Straight from the dark heart of Italy
With Inter kicking back in the warmth of Adu Dhabi ahead of their glorified friendly, sorry, the moment they will be crowned world champions of club football, the rest of non-Nerazzurri supporting Italy will be concentrating on much more important matters back home.
Rafa Benitez might be set to save his neck at the court of Moratti with victory over TP Mazembe, but that issue is of fleeting interest compared to that of whether Antonio Cassano will step into Ronaldinho’s dancing shoes at AC Milan, whether Carlo Ancelotti will become the new emperor of Rome, whether the country’s Champions League representatives would end up with nightmare draws, and whether most of the games in northern Italy would be snowed off to bring 2010 to a frigid end?
Cold comfort could yet be found for Cassano, as the court of arbitration has decided that the Sampdoria rebel’s contract will not be rescinded. The ruling was delayed yet again until Thursday evening and in turn it was delaying any decision on the Bari boy’s future.
Cassano was sitting at home in Genoa waiting for his agent to tell him of the tribunal’s ruling - which will be definitive and not subject to appeal. In short, he will remain under contract but suspended without pay until January 31 and then paid only half his salary until the end of the contract in 2013.
Samp president Riccardo Garrone is apparently expecting to field offers for the man who reportedly called him “an old so and so …” and Milan are in prime position to add to their growing number of players with bad-boy reputations.
With Filippo Inzaghi a long-term absentee and Alexandre Pato never far from the treatment table, Massimiliano Allegri has been given the green-light to bring in another striker, although Cassano’s arrival would put Ronaldinho’s future at the club very much in doubt.
President Silvio Berlusconi is feeling flushed with the festive spirit after surviving a no-confidence vote in parliament, and has decided that he needs to make another grand statement on the transfer front.
Cassano’s erratic behaviour has followed him wherever he has been, but Milan will be hoping the fact that they are a ‘special club’ which requires a certain standard of behaviour - combined with the fact a move would represent the player’s last real chance to play for a top team and possibly forge a return to the national side - is enough to see him change his ways, for good.
With the courts deciding not to side with Sampdoria, Adriano Galliani has already set out a plan to bring in the forward on a loan deal, which would mean the Rossoneri could afford to pay Cassano’s €2.5 million salary until June when a permanent option could be taken up.
Milan attempted to sign Cassano a few seasons back, only for Paolo Maldini and his fellow senior squad members to veto the move. But with the legendary captain gone, the remaining old guard are towing the party line.
Now, Cassano’s arrival very depends on Dinho heading out the exit door and whispers suggest Berlusconi has given the go-ahead for the sale of the Brazilian who has been on the fringes of Allegri’s plans for the last month or so.
The former Barcelona star’s contract expires in June and so far there has been little talk of an extension. David Beckham’s LA Galaxy have been interested in taking him Stateside for some months now, although the player himself seems to be more tempted to return to his native Brazil to take a punt at winning the Brasilero Serie A and the Copa Libertadores.
Just a few days ago his brother and agent Roberto de Assis met with Palmeiras, although no deal has been reached so far. We will know more on Saturday after the match against AS Roma, which could prove to be the last time Ron pulls on a Milan shirt even if it is just to sit on the bench.
This weekend could also be the beginning of the end of Claudio Ranieri’s reign in charge of Roma, with the long shadow of Carlo Ancelotti known to be cast over the Roman’s future.
The Giallorossi have courted their former player in the past but, with new owners hopefully in charge before the end of the campaign, Ranieri’s contract will not survive the summer, in part for his failure to handle the big personalities – and we all know who the biggest ego is in the Capital?
In the meantime, Allegri, Ranieri, Benitez, Francesco Totti and the rest were left mulling over some festive tidings from UEFA who handed all three Italian clubs more than winnable ties in the last sixteen of the Champions League although as they always say a lot can happen between now and the end of February.
I think Cassano could be a fine signing for Milan. Although I think Juve could do with him more. Can he play in the CL though after being in the qualifiers with Samp? It'll be a sad end to Ronaldinho in Europe if he goes. I said Milan should never have signed him in the first place but he was a great player in his day and arguably still the most gifted player today. I think in the future he may look back with regret on the last 5 years of his career.
The draw was decent enough for the Italian's. Which makes a change after years of horror draws. However, it won't be easy and all 4 remaining sides will have to be at their best to see off the opposition. A full strength Inter should see off Bayern(once Zanetti's marking Robben, not Chivu)while Milan might just outscore Spurs in what should be a goals filled double header. Roma will need not to do their usual collapse to get by Shakhdar while Napoli v Villareal should be close to call. If all 4 teams get through then anything is possible.
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