Fight for the Se­rie A podium

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

At the end of Au­gust, the pre­vail­ing sen­ti­ment was that Ju­ven­tus had ef­fec­tively killed Se­rie A by play­ing at be­ing Genghis Khan on the mar­ket. And while their lead is cur­rently not so wide that it could not be chal­lenged, the Bian­coneri re­main the over­whelm­ing favourites to take home the Scud­etto.

In spite of that, Se­rie A is pro­vid­ing us with con­sid­er­able spec­ta­cle in the form of the power strug­gles tak­ing place just be­low the hold­ing cham­pi­ons.

There are cur­rently four teams that can as­pire to sec­ond place, in the short and the long term alike. These are Roma, Napoli, In­ter, and Mi­lan, the lat­ter by the skin of their teeth. (The likes of Fiorentina and Lazio have un­for­tu­nately not shown suf­fi­cient growth or po­ten­tial to join this group yet).

These four teams all rep­re­sent dif­fer­ent ideas and mod­els of foot­ball, so which one of them will even­tu­ally pre­vail is a mat­ter of im­por­tance.

Napoli, for ex­am­ple, are the only one of these teams that is still owned by an old-time Ital­ian pa­tron, anachro­nis­tic Aure­lio De Lau­ren­tiis. Should the Ve­su­viani pre­vail, it will send a pow­er­ful mes­sage that glob­al­is­ing is not manda­tory for suc­cess. This would res­onate among fans of smaller, Ital­ian-owned clubs like Fiorentina, Sas­suolo, Lazio and Torino.

Mi­lan are the least fan­cied of the four, for the sim­ple rea­son that they have the weak­est squad. None­the­less they stand four points above Napoli and eight above In­ter. In many ways, theirs is the most ap­peal­ing model: they rely on an Ital­ian core of play­ers and on beau­ti­ful foot­ball when­ever this is pos­si­ble. They have much to work on, but at least that's a good ex­am­ple to set.

In­ter are the op­po­site of Napoli. Their team and their club are in­ter­na­tional to a fault. The ap­point­ment of Ste­fano Pi­oli should be seen as a tem­po­rary patch, an in­ter­lude be­tween Frank de Boer and who­ever else (Diego Sime­one?) lands in from for­eign shores.

Their club is be­ing se­verely mis­man­aged right now, but they com­pen­sate for that with some of Se­rie A's best tal­ent in their squad, and they could well end up mak­ing it to sec­ond. The ef­fect would be that of push­ing Se­rie A more and more to­wards a Premier­ship style.

Fi­nally, Roma's iden­tity is per­haps the most dif­fi­cult to pin down, as they are cur­rently mid­way through a long-term tran­si­tional process. Many of the fa­mil­iar faces of the club are ei­ther gone (Wal­ter Sa­ba­tini) or soon-togo (Francesco Totti), whilst the sta­dium is yet to be built. They rep­re­sent an in­ter­est­ing hy­brid of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional iden­tity, and it's hard to say what their rise would mean for Se­rie A.

It's also go­ing to be in­ter­est­ing to see how these four teams com­bine. In­ter and Mi­lan rep­re­sent the old school of Ital­ian foot­ball, whilst Roma and Napoli are rel­a­tively un­ac­cus­tomed to the po­si­tion of reg­u­lar ti­tle-chal­lenger. If the lat­ter two clubs end up pre­dom­i­nat­ing, then in the long run this could well rep­re­sent the end of an era for Ital­ian foot­ball.

A re­turn of the Mi­lanese teams to the top would be al­most as dra­matic, although the most in­ter­est­ing sce­nario would be a com­bi­na­tion of the old and the new. For in­stance, the next 'triad' of Ital­ian foot­ball could be Ju­ven­tus, Mi­lan and Napoli, or pos­si­bly Ju­ven­tus, Roma and In­ter.

Roma and Napoli are bet­ter equipped in the short term, with the Lupi in par­tic­u­lar rid­ing on the great form of striker Edin Dzeko. The Partenopei are strug­gling with in­juries and low morale, but they have the foun­da­tions in place for a strong­cam­paign, and will surely strengthen them­selves greatly in the win­ter trans­fer win­dow.

Mi­lan and In­ter will ben­e­fit in the long term from their newly-found fi­nan­cial re­sources, which are awein­spir­ing.

New own­ers Sun­ing in­creased In­ter's cap­i­tal by €242m last sum­mer, whilst Mi­lan's own­ers haven't even started flex­ing their fi­nan­cial mus­cles.

Roma are cur­rently sec­ond in the stand­ings, but we've seen in the last month how quickly that can change.

While it's ex­cit­ing to think of mul­ti­ple teams all be­ing can­di­dates on an equal stand­ing, it's more plau­si­ble that a hi­er­ar­chy will even­tu­ally be es­tab­lished, with a sec­ond and per­haps a third power of Se­rie A root­ing them­selves to the podium. At this stage, it's any­one's guess who that will be.

'Juve-Ber­ardi op­tion still valid'

Sas­suolo direc­tor Gio­vanni Carnevali in­sists “our agree­ment with Ju­ven­tus is still valid” for Domenico Ber­ardi.

There is a great deal of con­fu­sion around the Italy Un­der-21 in­ter­na­tional’s fate.

Over the sum­mer the clubs and player agreed by mu­tual con­sent that Juve would not ac­ti­vate their op­tion to buy him for €25m.

In­ter, Mi­lan and sev­eral over­seas clubs are in­ter­ested in Ber­ardi, but the sit­u­a­tion is not very clear.

“Ber­ardi did not re­ject Ju­ven­tus,” Carnevali told Rai Sport.

“He is a Sas­suolo player, but our agree­ment with Ju­ven­tus is still valid from last sea­son. At the end of this term, we’ll see what hap­pens.”

Gab­bia­dini-Babacar loan ex­change?

Fiorentina could ex­change Khouma Babacar with Napoli out­cast Manolo Gab­bia­dini in a dual 18-month loan deal.

Ac­cord­ing to La Nazione news­pa­per, the two clubs are in ne­go­ti­a­tions over a pos­si­ble switch.

The plan would be to send the for­wards out on loan un­til the end of the 2017-18 cam­paign.

That would en­able them to re­dis­cover their con­fi­dence and get reg­u­lar first team foot­ball, but also to en­sure the clubs don’t lose money.

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