Straight from the dark heart of Italy
Well, we didn’t expect to see this after the first two games of the season: Lazio and Atalanta on top of the table on maximum points, with Torino in third.
Only the sight of Inter and Juventus, level on four points with Toro, gives the Serie A table a semblance of the old order.
Early days, of course, but a much-needed breath of fresh air is sweeping through the domestic game. While the headlines are usually given over to Jose Mourinho this, Mourinho that, Carlo Ancelotti and his ever-more floundering press conferences and the weight of expectation on Luciano Spalletti’s shoulders, it’s two craggy old bosses who are getting on with the job in hand.
Ancelotti: "It wasn't supposed to be like this..."
Atalanta coach Luigi del Neri is very much at home with provincial life, having taken Chievo to the top of the table back in 2001. The 58-year-old was a journeyman player and, as a coach, was never meant for the bright lights of the big city.
He lasted as long as it took to unpack a bag at Porto before crumbling in Rome when given his big chance at AS Roma, and was then hounded out of Palermo to return to the backwaters of Verona and more recently Bergamo.
There is no star system at Atalanta, apart from providing Christian Vieri with something of a rest home, and that’s just the way Gigi likes it. Even the team’s scorelines are generally modest: 1-0 against Siena and Bologna so far, and no doubt they'll be satisfied with a similar understated outcome at Catania on Saturday.
It’s a different matter for Delio Rossi at Lazio, where the Sky Blues are expected to actually win games – or least beat Roma twice a year. How they are crowing at the moment as they look down on their more illustrious city rivals, who are floundering in third-bottom place.
Rossi, who once stripped off to his underwear and dived into a fountain after a derby win, has had to make do with limited funds for new players but may have unearthed a real gem in Mauro Zàrate.
Apparently under-rated by Birmingham City, the Argentine scored a goal worthy of Diego Maradona in the 2-0 win over Sampdoria.
“It’s a new era here at the club,” claimed Rossi. “I have to work with the players I have been given but we have a wonderful team ethic which can take us a long way.”
Ancelotti would no doubt wish he could voice those same sentiments as he watched Milan sleepwalk – and in the case of Andriy Shevchenko and Ronaldinho, it was literally walking – through their defeat at Genoa.
Spalletti may be thinking the same thing after watching his side lose heavily at Palermo – which should keep the Sicilians' new coach Davide Ballardini in a job for another week.
Another one for the team, another bloody nose for the star system.
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Ronaldinho and Shevchenko was never going to work, it was obvious.
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