi", reflecting the current economic ills blighting the game in Italy. One hypothesis flying around is to have two divisions of 20 teams forming Serie A, perhaps a northern section and a southern section, the winners playing off for lo scudetto. Reducing the relegation/promotion spots to two seems a more viable option. All will be discussed on February 14th. It seems ridiculous to me and I'll side with Massimo Moratti on the issue overall. He said "Football is ill? If it is, it isn't obliged to go to hospital. If it only has the flu we can cure it with two aspirin, And we'll find the aspirin". A sensible approach. Football worldwide needs to tighten it's belt as we at Rangers know all to well. It is evident that football is in decline in the south of Italy, perhaps reflecting the poorer economy there. One team in A and a few struggling in B. In the past the northern teams have been keen to loan high profile players to clubs such as Napoli as they realise the importance of that club to Italian football. Changed days and that doesn't happen so much nowadays but I'm confident Napoli and other teams like Bari and Lecce will regain their place in the top flight.
Two pieces of news to end with. Florenti Viola captain and ex-Italian stalwart Angelo Di Livio may have to retire from the game after suffering a career threatening knee ligament injury last weekend. At 36, a comeback won't be easy but I'm sure we wish the "Little Soldier" all the best. As I mentioned earlier, Como are struggling in the league but have boosted their slim hopes of survival by signing Lorenzo's cousin Nicola Amoruso. He's a fine player, having turned out for Napoli, but he's popular in Scotland for helping Juve beat gli irlandese in the Champions' League. Good luck in Como Nicola.
Serie A after 18 games:
Week 18 scores:
Modena 0 Atalanta 2
Como 2 Roma 0
Bologna 2 Torino2
Brescia 1 Parma 1
Inter 3 Empoli 0
Juventus 2 Piacenza 0
Lazio 0 Reggina 1
Perugia 1 Chievo 0
Udinese 1 Milan 0
Week 19 fixtures: