Straight from the dark heart of Italy
There is no doubting the fact AC Milan more than deserved to be crowned Italian champions on an evening of high emotion at Rome’s Olympic Stadium.
It has been seven long years since the Scudetto was last pinned to the Rossoneri shirt and this eighth title of the Silvio Berlusconi era has to be one of the most satisfying, having come in what was supposed to be merely a transitional season.
However, despite the potential upheaval of the arrival of a new coach and the signing of a few players with what can only be described as suspect temperament, every element gelled perfectly. The statistics speak for themselves: 23 wins, nine draws and just four defeats with two games still to play.
It was around the turn of the year that Milan really started to look genuine title favourites, following the arrival of Antonio Cassano and Mark Van Bommel, with the Dutchman forcing Andrea Pirlo onto the sidelines even when the playmaker was fully fit.
But it has been a real team effort. Centre back Thiago Silva has performed brilliantly and must be a shoo-in for player of the year - tellingly Milan have only conceded six league goals since mid January. At the other end Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexandre Pato and Robinho all reached double figures on the goalscoring front; the only three-pronged attack in Serie A to achieve that feat so far this season.
“Milan, you are the most beautiful,” was Sunday edition of La Gazzetta dello Sport’s fawning take on the title triumph, although in truth “functional” may have been more apt a description; particularly in the light of Saturday’s professional performance in Rome, when Allegri's side ground out the single point required to ensure they would hoist the tricolour for the first time since 2004.
This Rossoneri side quite simply get the job done, and the unassuming Massimiliano Allegri has not shied away from making the tough decisions, such as jettisoning Ronaldinho and keeping Cassano on the bench. The joker may have gotten his own back by dousing the coach in champagne at the final whistle, but Allegri remained characteristically unruffled.
The boss can rightly bask in the glory and the travelling support of well over 10,000 were treated to a team in the throes of unbridled joy – as united in their moment of glory as they had been all season.
Ibrahimovic, who continued his record of winning a league title in the first year at every club, was rightfully grinning like the cat that got the cream; Pato received a kiss from his beau Barbara Berlusconi, who is being groomed to take over from dad one day soon; even Massimo Oddo got a bit of exercise when he bet everyone he could run a lap of the running track in 55 seconds or less – which he achieved.
The celebrations continued back at the team hotel into the early hours of the morning, before the team refocused in preparation for their Italian Cup semi-final second leg at Palermo, with the scores currently tied at 2-2.
Taking the shirt off the King's back
They say seven is a lucky number, but who would have thought seven little words would lead to fifteen minutes of fame?
Okay, it wasn’t up there with “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind” but having yelled “The King of Rome is not Dead: Francesco Totti” after the AS Roma captain scored his second goal in the derby against Lazio back in March, life has been a little different for my good self.
There had been a surge of interest on YouTube and an upping of friend requests on Facebook, but when the man himself unveiled the words on a t-shirt after the Bari game last week, events took a somewhat surreal turn.
Everyone wanted to know who had uttered the phrase now immortalised on in football history, so there was heavy rotation on Italian TV of the moment when I had through no forethought entered the AS Roma lexicon.
There has been an interview on Sky Italia’s sports news channel, numerous appearances on Roman radio stations and promises of free meals if I ever drop into certain eateries in the capital.
The daily newspaper dedicated to all things Giallorossi, Il Romanista, called to say that the great man would like to meet the person behind the voice and so as I happened to be in the area on Saturday evening after commentating the title decider, I descended into the depths of the Olympic stadium for a quick chat.
And swift word it was at that, as royalty has little time to converse with the masses, but after some pleasantries and a symbolic handing over of the t-shirt, the King was gone engulfed by his adoring public – and I was left to claim my free pizza and a return to normality.
Milan winning the title doesn't say much for the strength of Serie A. Yes, they have a better squad then last year, but it's still not a great squad. If Taiwo works out, then that will improve them. If not, then the same old problems at left-back will continue.
When AC Milan won their first post-war title in 1951, the players shook hands on the pitch and their
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