Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Serie A is Back : Season Preview 2010 2011

  A wind of change blew through Serie A season ahead. No sooner had the last campaign finished than the planning for the next really began in earnest. Weeks before they could stitch a first Scudetto since 2004 onto their red and black shirts, champions Milan were already thinking about opening a new cycle, first by closing a couple of shrewd deals for Roma's Philippe Mexes and Marseille's Taye Taiwo and then by momentously letting Andrea Pirlo leave for Juventus after a decade of success at the club. After leading the table since November, Massimiliano Allegri's side finished with 82 points, their joint-highest tolly since the era of three points for a win began in Italy. Zlatan I bra hi mo vie added an eighth consecutive league winners' medal to his collection and Thiago Silva emerged as one of the best defenders in the world. It was up to the others to react And react they did, although not in the manner you might expect.

 Second-placed Inter hod made their case to be considered the best Italian team of 2011 under former Milan cooch Leonardo who, after replacing Rafael Benitez, benefited from the signings of Italy internationals Giampaolo Pazzini and Andrea Ranocchia, as well as Japanese international full-back Yuto Nagatomo. The smartly-dressed, charismatic Brazilian may have had a bad week at the start of April when his side lost a title-deciding Derby delta Madonnina and then a Champions League quarter-final to Schalke, but in the six months that followed his appointment, Inter outperformed everyone, taking a point more than Milan and winning o fourth Coppa Italia in six years. By finishing on 3 high the indications were that Leonardo would still be in charge for the year ahead. However, living under police protection with a pregnant wife-to-be proved too much for the Inter boss, and with the ever-so-tempting offer of a role as a technical director with another of his former clubs, the newly Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain, Leonardo chose to relinquish his place on the bench for one back behind a desk. 

 Napoli, who finished third, had problems of their own. After leading the club to a podium spot for the first time since 1990, Walter Mazzarri told journalists he was considering his future. The 49-year-old was 'sacked' and his replacment found in Gasperini. President Aurelio De Laurentis then sensationally brought Mazzarri back, all in the space of 24 hours. Whether the relationship survives into next season remains to be seen, but Napoli intend to keep their swashbuckling attacking trident of Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi and Marek Hamsik intact, even though Milan's interest in the latter is said to be serious. Gasperini, meanwhile, went to Inter. As for Udinese, the revelation of last year's championship were besieged by magpies determined to pinch their jewels, with Alexis Sanchez becoming the focus of on auction among Europe's elite clubs and Gokhan Inler entertaining suitors too. Repeating last year's fourth-placed finish will prove difficult, not least because Roma, backed by ambitious new American owners, have opted for a cultural revolution. The appointment of Luis Enrique, famous in Italy for receiving an elbow from Mauro Tassotti at the 1994 World Cup, is a gamble considering he has no experience of Italy or, indeed, top-tier management anywhere. But he comes highly regarded and might just be the next PepGuardiola. Efforts to create a 'BaceceRoma' from top to bottom ore progressive, and to be admired, but risky. After renewing the contract of veteran coach Edy Reja, fifth-placed Lazio underlined their ambition of reaching the Champions League next season by signing Bayern Munich striker Miroslav Klose on a free transfer. Juventus instead went back to the future, albeit in a new environment oily-friendly stadium, by hiring their former captain Antonio Conte, who came fresh from the glory of earning a second career promotion to Serie A, this time with Siena.

As ever, there was drama in Sicily. Impressed by his short stint as caretaker boss at Roma, Catania decided to take a punt on Vincenzo Montella, while Coppa Italia finalists Palermo handed the reins to the conservative Stefano Pioli, looking to tighten up their defence after conceding 63 goals last season. In all, 11 of the 20 clubs in Italy's top flight ported with their coaches. The managerial merry-go-round spun all the way to Bologna who, after seeing Alberto Malesani leave for Genoa on the back of a miraculous season in treacherous financial circumstances at the Renato Dall'Ara. gave a second chance to Pier Paolo Bisoli, one of the best young coaches in Italy who bit the bullet at Cagliari earlier last season after leading Cesena to back-to-back promotions. Serie A's new boys have also set tongues wagging. Mired by allegations of match-fixing in Italian football's latest betting scandal, both Atalanta and their captoin Cristiano Doni are in the process of clearing their names. Siena have also come under the spotlight, though to a lesser extent. More importantly, the arrival of Giuseppe Sannino,a five time winner of promotions, the Mourinho of the Provinces' and the brains behind Varese's remarkable campaign in Serie B last year, means the Tuscans are optimistic of survival and even of getting one over local rivals Fiorentina who are in a phase of transition. 

 The real fairy tale story, however, is that of Novara. Bock in the top flight for the first time since 1956, the side with a shirt inspired by the colour of Gorgonzola already have a fan in Michel Platini, the UEFA President, whose grandparents hail from the |  town. "I will go and see them in Serie A," he says. Coach Attilio Tesser was the captain of Zico's Udinese and, boy, could he do with a player like the Brazilian legend to help ensure their survival. Indeed, Novara's progress will be followed keenly, not least because they are one of only seven teams in Europe with an artificial pitch. Novara is just one of the new elements to Serie A this season. But can things stay the same at the top for Milan?

 

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