Straight from the dark heart of Italy
If you are looking for a candidate for player of the year, then look no further than Thiago Motta.
The Genoa midfielder just gets better week after week, and down in Rome - where Serie Aaaaargh! decamped for the weekend, ostensibly to watch the derby and indulge in some fine Easter fare - the locals were cooing over the Brazilian.
This was 10.35 in the evening following a raucous afternoon at the Stadio Olimpico, and after Motta had just about buried any hopes Roma had of playing in next season’s Champions League thanks - in part - to his two goals in the 3-2 win over Juventus.
Motta: Serie A's star of the season?
How the Giallorossi could do with a white-knight to ride to their rescue, instead of the peevish Philippe Mexes and Christian Panucci – both banished to the changing rooms for second yellow cards in the afternoon dust-up.
They were joined by the equally-odious Francelino Matuzalem, who in also receiving his marching orders - along with Mexes - ensured what must be the first case of two players sporting neck tattoos being sent-off in the same match.
The day had begun in such a different manner, with a perfectly observed minute’s silence at each of the Serie A stadiums up and down the country to honour those who had lost their lives in the Abruzzo earthquake.
Thankfully, that annoying habit of applauding during such occasions is beginning to recede and the absolute silence in the Olympic stadium spoke volumes of the depth of feeling towards the victims.
Tempers flare in Rome on the pitch...
Unfortunately, any hopes that a moment of solemn reflection would quell the animosity that surrounds the derby in the capital proved unfounded, as those on and off the pitch got down to the business in hand – insulting and kicking seven lumps out of each other.
While the ultras are caged at opposite ends of the stadium, the rest of the masses are free to mingle along the Tevere stand – and when Lazio raced into a 2-0 lead the tension spilled over into, maybe not running battles, but a fair amount of fist-throwing and general unsavoury behaviour.
Even in the relatively benign setting of the posh seats in the Monte Mario stand there was enough insulting language and hostility to make you wonder if the whole experience was really worth it.
A Roman acquaintance attempted to explain the local character and the city in general, describing it as “provincial.”
“When you visit places like Paris, New York and London you immediately feel you are in a city, while here it’s like a village,” he mused.
...and off it
Well, the village idiots certainly spoilt the occasion but there is one thing that can never be ruined in the capital... and that is a good pizza.
Hence we found ourselves in a fine eatery late on Saturday discussing the merits of Thiago Motta in tandem with Daniele De Rossi in a dream-midfield partnership.
It’s a pipe dream of course. Roma’s crippling debt means they need to sell half of the squad before they can even think of bringing in much-needed reinforcements.
Motta will be playing in the Champions League next season, but don’t count on it being with Genoa - place your bets on a team wearing black and blue stripes.
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