Serie A review: A bizarre week in Italian football

Kieran Beckles
By Kieran Beckles
mario balotelli Read a review of the latest stories emanating from Italy's top flight

mario balotelli

The tactical system ‘Catenaccio’, literally translated as the ‘door-bolt’, was the brainchild of the 1930s Austrian tactician Karl Rappan.

However, it would become synonymous with football in Italy thanks to the former Inter Milan coach Helenio Herrera who deployed the defensive philosophy religiously as he achieved unrivalled success during his three-year spell in Italy.

For devout followers of the beautiful game who prefer to reside at home on Saturday and Sunday evenings to watch ESPN’s coverage of Serie A will have witnessed some truly mundane football at times this season.

The progression of Inter Milan into the quarter finals of the Champions League may be heralded as the beginning of a renaissance for Italian teams in Europe. Yet in truth football in Italy is a long way behind its English and Spanish counterparts in terms of the quality of their respective domestic leagues.

The tedious tactics of Italian clubs may often leave viewers twiddling their thumbs, but recent events away from the pitch are guaranteed to conjure a chuckle from even the most hardened of observers.

Lazio have endured a torrid season. The memory of an enigmatic Swede steering L’Aquile to a first Scudetto in over 26 years is fast fading. Sven-Göran Eriksson boasted talents such as Alessandro Nesta, Juan Sebastian Veron and Pavel Nedved at his disposal.

Nowadays Lazio must make do with Premier League rejects such as former Birmingham City striker Mauro Zarate and ex-Aston Villa dynamo Tomas Hitzlsperger. The club is currently languishing in 16th place, just four points above the relegation zone.

Travelling to Sardinia last Sunday to face Cagliari, the Roman club had won a mere three games this season. Such was the confidence of Cagliari president, Massimo Cellino, that the Sardinian side would claim victory, he audaciously promised to reimburse the home fans if his club suffered a fourth loss in five games to Lazio.

Unfortunately for Cellino the struggling Eagles claimed an unlikely 2-0 victory meaning he had to pay out.

On a sour note, Mauro Zarate shrouded himself in controversy when he was pictured giving a fascist salute alongside Lazio fans in the Curva Nord section of the Stadio Olimpico. The  Argentinian  forward was amongst the home fans during the club’s 2-0 midweek victory over Bari. It caused outrage in Italy, a country notorious for its issues with racism, with the governing bodies eager to cut out distasteful chants, gestures and banners during games.

Agent Jose Alberto Coppola defended the actions of his 23-year-old client, insisting that player did not realise the significance of his gesture.  “Mauro does not even know who Hitler and Mussolini are,” claimed Coppola.

Elsewhere Mario Balotelli failed to endear himself to the Nerazzuri faithful after he was pictured wearing an AC Milan shirt on an Italian comedy show. The Inter Milan striker has struggled to steer clear of trouble this season becoming embroiled in several high profile spats with manager Jose Mourinho.

Balotelli is a self proclaimed AC Milan fan but currently plays with city rivals, Inter and his agent was quick to offer support to the young striker saying his client is: “a boy of 19 who may not understand the consequences of what he does.”

The incident has inevitably triggered rumours linking the under-21 Italian international with a contentious transfer to I Rossoneri this summer.

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