Straight from the dark heart of Italy
Friday’s Champions League draw will be painful viewing in Italy.
While the sleek, expensive machines from the Premier League glide onwards to Rome, Serie A stands forlornly at the side of the road beside its clapped-out motor.
"Italy? No, sorry. Better luck next year"
Actually, scratch that about the motor: Italians would never be seen in anything but the latest model even if they can’t really afford it.
In fact, Italians are the masters of hiding the reality of any situation. As long as you're keeping up appearances, looking good and saying the right things, then the truth is of little concern.
But appearances can be deceiving and it would seem that football is finally waking up to the fact there is more to life than La Bella Figura.
Believe it or not, it's Silvio Berlusconi’s AC Milan who have been the first to admit that times are going to be as lean as a Florentine steak.
“We are set for a weak, pale summer where there will be player swaps but few money moves,” warned Berlusconi’s spokesman Adriano Galliani.
It’s not what Carlo Ancelotti wanted to hear, especially as he has
set his sights on Chelsea defender Alex and Arsenal’s Emmanuel
Adebayor. Who's he going to offer up as a swap: Ricky Kaka?
Apparently, the Rossoneri
wage bill is set to be slashed by around 30 percent – which casts more
light on why Galliani has been calling for a salary cap right across
"David, about that salary..."
Even Massimo Moratti is reluctant to dip into his piggy-bank to fund Jose Mourinho’s proposed 100million euro spending spree. And if the Nerazzurri are to compete with Chelsea, Manchester United and Barcelona, then the best way will be to target a few of their players.
But the question is... will they come, especially with such a grim financial picture being painted?
Moratti is in something of a bind as he needs to keep his coach sweet or the Portuguese could be off, dragging Zlatan Ibrahimovic along with him.
We could even end up with Real Madrid weighing up which of the Milanese coaches plus Kaka or Ibra to swoop for.
We can only hope that they will be repelled because Serie A cannot afford to lose its two most watchable talents.
"I know a place out West..."
Tough times ahead indeed and tough measures may be needed.
Next year will see the beginning of collective-bargaining for the television rights and, in theory, a more even-spread of cash among the top flight teams, but wouldn’t it be a perfect time to return the league to its 18-team format?
The 20-club version has never been a success, with too many teams unable to perform at any discernible level to justify their position in the top division, and thus dragging the overall standard down.
Matches this season between the likes of Lecce and Reggina, Torino and Chievo have been noteworthy only for the complete lack of quality on show and semi-deserted stands.
Juventus are currently investing in a new 40,000-capacity stadium and once that opens in 2011 everyone will want one, but the planning for a new dawn needs to begin forthwith with the clubs giving themselves something to aim for in a more competitive environment.
Now is the time for Italy to look inwards and rediscover their appetite for a more streamlined and hungry football culture.
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