MILAN - Italian football could lurch into a
new crisis this week if the players' union calls a strike over
contracts and the national side's main striker Antonio Cassano
is left without a club in a separate but connected dispute.
Serie A is no stranger to controversy, with the 2006
match-fixing scandal and hooligan problems still fresh in the
memory, but the coming days are likely to offer as much drama
and suspense as any top-flight match.
The union, at odds with the league over a new collective
contract which lays down the basic rights of soccer players,
postponed a strike in September to allow more talks but
Tuesday's deadline for an agreement is fast approaching.
Serie A's demands over marginalising or force-selling
unwanted players has angered the union so much that new strike
dates are set to be announced unless a late deal is reached.
"They have a stance which is wholly unacceptable," union
chief Sergio Campana told Reuters.
"A club can't make a player leave if the player is under
contract and does not want to move. A player also has the right
to train with the first team."
Italy's Olympic Committee has called a hearing of its High
Court for Wednesday but with the union saying strike action
could be called after Tuesday, it may come too late.
"I think we must respect the timing of the High Court, which
is carrying out a fundamental role in finding a solution and it
must be allowed to make its judgement serenely," Italian football federation chief Giancarlo Abete told reporters.
The union's point about players being marginalised follows
three high-profile cases this season.
Sampdoria forward Cassano, who had appeared to have put his
bad-boy image behind him, has been suspended by the club for the
last month after verbally abusing president Riccardo Garrone.
Friday's arbitration hearing, which may not make a final
decision, will see whether Samp's stance is legal and whether
Cassano breached his contract and so is now a free agent.
The ex-Real Madrid man has apologised and wants to stay but
his contract being void could prompt a scramble for his
signature, although his behaviour could equally put suitors off.
Inter Milan, in need of an extra forward, have been cautious
about their chances of signing him and a more prolonged absence
from the game will hit Cassano's Italy starting spot.
Italy 2010 World Cup goalkeeper Federico Marchetti is
awaiting a new arbitration hearing over a similar dispute with
Cagliari while Fabio Grosso was dropped from the Juventus squad
only to be recalled recently, strengthening the union's case.
Scandal is never far from the headlines in Italian football and several other probes continue this week.
The long-running criminal trial into the 2006 match-fixing
affair has brought up new phone tap evidence which the
federation is reviewing to see if previously innocent Inter were
involved in the scandal, something the champions deny.
Financial problems at Bologna have also led to a federation
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