Straight from the dark heart of Italy
It was another hellish week for Italian clubs on the continent - one which makes you wonder if there's any point battling all season to qualify for Europe only to then embarrass yourself at nearly every turn.
Not many will remember but Serie A teams once possessed determination and energy; now they are becoming better known for being weak-willed and lifeless.
The tactical masters can still play the perfect game in their heads, but have no answer to quick movement on and off the ball.
Even the usually dependable Inter almost allowed Spurs back into a game they were leading by a street, only to be nearly overtaken by the speedy Gareth Bale and the help of the befuddled Julio Cesar – sorry, where else is a left-footed player going to put the ball when he is speeding into the area on his stronger foot?
The far post of course, and it was more like the last post for Javier Zanetti, Lucio and Ivan Cordoba who must have seen the sun setting on their careers as they laboured behind a player over a decade younger.
Never mind. Serie A is full of old men dithering around the pitch every weekend only because the game in Italy is played at a pace in keeping with a summer’s afternoon in Sicily.
Like their ageing AC Milan counterparts across town, who had no answer to Real Madrid's direct approach, they are driving the Italian game forward at the speed of an OAP on a country road.
The cycle of such players is almost over but really it cannot come quickly enough, with the greying generation nearly on their push-bikes.
While the Champions League representatives may be labouring under pedal power, the Europa League is a dumping ground for the clapped out in the extreme.
Juventus were fortunate to grab a draw at Salzburg and remain without a group win so far, while Napoli played the tradition of Liverpool rather than the reality of the once mighty Reds - and of course the home fans kept the Italian game in the medieval age of stabbings and mob rule.
Sampdoria were shamed by ten-man Metalist Kharkiv and Palermo also had no answer to the rise of the East when they crashed 3-0 at home to CSKA Moscow who could also afford to miss a penalty.
Even the previously divine Javier Pastore has fallen into Italian petulance when the chips are down, and was duly sent off for applauding the referee having already been booked.
Inter may be champions of Europe but we cannot blind ourselves to the fact that there was a special reason for that. Italian clubs have been stumbling for a long time and are now fall guys not only for the traditional heavyweights but welterweights as well.
Apart from the Nerazzurri, there is a real danger of having no representatives in the knockout stages of either the Champions League or its lesser second-cousin the Europa League. This may dilute both competitions when they reach the more watchable rounds, but there can be no complaints if Serie A gets left behind.
If we cast our minds back into the mists of time, to 2003, Old Trafford was the venue for an all-Italian Champions League final. But drawing conclusions from this week there is little chance of Wembley Stadium repeating that feat. Dublin too need not worry about an invasion of dark shades and hair gel.
You should have titled this entry, "No Country For Old Men"
It was a pretty poor week, alright. One win from seven is terrible. If the Italian clubs don't wake up, especially in the Europa, then they will lose a European place very soon.
There is no excuse for these 4 Europa teams not being among the favourites to win it, yet every year we seems to see half-ass efforts. What's the point in qualifying for it if you don't plan to put the effort in the following year. Idiots.
I wouldn't be too hard on Inter. The two late goals were understandable, I suppose, although I thought Cesar would have got the hint at where the ball was going by the third goal. Benitez can't be blamed for keeping Inter as an old side either. Coutinho, Biabiany,Mariga and the fit again Santon are all being used. Hopefully Santon will soon take the place of the only weak link in the team: Chivu.
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