Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The Mad Old Lady

As some of you may recall, I spent much of the summer alternately chuckling and raging over Juventus' demotion to Serie B and their subsequent lack of grace in throwing around various threats about what they would do to the Italian FA as soon as it became clear exactly how much it was going to cost them. Those of you who, like me, enjoy dipping their toes into the shimmering waters of the discomfort of the fallen giants, will be delighted to know that, even if they do back up this season, they'll have lost an absolute packet. Sky Italia have, as reported on here back in August, only paid a fraction of the money that they were going to pay them. In addition to this, Nike have slashed their payments to them, and their main sponsors, Tamoil, have recently announced that they will not be continuing their support after the end of this season. The total amount of money that they've lost? A somewhat staggering ninety million Euros. Stop sniggering at the back.

Their points deduction means that, in spite of excellent form this season, they're by no means assured of promotion as things stand, either. They've only lost once in the league this season, but they currently sit just two points clear of Napoli - with Genoa in third place, just a further point behind. They may have kept hold of such stars as David Trezeguet and Alessandro Del Piero, but things aren't all going completely according to plan at the Stadio Delle Alpi at the moment. It's likely that they'll be back in Serie A next season, but an immediate return to the riches of the Champions League next season appears unlikely. Considering their dire financial straits, I wouldn't be surprised to see them in the Intertoto Cup next year.

At least there's a bit in Serie B, which is more than can be said for Serie A. Internazionale have already more or less wrapped up the title - they're already eleven points clear, are unbeaten, and have dropped just six points all season. Amazingly, they're already twenty-six points clear of fifth placed Empoli. There are some points of interest - Milan are slacking in mid-table, a shadow of their former selves after a big points deduction in the summer. Another of the pre-season favourites, Lazio, are also looking listless in sixth place, and the fallout of Parma's financial implosion looks like being relegation to Serie B at the end of this season - providing no-one else is caught with their hands in the cookie jar, of course.

This malaise in the Italian game comes at a time when the Italians should be cashing in. Their World Cup winning squad came almost exclusively from Serie A, but the scandal that rocked the game there has had a massive effect on the public's appetite for the game. There are doubtlessly millions of Juve fans who will tell Inter that their championship this season has been diminished by The Old Lady's non-appearance, but it was a fair and just sanction. If Inter run away with Serie A, they'll have earned it. It also appears to have had a detrimental effect on European football. The Champions League feels lacklustre (I've already complained vocally about the fact that there are five British clubs in the last sixteen), and it doesn't look as if this situation is going to improve next season, at least.


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