Posts Tagged ‘Serie A’

THE FIFA PRO XI OF 2012

Awards, accolades and acknowledgement for outstanding performance in any sphere in life are appreciated but when the award begins to lose credibility, there’s a need for a review.

The surprising FIFA Pro XI of 2012 comprised of players from just three football clubs based in Europe precisely Spain; a league where we have two gladiators and 18 other participants. Is football played in Spain alone? Well, Yes!! No!!!

It is the home of current World champions and back-to-back European champions. So why not?

My targets below are positions I think the technical team could have considered someone else.

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In goalIker Casillas of Real Madrid and Spain was picked. No doubt, Saint Iker had an outstanding first half of the year where his Real Madrid side ended Barcelona hegemony and won the league but it wasn’t his heroics that brought the title – rather, it was the ruthless attacking machines of Jose Mourinho side that secured the title. Iker also led Spain to an unprecedented triumph at the Euros and perhaps that could have pushed it his way but his poor form since the start of this season makes me question his inclusion.

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Right Back – Dani Alves. Undoubtedly the best attacking full back when in his element but he will certainly want to forget 2012 in a hurry. His below par performances for Barca and as well as his frequent visit to the treatment table ensured Copa del Rey title was Los Cules only title of 2012. The way fellow country man Ramires exposed him during the UEFA Champions League semi final match at Stamford Bridge summarizes his poor year.

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Centre Half – Gerard Pique. How in the world does he make it? As much as I rate Gerard, his performance last year does not come close to his personal best let alone make the pro team. His former coach Pep Guardiola confirmed Pique’s attention was elsewhere during the course of last season and he hasn’t hit the peak this term. Vincent Kompany, Matt Hummels and Giorgio Chiellini are guys that would challenge him effectively.

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Xavi Hernandez – Central Midfield. I can’t fault the orchestra but the music of 2012 was not exceptional. Everyone knows Xavi’s quality – precise pass accuracy, controlling the tempo of games and popping up with the goals but all this could not help the Blaugranas to either La Liga or UCL success. Juventus maestro Andrea Pirlo waved his magic in Turin and across Italy in serie A games. He was without a doubt the star for La Nazionale during the Euro 2012.

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Radamel Falcao – Forward. Who has got a natural striking instinct in the world that comes close to Falcao today? No one! We are blessed with a natural number 9 in the Colombian forward who terrorized defenses in La Liga and Europe last season enroute Los Colchoneros Europa league triumph but I’d argue that Ivorien striker Didier Drogba deserves a place in this XI because he rises to the big occasion. The Drog was the secret weapon behind Chelsea’s maiden European triumph last season which I feel was the biggest achievement in European football considering how their season panned out. Based on that, I will put Drogba slightly ahead of Falcao.

The whole list can be scrutinized hence the motive behind this article but above all, I would like to congratulate every member of the FIFA Pro XI 2012. I bet many people disagree with FIFA as well as my position. Please use the comment box beneath to express yourselves.

Thank you.

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What next for Carlos Tevez?

No Love Lost

I got my first glimpse of Carlos Alberto Tevez during the FIFA u-17 World Cup hosted by Trindad and Tobago in 2001. His goal celebration caught my attention during their semi-final loss to France. He pulled his shirt off and to my surprise, I saw a full grown man with a hairy chest at age 17.

Carlos’ professional career has been hugely successful but it has also been accompanied with its bags and bags of controversies and issues. His protracted ownership right alongside his country man Javier Mascherano who both moved from Corinthians to West Ham in the summer of 2006 couldn’t be resolved until Manchester City acquired his full rights in 2009.

During his second season of his loan spell at Manchester United, he showed a lot of animosity when he dropped down the pecking order. One of his famous act of cynicism was him standing right in front of the Man Utd dug out with his hands to his ears (a gesture to SAF to listen) as the Old Trafford fans were chanting his name after his goal against Manchester City. A few months later, he was on the other side.

Tevez was signed by Hughes but was made captain by Mancini when the Italian replaced the Welsh man. The Argentine was arguably City’s best player in his first two seasons at the club despite his numerous outburst of being unsettled in England and had his fixed eyes on the exit door.

The day it all went south...

Manchester City managed to deal with his tantrums quite well and the manager even appeared to be a partial with the way he handled Carlos’ case when one compares it with the situation of Emmanuel Adebayor and Craig Bellamy who were turned to outcasts. Every beginning they say must have an end so it is in Tevez’ case. His Munich refusal to warm up and play in a UCL game against Bayern appeared to be the final straw that broke the camel’s back. He has been suspended indefinitely from the first team and in a bid to force his way out of the club, Carlos went AWOL in November and vowed never to return to the club.

Livin' Lavida Loca?

His club responded by freezing his salary account at the end of November. A total of £9.3m has been taken away from the Argentine in fines, lost wages and bonuses since the start of this season.

The final resolution to the problem is for both parties to part.

AC Milan and a host of other clubs signified their intention to sign the embattled striker but City have refused to be bullied into selling a disgruntled star at a cut price.

Manchester City have warned Milan that they are “not an option” for Carlos Tevez unless the £30m price-tag is met, despite their “misplaced sense of confidence.” According to reports, the AC Milan’s negotiating team have agreed personal terms with the players and hope to use that as a means for City to lower their asking price.
The usually quiet Abu Dhabi owners have finally broken their silence on the matter to express their anger about what they regard as Milan trying to engineer a way to sign Tevez on the cheap.
On the other hand, PSG, another front runner for Tevez signature look to have pulled out of the race. Their Sporting Director, Leonardo told L’Equipe,

“We’ve ended the talks, there was an opportunity to sign him, but it is over. We did our calculations, we made a good offer but we’ve been unable to reach an agreement. We don’t intend to overpay in order to sign him.”

With just a day left in the January transfer window, it appears all parties involved in the Tevez saga have reached an impasse.

Manchester City have refused to budge. Milan who can’t match City’s demand have opted to sign another Argentine, Maxi Lopez from Catania. This may signal the end of their pursuit.

All interested clubs have in one form or the other backed out, what becomes of Carlos Tevez from now till the end of the season if no one comes to bail him out of his wilderness by 11:59pm, January 31, 2012?

How much time can Enrique buy?

Feeling the heat already?

Dreams do come true and so was the belief of the Giallorossi fans when Thomas Di Benedetto got his hands on AS Roma. It was time for i Lupi to flex financial muscles and compete with heavyweights in Italy and Europe for world class players.

Have they fans woken up to reality? Quite a number should have. The new American owners decided to invest in talented youngsters with the aim of building for the future. The same can be said with the appointment of a rookie coach in Luis Enrique as the tactician who is expected to bring Barcelona’s brand of football to the Olimpico.

The idea and early signs look promising but thats about where it ends.
The money spent during the summer and the look of the team on paper might make one to believe in fresh start, however, the defense still looks unconvincing. Maarten Stekenlenburg is a good buy but Jose Angel appears to be more of a liability – his performance during their last match against Milan was miserable. Juan isn’t getting any younger and the acquisition of Gabriel Heinze as a replacement for departed Philippe Mexes isn’t good enough.

A poor pre-season was followed up with their exit from the Europa league in the qualifying stages against a lowly rated Slovan Bratislava. Four defeats in nine Serie A league matches including a loss to eternal rival Lazio and defending champion Milan suggest Enrique’s Roma might not finish any better than the sixth position achieved last season byMontella.

..one of the many exciting prospects, but...

Another reason why this exciting project has not really bloomed might be the behind-the-scene issues in Rome. Mercurial midfield man Daniele De Rossi is yet to renew his contract with a few months left for it to run out, Marco Borriello has already fallen out with the coach, 35 yeras old club hero Francesco Totti still harbors the desire to play 90minutes every game as long as he’s fit so he isn’t happy to sit on the bench.

With the old guards bickering, the weight of expectation rests  on the shoulders of Simon Kjaer, Fernando Gago, Miralem Pjanic, Bojan Krkic and Erik Lamela- some of the young talents who moved to the Italian capital during the summer. Erik Lamela, a talented attacking midfielder is exciting to watch with the ball at his feet but needs time to settle and adapt to life in Europe. He is an epitome of the shortcomings frome the youngsters too.

After last weekend’s loss to Milan, Franco Baldini, the new general manager backed their coach and appealed to fans to support their team.
He said

 “We are a young team and it’s going to take patience. The important thing is to grow, which we can only do through good football. Luis Enrique has the full faith of the club and we’ll carry on along this path.”

“The Giallorossi crowd have realised the value of our project. We want to build a great squad and the future is ours. At the moment, though, we cannot afford to sign big champions.

“If we lose, then the fans are only right to protest, but I am happy with their attitude.”

Luis Enrique wants to build his own Barcelona in Rome, but he doesn’t have the same tools at his disposal. The Spaniard is being exposed against experienced Italian tacticians – he has promising youngsters to work it not established talents to make him competitive.

Roma may have a bright future, but the present doesn’t look so rosy, because their project needs time and plenty of it.

How much of that time will the Romans give him even when they know that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Serie A 2011-12 Preview

The title challenge might be a Milan affair this season.  Certainly, the Beneamata faithfuls want the Scudetto back in the blue and black side of Giuseppe Meazza.

AS Roma, Juventus and the new Napoli in the post Maradona era will aspire to challenge for the ultimate prize in the Calcio.
Cesena, Bologna, Lecce all managed narrow escape last time out while Atalanta,

Novarra, Sienna have joined the big boys in the top flight for a season of great challenges. Who will be returning to the Serie B?

My preview will be centered on all the above mentioned teams and how I feel they will perform this season.
The strike is off! I love the Calcio. A league for the brave hearts and the tactical ones.

The top four challengers

AC MILAN   (finished 1st last season)

In: Ricardo Ferreira (free, FC Porto), Philippe Mexes (free, AS Roma), Taye Taiwo (free, Marseille), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (€24m, Barcelona), Stephan El Shaarawy (€10m, Genoa), Kevin-Prince Boateng (€7m, Genoa), Marco Amelia (€3.5m, Genoa), Alberto Aquilani (loan, Liverpool), Antonio Nocerino (undisclosed, Palermo)

Out: Oguchi Onyewu (free, Sporting Lisbon), Didac Vila (loan, Espanyol), Michelangelo Albertazzi (loan, Getafe), Sokratis Papastathopoulos (undisclosed, Genoa), Alexander Merkel (€4m – co-ownership, Genoa), Andrea Pirlo (free, Juventus), Attila Filkor (loan, Livorno), Marco Borriello (€10m, AS Roma), Andrea Schenetti (loan, South Tyrol), Fernando Coppola (loan, Torino), Nnamdi Oduamadi (loan, Torino), Luca Santonocito (loan, South Tyrol), Simone Verdi (undisclosed – co-ownership, Torino), Uros Palibrk (loan, Viareggio), Rodney Strasser (loan, Lecce), Alberto Paloschi (loan, Chievo Verona), Nicola Legrottaglie (free, Catania), Massimo Oddo (loan, Lecce), Tommaso Trani (free, Queens Park Rangers), Gianmarco Zigoni (loan, Avellino)

Max Allegri’s appointment last year was a surprise to many and  they pondered the direction the Rossoneris were heading. The club’s very quiet transfer activities before the eleventh hour arrival of Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Robinho appeared to have handed the trophy to either Inter or Roma  before the season kicked off. The big Swede changed all of that as he led Milan on an impressive march on the domestic scene. Inter cracked under Rafa Benitez while Claudio Raneiri’s Roma turned out to be pretenders. Allegri clinched the 18th league title for the Red and Blacks.
Adriano Galliani made earlier moves this summer with bosman transfers of Philippe Mexes and Taye Taiwo from Roma and Marseille respectively to help the aging Milan defense. The surprise decision for me was the exit of deep lying playmaker Andrea Pirlo after a decade with the club – A rare jewel. Milan were going to be short of quality in the midfield but just when the media was proposing for the Diavolos, Galliani provided the Mr X by securing the services of Alberto Aquilani and Antonio Nocerino. The puzzle pieces are complete for Max as he embarks on a new adventure to retain the Scudetto. The form of Ibracadabra, Cassano and fitness of Pato will be key. Milan should be champions once again with the quality they’ve got in depth. Europe could be a distraction.

INTERNAZIONALE   (finished 2nd last season)

In: Luca Caldirola (loan, Cesena), Matteo Colombi (loan, Piacenza), Luca Garritano (loan, Cesena), Samuele Longo (loan, Genoa), Joel Obi (loan, Parma), Andrea Sala (loan, Pro Patria), Federico Scappi (loan, Reggiana), Ricky Alvarez (€11.9m, Velez Sarsfield), Jonathan (€5m, Santos), Yuto Nagamoto (€4.9m, Cesena), Emiliano Viviano (€4.1m, Bologna), Luc Castaignos (€3m, Feyenoord), Stefano Dalla Riva (undisclosed, Vicenza), Francesco Bardi (undisclosed – co-ownership, Livorno), Francesco Forte (loan, Pisa), Eugenio Giannetti (loan, Padova), Rodrigo Alborno (loan, Libertad), Andrea Poli (loan, Sampdoria), Mauro Zarate (€2m – loan, Lazio), Juraj Kucka (undisclosed – co-ownership, Genoa), Emiliano Viviano (loan, Genoa)

Out: David Suazo (free, Catania), Luca Caldirola (undisclosed – co-ownership, Cesena), Riccardo Bocalon (loan, Cremonese), Michele Rigione (loan, Cremonese), Vid Belec (loan, Crotone), Mattia Destro (€6.5m, Genoa), Aiman Napoli (undisclosed – co-ownership, Juve Stabia), Cristiano Biraghi (loan, Juve Stabia), Victor Obinna (free, Lokomotiv Moscow), Kerlon (loan, Nacional de Nova Serrana), Giulio Donati (loan, Padova), Enrico Alfonso (loan, Cremonese), Luca Garritano (undisclosed – co-ownership, Cesena), Matteo Solini (loan, Chievo Verona), Samuele Longo (undisclosed – co-ownership, Genoa), Simone Dell’Agnello (undisclosed – co-ownership, Livorno), Simone Benedetti (loan, Gubbio), Alberto Gallinetta (free, Parma), Francesco Bardi (loan, Livorno), Luca Tremolada (loan, Pisa), Felice Natalino (loan, Verona), Andrea Mei (loan, VVV-Venlo), Samuel Eto’o (undisclosed, Anzhi Makhachkala), Goran Pandev (loan, Napoli), Davide Santon (€6m, Newcastle United), Juraj Kucka (loan, Genoa)

The 2010 treble winning season is a distant achievement for the Nerazurris now. It seems no one is capable of following the footsteps of the “Special One”.
Gian Piero Gasperini is Moratti’s third coach in the space of one year. He has the unenviable task of wrestling the title which has been theirs for a while back from the other side of the San Siro.
His job has been made more difficult with the departure of the irreplaceable Samuel Eto’o. Goal scoring Diego Forlan on his day has been brought in to fill a massive vaccum.
Inter managed to keep Wesley Sneijder despite interest from abroad and temptation to sell with the reality of Platini’s FFP coming down hard on some big European clubs.
Gasperini’s 3-4-3 formation which he has successfully implemented in his previous clubs might be in for some scrutiny considering the way his team impressed in the first half of the Italian Super Cup but collapsed in the second.
The arrival of Mauro Zarate who is a time bomb waiting to explode might be a problem as no one knows which character the explosive striker will exhibit.
Inter have what it takes to be crowned champions once again but will rely heavily on Dutch maestro Sneijder to get them rolling.

SC NAPOLI   (finished 3rd last season)

In: Roberto Colombo (free, Triestina), Marco Donadel (free, Fiorentina), Mario Santana (free, Fiorentina), Edinson Cavani (€16m, Palermo), Gokhan Inler (€15m, Udinese), Miguel Angel Britos (€9m, Bologna), Blerim Dzemaili (€9m, Parma), Federico Fernandez (€3.3m, Estudiantes La Plata), Antonio Rosati (€2.9m, Lecce), Nicolao Dumitru (€1.5m, Empoli), Goran Pandev (loan, Inter Milan), David Fideleff (€2.8m, Newell’s Old Boys)

Out: Fabio Quagliarella (€10.5m, Juventus), Luca Cigarini (loan return, Sevilla), Daniele Mannini (€400k, Siena), Fabiano Santacroce (loan, Parma), Michele Pazienza (free, Juventus), Manuele Blasi (undisclosed, Parma), Emilso Cribari (free, Cruzeiro), Luigi Vitale (loan, Bologna), Crescenzo Liccardo (loan, Portogruaro), Jose Ernesto Sosa (undisclosed, Metalist Kharkiv), Raffaele Maiello (loan, Crotone), Walter Guerra (loan, Viareggio), Victor Ruiz (€8m, Valencia), Luca Cigarini (loan, Atalanta), Mariano Bogliacino (undisclosed, Bari)

Walter Mazarri side raised eyebrows with their never-say-die attitude last season. As outsiders to the title, they challenged for the Scudetto till April and finished an impressive third position.
The lack of depth which robbed the team last season in the absence of key players were the primary target of club president, Aurelio De Laurentiis and manager Walter Mazarri in the close season as they prepare for life in the UCL.
The Partenopei have had a relatively quiet summer in terms of departures while strengthening with the most significant being influential midfielder Gohkan Inler from Udinese. Goran Pandev’s arrival from Inter is a big gain for the forward line with his vast experience in the UCL.
Their Europa league adventure of last season which came to an end in the quarter finals indicates that Mazarri can handle the pressure of the domestic front alongside the distractions of European football.
Fans of the Naples team should set their sight a little lower in terms of title aspirations and not dream that the glory days of “Maradona” is back. A top four finish which will secure another UCL berth should be a massive achievement for the Partenopei.

AS ROMA   (finished 6th last season)

In: Cicinho (loan return, Villarreal), Gabriel Heinze (free, Marseille), Loic Nego (free, Nantes), Bojan Krkic (€12m, Barcelona), Erik Lamela (€12m, River Plate), Marco Borriello (€10m, AC Milan), Maarten Stekelenburg (€6.3m, Ajax Amsterdam), Jose Angel (€4.5m, Sporting Gijon), Pablo Osvaldo (€15m, Espanyol), Simon Kjaer (loan, VfL Wolfsburg), Miralem Pjanic (€10m, Lyon), Fernando Gago (€500k – loan, Real Madrid), Fabio Borini (€1.5m – loan, Parma)

Out: Philippe Mexes (free, AC Milan), Julio Sergio (loan, Lecce), Andrea Bertolacci (€500k, Lecce), John Arne Riise (€2.625, Fulham), Stefano Pettinari (loan, Crotone), Doni (free, Liverpool), Filippo Maria Scardina (loan, Viareggio), Jeremy Menez (€8m, Paris Saint-Germain), Mirko Vucinic (€15m, Juventus), Simone Loria (free, Bologna), Matteo Brighi (loan, Atalanta)

The disappointment of last season still remains with fans in the Eternal city. High expectations and dreams of the Scudetto title was visible after their runners up finish in the 2009-10 season. Claudio Raineri had to step down  for Vincenzo Montella more than midway into the season  but the former player couldn’t salvage a horrible season for the Trigoria club.
Thomas Di Benedetto acquired the club from the Sensi family as he embarks on a rebuilding project starting from the scratch.
With a new look technical team comprising of director Walter Sabatini and head coach Luis Enrique and several new players arriving with an average young squad now. Mexes loss is a vital one with Juan’s poor form and fitness.  The former Barcelona-B coach has promised the Giallorossi fans attractive football like the one being exhibited at the Camp Nou but I wonder how patient the Romans will be to see his ideas come through considering how their pre season has panned out.
Another challenge for Luis Enrique is managing the dressing room where player power will play a massive role with aging star and legend Totti demanding to play a significant role this season.
Title challenge is way beyond Roma for now but a top-four finish isn’t .

JUVENTUS   (finished 7th last season)

InIago Falque (loan return, VillarrealB), Tiago Mendes (loan return, Atletico Madrid), Michele Pazienza (free, Napoli), Andrea Pirlo (free, AC Milan), Reto Ziegler (free, Sampdoria), Stefano Beltrame (undisclosed – co-ownership, Novara), Alessandro Matri (€15.5m, Cagliari), Mirko Vucinic (€15m, AS Roma), Fabio Quagliarella (€10.5m, Napoli), Arturo Vidal (€10.5m, Bayer Leverkusen), Stephan Lichtsteiner (€10m, Lazio), Simone Pepe (€7.5m, Udinese), Marco Motta (€3.75m, Udinese), Emmanuele Giaccherini (€3m – co-ownership, Cesena), Marcelo Estigarribia (loan – €500k, CD Maldonado), Eljero Elia (€9m, Hamburg SV)

Out: Tiago Mendes (free, Atletico Madrid), Hasan Salihamidzic (free, VfL Wolfsburg), Sebastian Giovinco (€3m – co-ownership, Parma), Raffaele Bianco (undisclosed – co-ownership, Spezia), Andrea De Paola (undisclosed – co-ownership, Carpi), Carlo Pinsoglio (loan, Pescara), Timothy Nocchi (loan, Carrarese), Felipe Melo (€1.5m – loan, Galatasaray), Mohamed Sissoko (€7m, Paris Saint-Germain), Albin Ekdal (€1.5m – co-ownership, Cagliari), Iago Falque (loan, Tottenham), Sergio Almiron (undisclosed, Catania), Jorge Martinez (loan, Cesena), Zdenek Grygera (free, Fulham)

How are the mighty fallen! The darling Old “humpty dumpty” Lady is finding it extremely difficult to raise again.
The board room and dugout changes in the summer of 2010 which comprises of new president Andrea Agnelli, General Manager Beppe Marotta and head coach Luigi Del Neri was perceived to be one which would ignite La Vecchia Signora back but it was the other way round. Antonio Conte has been employed to turn around the fortunes of a club he played most significantly for during his playing days.
Conte’s ultra attacking system is one which promises excitement. The Bianconeri have brought in several players for the second season in a row with some acquisitions particularly pleasing. Andrea Pirlo in the heart of the midfield alongside Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio makes their central midfield very formidable.  Mirko Vucinic will bring spark and flair to their attack with lightening pace and width expected from Eljero Elia and Milos Krasic.
Juventus over the past year or two have struggled to put together a strong team and managers have been changed often without sufficient backing. Conte’s last experience has a Serie A manager wasn’t a success but the Turin club directors are prepared to take a gamble on another rookie coach. Their preseason indicate the signs of better things in the future. Their move to the new Juventus Arena is also giving a lot of enthusiasm and optimism.
A top-four finish shouldn’t  be beyond Conte’s reach.

The bottom three struggle.

This is based on their final positions last season, I feel these teams are potential candidates for the dreaded zone.

AC CESENA   (finished 15th last season)

In: Gianluca Comotto (free, Fiorentina), Roberto Guana (free, Palermo), Adrian Mutu(free, Fiorentina), Antonio Candreva (loan, Udinese), Aleksejs Gilnics (loan, Athletic FC), Raphael Martinho (loan, Catania), Vincenzo Rennella (loan, Genoa), Eder (€5m, Empoli), Alessio Briglia (undisclosed, Bellaria), Tibor Cica (undisclosed, Limhamn Bunkeflo), Giacomo Bassoli (undisclosed – co-ownership, Bologna), Edoardo Bonicelli (undisclosed – co-ownership, Vicenza), Luca Caldirola (undisclosed – co-ownership, Inter Milan), Luca Garritano (undisclosed – co-ownership, Inter Milan), Jacopo Luppi (undisclosed – co-ownership, Bologna), Luigi Palumbo (undisclosed – co-ownership, Parma), Marco Rossi (undisclosed – co-ownership, Parma), Guillermo Daniel Rodriguez (undisclosed, Penarol), Jorge Martinez (loan, Juventus)

Out: Kadir Caidi (undisclosed – co-ownership, Bologna), Davide Ella Ballardini (loan, Carrarese), Sacha Cori (undisclosed – co-ownership, Carrarese), Marco Tattini (undisclosed – co-ownership, Foligno), Yuto Nagamoto (€4.9m, Inter Milan), Thomas Fabbri (undisclosed – co-ownership, Parma), Simone Tonelli (undisclosed – co-ownership, Vicenza), Giacomo Bassoli (loan, Santarcangelo), Angelo Gregorio (undisclosed – co-ownership, Bologna), Luca Caldirola (loan, Inter Milan), Luca Garritano (loan, Inter Milan), Jacopo Luppi (loan, Bellaria), Emmanuele Giaccherini (€3m – co-ownership, Juventus)

The bookmakers prediction for the Cavallucci Marini who were returning to the top flight of Italian football since 1990 as an adventure for a season. Cesena managed to retain their Serie A status.
The Seahorses huffed and puffed with surprising results and expected ones. Marco Parolo and Emanuele Giaccherini were the discovered gems in the giant killing Cesena side.
Marco Giampaolo has been extremely busy with recruitment in the summer and one that has caught the eye is experienced Serie A campaigner, Adrian Mutu who will be the focus of all eyes with his personal troubled life. Antonio Candreva is another exciting transfer. These players are expected to take them to next level in the Serie A all things being equal. On-loan Davide Santon has returned to his parent club.
Cesena have managed to keep their stars with new contracts. It appears the ambition of the club is shifting. The Seahorses need to improve defensively  and score more than the 38 goals of last season if they are to escape relegation once again this season or dream of a mid table finish.

BOLOGNA FC   (finished 16th last season)

In: Saphir Taider (free, Grenoble), Mikael Antonsson (free, FC Copenhagen), Robert Acquafresca (loan, Genoa), Luigi Vitale (loan, Napoli), Daniele Vantaggiato (loan, Padova), Alessandro Diamanti (€1.5m – co-ownership, Brescia), Jean-Francois Gillet (€1.4m, Bari), Nico Pulzetti (€1.3m, Livorno), Massimo Coda (€300k, Cremonese), Dejan Stojanovic (€300k, Lustenau), Federico Agliardi (undisclosed, Padova), Jose Angel Crespo (undisclosed, Padova), Angelo Gregorio (undisclosed – co-ownership, Cesena), Kadir Caidi (undisclosed – co-ownership, Cesena), Cesare Rickler (undisclosed – co-ownership, Chievo Verona), Federico Rodriguez (undisclosed – co-ownership, Genoa), Riccardo Pasi (€1m – co-ownership, Parma), Saphir Sliti Taider (undisclosed, Grenoble), Gian Marco Pavarotti (undisclosed, Carpi), Simone Loria (free, AS Roma), Panagiotis Kone (loan, Brescia)

Out: Alessandro Bassoli (undisclosed – co-ownership, Chievo Verona), Giacomo Bassoli (undisclosed – co-ownership, Cesena), Riccardo Regno (undisclosed, Livorno), Miguel Britos (€9m, Napoli), Kadir Caidi (loan, Santarcangelo), Jacopo Luppi (undisclosed – co-ownership, Cesena)

Despite the financial difficulties which resulted in points deduction last season , Bologna managed to beat the drop. Unpaid wages and taxes rocked the club last season but they managed to pull through. A new and better season is on the horizon.
Marco Di Vaio’s 19 goals scored last season was more than half the league goals scored by the Rossoblu in a campaign were their defense was very generous to the opponent.
Pierpaolo Bisoli’s side have had a busy transfer window. Their biggest loss is Emiliano Viviano whose return to Inter is surprising. Alessandro Diamanti’s capture is a big one for the Red-Blues. The former Brescia trequartista is expected to form a formidable trio with Di Vaio and Acquafresca.
Their terrible defense from last season has been reinforced only with three centerbacks and a fullback, but none of whom are truly proven in Serie A. If the team they put together can gel, a mid-table finish is easily within reach.

LECCE   (finished 17th last season)

In: Moris Carrozzieri (free, Palermo), Juan Cuadrado (loan, Udinese), Christian Obodo (loan, Udinese), Julio Sergio (loan, AS Roma), Rodney Strasser (loan, AC Milan), Nenad Tomovic (loan, Genoa), Andrea Bertolacci (€500k, AS Roma), Daniele Cacia (€1.1m, Piacenza), Massimo Oddo (loan, AC Milan)

Out: Jeda (loan, Novara), Antonio Rosati (€2.9m, Napoli), Raffaele Schiavi (undisclosed, Vicenza), Giuseppe Caccavallo (undisclosed, Crotone), Giuseppe Vives (undisclosed, Torino), Filippo Falco (loan, Pavia), Fabio Romeo (loan, Pavia), Daniele Cacia (loan, Padova)

Lecce returned to the Serie A in the 2010-11 season after being crowned Serie B champions the season before. The Apulian based club have been in and out of the Serie A so the objective of the season was to stay up. Erstwhile coach Luigi Di Canio brought the club back to the big stage and managed to keep them up for another season.
Transfers activities at Stadio Via del Mare have been loan signings from bigger clubs and one or two additional youngsters.
One of the biggest acquisition is Christian Obodo from Udinese, a deal that could help both parties as he needs to get his career back on track while helping his team out with his Serie A experience.
The Salentinis biggest loss is coach Luigi Di Canio who left at the of last season. It’s difficult to see how Lecce will perform under new head coach Eusebio Di Francesco.
A long season awaits fans at Stadio Via del Mare. I won’t be surprised to see Lecce go down.

ATALANTA made a quick return back to the top-flight after a year’s hiatus. The Bergamo club won the Serie B title last season. A few decent acquisition have been made by coach Stefano Colantuono which should provide them with enough quality to stay up but the Orobici have a six-point deduction as penalty for their  involvement in the much publicised betting scandal. This penalty could be decisive during the course of the season.

AC SIENA also returned immediately after their demotion just a year ago and missed out on the Serie B title narrowly. The Tuscan outfit enjoyed a good preseason with star player Gaetano D’Agostino raring to go.
The atmosphere at Stadio Artemio Franchi is buzzing as the White-black prepare for life once again in the Serie A under Giuseppe Sannino. It could be a long season after all.

NOVARA are back in the Premier division after over half a century absence. The Piedmont club lost the Serie B title after a late collapse last season but will be gearing up for bigger challengers now.
Some of their fans are still over the moon with the prospects that their darling club will be locking horns with Italy’s heavyweights like Inter, Juventus etc.
Manager Attilio Tesser has performed a “Paul Lambert’s Norwich” with two successive promotions to different tiers of football.
Biancoazzurri have brought in some decent Serie A players to beef up their squad as they prepare for life on the big stage. It could be an immediate return for them but their fans can enjoy the moments while it last.

This preview should help set the tune for the Serie A 2011-12 season.
I personally love the Calcio because of its intrigues, the impressive tactical approach of the coaches and the passion of the fans and players.

I hand over my whistle to Pierluigi Collina.

New faces on the bench in the Calcio

Among the top italian clubs (AC Milan, Internazionale, Juventus and AS Roma), only AC Milan will continue with their manager from last season. Perhaps on the grounds that he (Max Allegri) succeeded in breaking Inter’s hegemony in the Serie A with their Scudetto triumph.
We shall be looking at other three teams and what changes these new managers can bring to them.

INTERNAZIONALE 

Can he ease away the memories of The Special one?

Post Jose Mourinho era has been difficult for the Nerazzurris as their fortunes have dwindled. Former coach Leonardo won the Coppa Italia last season to bring some succor to The Black and Blues but he has been replaced with former Genoa and Crotone tactician Gian Piero Gasperini.
Three managers (Benitez, Leonardo and Gasperini) in a year for Massimo Moratti club has brought a lot instability to La Beneamata.
Gasperini is saddled with the responsibility of securing the Scudetto back from their cousins. The former Juventus youth team coach carved a niche for himself during his spell at Genoa. He led the club to Serie A in his first season and consolidated their status in the Italian top division. A fifth place finish in his third season was the pinnacle of his success with the Rossobulus before he parted ways with the club.

The Grugliasco native has shown that he’s an ambitious coach and certainly fit President Moratti’s picture of the man capable of easing away the memories of The Special One from the minds of the Nerazzurris.

JUVENTUS

The darling Old Lady of Turin have suffered tremendously since the Calciopoli scandal that rocked the foundation of the Turin club in 2006. The Bianconeris haven’t steady their ship.
Several changes in the board room which has seen three Presidents emerge in a space of four years which  has heaped a lot of pressure on the men in the dug-out (six coaches in five years).
Former player, Antonio Conte has been appointed has the man to lead La Vecchia Signoraout of its wilderness and restore its pride

Can he bring Glory days back to the club?

and glory days back.
Conte, 41, who started his coaching career as an Assistant Manager to Siena manager, Luigi De Canio in 2005 has slowly built his reputation in the lower leagues in Italy. He led AS Bari to Serie B title in 2009 thus securing promotion to Seria A for i Galletti. A similar feat he performed in Tuscan when his AC Siena won promotion back to the top division last season.
The former Lecce player missed out on the Juventus job in 2009 to his old team mate (Ciro Ferrara) but he has finally landed the big one.
He has his work cut out with the average un-Juventus-like players that Luigi Del Neri used  in  prosecuting last season’s campaign if he’s to succeed.
Hopefully, Giuseppe Marotta can assist by doing his job excellently and desist from recruiting laughable players who do not fit in, keep their quality youngsters like Marchisio who came through the club’s academy, though they’ve lost the atomic ant (Giovinco).
I guess He (Marotta) needs some schooling from bad man (Luciano Moggi) to help Conte.

AS ROMA

Goodbye Catalonia… Welcome Eternal City

Financial uncertainity has played a vital role in the Gillarossi’s unstable future. Former President, Rosella Sensi tried to chart a new path for the club since the demise of her father Franco in 2008 but very little success has been recorded.
With Thomas DiBenedetto’s takeover, a new breath of life is upon i Lupi.
The board decided not to continue with former player and interim coach Vincenzo Montella by appointing Luis Enrique.
The former Barcelona B coach hasn’t managed a team in top-flight  football yet but his success with Barcelona’s second string side where he led them to promotion play-offs says a lot about his coaching pedigree.
With the takeover process expected to be finalized soon, Luis Enrique will be provided with sufficient funds to freshen up a stale and tired looking Gillarossi for the new campaign.
He has promised the Eternal City fans attracting football that is always on display at the Camp Nou.
His appointment is seen as a gamble in some quarters. The jury is out on him.

Milan – On the road to redemption?

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, was the idiom AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi and CEO Adriano Galliani used in running the Milanese club till their cousins (Internazionale) won a treble last season. Power appeared to have changed hands from Milan to Inter on all fronts.

Milan have struggled in recent times since their 2007 World Club Championship triumph and UEFA Champions League success. The team was aging. Carlo Ancelotti left for greener pastures in England while Kaka’ was sold to Real Madrid to help ease financial stress.

Former player and coach Leonardo fell out with Berlusconi at the end of last season and paid the ultimate price for it with his job. Massimiliano Allegri’s appointment as Milan’s coach looked a bit awkward considering his low profile – having managed only one Serie A club (Cagliari) in his relatively short managerial career. His brilliant efforts at turning the fortunes of the Rossoblus did not go unnoticed as he won the Panchina d’Oro award (Golden bench) ahead of Jose Mourinho in his two consecutive season at the Sardinia club. I believe this must have convinced Galliani to go for the Livorno born tactician.

It appeared like the Diavolos were going to have a quiet summer transfer with no particular big name signing until the last 48 hours when transfer guru Adriano Galliani convinced Barcelona and Zlatan Ibrahimovic to part ways with the big Swede joining Milan on loan. Manchester City outcast, Robinho also joined a day later to fortify an average Milan attack that was over reliant on inconsistent Ronaldinho, injury prone Pato and old war-horse Filippo Inzaghi. Kevin Prince Boateng and Marco Amelia were acquired from Genoa earlier.

In Allegri's safe hands?

With the last set of transfers, Allegri was armed with tools to wrestle the dominance of the Serie A with Inter and runners up Roma. Milan started slowly –  Allegri was robbed off a good pre-season as he tried to find the right balance and shape for his team of numerous stars. They relied heavily on a Ibrahimovic for inspiration during the first half of the season where the likes of Ronaldinho, Robinho and Pato suffered inconsistent form, adaptability time and injury. Galliani swung into action early enough for the winter transfer by snapping up bad boy Antonio Cassano who was released by his former club Sampdoria, Dutch veteran Mark Van Bommel join on a free from Bayern Munich to add steel to the midfield.

With Inter’s incoherent display in the first  half of the season under Rafa Benitez, Roma’s eccentric form, dark horses Napoli, Udinese and Lazio’s pretentious claims have allowed the Rosonneris to dominate the Serie A.
It hasn’t been smooth for Max Allegri all through. Debutant Tottenham Hotspur knocked the Seven times champions out of the UEFA Champions League in the round of 16, goal drought, loss of form and surprising red cards for Zlatan allowed the chasing pack to close in on them in March.

Milan’s dark cloud appears to be over as they switched to the next gear in April while others have fallen by the way side. A double is achievable for the Diavolos this term. The semi-final second leg of the Coppa Italia is all that stands between Milan and a cup final. Max Allegri and his team needs just four points from their last four league games to lift the Scudetto title for the first time since 2004. Their 18th Serie A title will put them at par with their cousins and could signal the return of power baton back to AC Milan.

Milan have Massimo Moratti and Jose Mourinho to thank for making them realize they were in a deep slumber.

Leo and his Derby della Madonnina woes

In 2009/10 season, the first Milan derby of the season was a Week 2 fixture. The Rossoneris were hosts to the Nerazzuris at their Giuseppe Meazza stadium. Jose Mourinho’s Inter Milan welcomed Leonardo to managerial business with a four nil victory. An ego bruising loss for the Brazilian who had a playing career with the Red and Blacks and knows what the loss means to the locals. Leo’s Rossoneri side took a while to recover after he fashioned out a winning formula. The two sides met for the second derby in Week 21. Leonardo’s Milan side were the form team in the Serie A and book makers tipped the Rossoneris to avenge their early season loss but The Special One gave Leonardo another coaching lesson. Inter Milan defeated their cousins two nil in a bad tempered match with Inter finishing the game with nine men. Jose Mourinho added salt to Leonardo’s injury his post match comment by saying, “The only way AC Milan would have won this game was if we (Inter Milan) were down to seven men“.

A jinxed man?

Leonardo shocked the Diavolos when he accepted the Inter Milan job last December after Rafa Benitez left. Leonardo woke the sleeping champions from their slumber  mid way through the season as Inter Milan starting producing the expected result.

AC Milan played host to Inter last weekend in another Derby della Madonnina that had so much influence on the Scudetto title with two points seperating league leaders  AC Milan and defending champions Inter Milan. Both sides went for the juggernaut with an attacking formation. Allegri stuck to his 4-3-1-2 formation despite the continued absence of  Zlatan Ibrahimovic while Leonardo surprisingly switched to 4-2-1-3, a  formation he used while he was with AC Milan.

The host got to a perfect start as Gattuso combined well with Pato to set up Robinho but his effort was saved by Julio Cesar into the path of Pato who slotted the ball into an empty net. Kevin Prince Boateng and ageless Seedorf bossed the midfield with Thiago Motta and Esteban Cambiasso looking clueless and out of sorts. The Nerazzuris should have level at the end of the first stanza but Eto’o missed a good chance.

Inter were up for a herculean task when Chivu got his marching orders for a professional foul on Pato nine minutes into the second half. The Duck doubled his side lead in the 62minutes when he prodded home a far post cross from Abate. Substitute Cassano put the game beyond reach with his 90th minute spot kick. Leo’s Inter have been brought down to earth and their title dreams may well be over. The interesting thing here is that Leonardo has managed both Milan sides in the Derby Della Madonina with no victory and his team yet to score a goal while conceding nine goals in total.

Is there a jinx?