The peninsula nation of Italy, circa 2005-06, the nation’s footballing fraternity is only just unearthing the massive dent to its reputation that is the Calciocopoli scandal. As more and more evidence is dug up, the Azzuri go on to win the 2006 World Cup.
But it was a bittersweet victory, because as the players return from international duty, some of them find their trophy cabinets a little less full and their team down in Serie B. Juventus, convicted of match fixing for two years straight bear the massive brunt of relegation into the Serie B.
Forced to sell the best of their players to their rivals, the prime example being Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s move to Inter Milan, Juve are a team in tatters. For years together, the Old Lady of Torino looked unbeatable, nearly God-like. And suddenly, they were languishing in Serie B, the Italian second divison.
Lo and behold, the Milanese giants celebrated, with Inter Milan controversially handed the Scudetto for being runners-up two years in a row they now had the financial firepower to rebuild, and along with an AC Milan side in the European ascendancy, they formed a cross-town duopoly of clubs that showed success immediately.
However, something has gone horribly wrong in the past 30 months. Indeed, since scaling the heights of winning a treble with Jose Mourinho as head coach, the Nerazzuri have barely challenged for honors. And yes, AC Milan have won a Scudetto, but that was before ‘Project Juve’ was reborn and the Via Turati found out it was in debt.
All of this however, is just facts and speculations. The real problem lies in Italy, deep in its bowels. Financially, the Italians have never been strong. Sure, their passion, way of life and jovial nature is brilliant. But that’s when they turn up during the weekends. During the week, Italia is a nation of workers who are out of jobs or getting fired. The economy is crumbling and everyone is feeling the pinch.
Even the Football Clubs.
Sustainable investment wasn’t exactly considered when the two Milanese clubs started their dominance of the subcontinent. They both went at it like mad men, Inter buying players over budget, paying extravagant wages, and Milan still soldiering on with their breed of ‘old men’ of the game. Personally, until two years back I thought AC Milan were a team of 700-year old dragons. That’s how old their squad was.
And now that the financial pinch is finally hitting them, these two clubs struggle more than ever. Inter have seen five coaches installed since Jose Mourinho won the treble. His best moment coming in Camp Nou when they ‘parked the bus’ to get through into the Champions League finale. But that was when the great motivator, the ‘Special One’ was at Inter. Since then, that same squad of players, bar one or two tweaks here and there have been largely unimpressive. Statistically and on the pitch, they’ve been a disappointment to the colors of the Nerazzuri. Proof of which stems from the fact that Inter Milan had to go more than two matches before recording their first home win of the season.
AC Milan have been slightly better off since this financial pinch hit them, signing players on-loan to buy offers, Adriano Galliani was superb to bring in the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Stephan Al Sharaawy and Kevin Prince-Boateng on deals like these. Along with the likes of Gennaro Gattuso, Robinho, Alexandre Pato, Alessandro Nesta and a rejuvenated Clarence Seedorf – AC Milan won a Scudetto and broke cross-town neighbors Inter’s stranglehold on Serie A.
The success came, no doubt about it. But it made the Milanese fans want more. And they weren’t going to get any. It was short-lived and non-sustainable.
Inter Milan saw off Mourinho after he completed the treble, and ever since – the Nerazzuri have lacked a gusto and desire to win everything placed before them. The players are lacking motivation and drive and the desire to play for the Inter shirt and it shows. Five coaches have come and gone and yet Inter remain in doldrums.
AC Milan suffered the worst of it this summer however. When after losing their Scudetto crown to the now reborn Juventus, they saw two of their biggest players in Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva leave for the nouveau riche of Paris Saint Germain. This coupled with the loss of players like Alessandro Nesta, Gennaro Gattuso and Clarence Seedorf through retirement or contracts running their cost has changed the look of the Rossoneri in no time. Silvio Bersculoni, owner and president of the club since as far back as I can remember, is a man of controversy. Less than a fortnight after securing Thiago Silva to a new contract, the man in charge sold him.
An unsustainable business model, the loss of their best players, a lack of motivation and a general lack of direction and planning sees the two Milanese clubs in doldrums. And I hate to say it, but they won’t be challenging the Old Lady anytime soon. Over two matchdays when they face Juventus they may rescue a point or even get all three. But Juventus, now 40 plus matches unbeaten in the league don’t look like surrendering their title anytime soon.
For now at least, Milanese fans will have to live with that fact and swallow it like a hard pill.
Someday again, we hope these two giants of red and blue will be at the top again. Someday, the Serie A will be a three-way race again.