Straight from the dark heart of Italy
It has been a season of woe in Rome and there seems no end in sight. It has got so bad that AS Roma and Lazio ultras can't even bring themselves to laugh at the plight of the other.
As Fabio Capello pointed out, Italy’s hardcore fans are still a negative influence and their actions do little to promote a family-atmosphere on match days.
However, this is Italy and protest is a part of everyday life – and with both teams in such dire straits the ultras have had to come up with ever more imaginative ways to get their point across.
So, there have been the obligatory ‘paper-bombs’ lobbed into the training ground – both at Roma’s Trigoria centre and out at Lazio’s Formello base; invading the training ground to confront the players (a particular favourite amongst the Biancocelesti); and of course the usual banners and chants in the stadium.
Roman humour can very dark: last week, ahead of the Bologna game, a Giallorossi delegation presented the players with a wreath – tied up in yellow and red ribbons – to offer their condolences for the “death of the team.”
Scary stuff but nothing to frighten that old Roman Claudio Ranieri. Invited to a midweek event organised by the various Roma supporters’ clubs, he took to the stage and berated those who had booed Mirko Vucinic for actually scoring a goal – as happened last weekend.
Ranieri is battled-hardened by years of disappointment but there's little to cheer for a club who have taken two season to go from Manchester United in the Champions League to Fulham in the Europa League.
NEWS, Thu Nov 5: Nine-man Fulham lose at Roma
Little pleasure was taken from Thursday's win over the Londoners, because that's not where the club or its fans want to be – but they'd better get used to it.
Five points off relegation and no money to reinforce the squad, Ranieri will have to make do with what he has got. A full and fit starting XI could play any side off the park but the bench looks bare so all it takes are a couple of injuries and suspensions.
Francesco Totti’s dodgy knees are a weighty issue and so is his bank account. The veteran has been demanding one last pot of king’s riches - and next week the announcement will be made that the captain has signed a deal to 2014.
The 33-year-old will earn 5million Euros a year to take him through to the end of his career. There is also a clause ensuring he is given a role within the club no matter who the owner may be in the future.
Franco Sensi had promised “his son” that he would be looked after, and when the owner passed away his daughter Rosella remained true to her father’s word.
However, it's a major outlay for what will be an ever-diminishing return and will not only raise the ire of the ultras but also not find favour in the dressing room: going into the current campaign the players had apparently not been paid since April.
The supporters want Sensi out. The banks want her out. If Inter turn the team over at the weekend, don’t be surprised to see her make a tearful exit.
It's a long way from the days when Luciano Spalletti and Totti were the conquering heroes over the Nerazzurri at the San Siro.
It's just as embattled at Lazio, where not even the Europa League can offer any respite. A 4-1 defeat at Villarreal on Thursday left coach Davide Ballardini’s future hanging on getting a result against AC Milan – in part two of the unequal showdown between Milan and Rome.
Ballardini can point to the fact that his two best players Goran Pandev and Cristian Ledesma have banished from the squad, having refused to accept new contracts.
Pandev is not for turning and is set for Inter in January, but Ledesma has since said he will sign a new deal. Unfortunately, club owner Claudio Lotito is such a cantankerous sort that he has refused to acknowledge the Argentine’s existence.
Like Ranieri, Ballardini has a starting line-up that should guarantee a better league position – but little in reserve.
Now more than ever, the Romans need to show that the capital has not crumbled completely.
FourFourTwo.com: More to read...
NEW Italian results, fixtures & tableSerie Aaaaargh! homeBlogs home Latest Italy newsNews homeInterviews homeForums homeFourFourTwo.com home
Latest Italian Football News
Balotelli to walk off next time racism repeated
Sampdoria put dampener on Juventus season finale
Hellas Verona back in Serie A after 11 years away
Balotelli warned against walk-off over racism
Cassano out for Inter after breaking hand
He's here, he's there, he's...
The cost of Premier League away travel
FourFourTwo is brought to you by Haymarket Consumer Media & FourFourTwo is part of Haymarket Sport
| International Licensing | © Haymarket Media Group 2010