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March 2013

Inter’s Transfers

Balotelli to Milan

Inzaghi shares his Champions League Memories Juventus in Europe

Plus More! …


Inter Milan’s Transfer 1-4   Analysis Palermo Sack 5  Malesani The Impact of Mario Balotelli


Inzaghi Talks Champions League


Is the Champions League a Realistic Target for Juventus?


Should Juventus pursue Marco Verratti?


Rebuilding The winter transfer window doesn't usually see a lot of action, but it provides a chance for managers to get that one signing that could be the catalyst necessary to reach the season's objectives or for smaller clubs to take advantage of other clubs' desperation and sell players at higher than market value. For Inter Milan, the season was clearly a rebuilding one as new coach Andrea Stramaccioni set out to rebuild an Inter team that had fallen very far from grace since they won Europe's premier club competition in 2010 under the leadership of current Real Madrid manager Jose Mourinho. In fact, by the end of the summer transfer window only six players were left from that treble-winning squad including Diego Milito, Wesley Sneijder and Inter's evergreen captain Javier Zanetti. The summer had brought about some excellent pieces of the new Inter with Juan Jesus, Antonio Cassano, Alvaro Pereira, Rodrigo Palacio, Matias Silvestre, Samir Handanovic while Napoli midfielder Walter Gargano was brought in on loan. Â

Bright Start to the Season Initially the season started well with the highlight being Inter snapping Juventus's 49-game unbeaten streak in November 2012. After the historic victory there was talk of Inter emerging as title contenders but after winning just 4 in the following 14 fixtures since, it was clear Inter was still in rebuilding mode and not quite ready yet for a title challenge. Â


Transfers The biggest saga of the transfer window was undoubtedly Holland's national team captain Wesley Sneijder who had been frozen out of the team in an attempt by the team to get him to sign a new contract and reduce his massive wages. Sneijder refused and so a holdout followed. When the winter transfer window came around it was clear that the two parties would split, it was just a matter of when and to whom. Turkish club Galatasaray matched Inter's asking price while also presenting similar wages to Sneijder's current Inter contract but Sneijder was holding out for an offer from another team, preferably from the English Premier League. Unfortunately the star's troubled past and previous injury troubles meant that there was almost no interest except from Liverpool but this cooled and eventually Sneijder completed his move to Galatasaray on the advice of former coach Jose Mourinho.

The only other significant sale was that of young star Philippe Coutinho to Liverpool FC. Inter also became busy in the transfer window bringing Tommaso Rocchi early on and on deadline day completing the triple signing of Zdravko Kuzmanović, Ezequiel Schelotto, and Mateo Kovačić.

Tommaso Rocchi Starting with the signing of Tommaso Rocchi from Lazio had to be anything but an inspired transfer. The 35 year old was at best Lazio's fourth string striker and probably was their sixth choice after Miroslav Klose, Libor Kozak, Sergio Floccari, Mauro Zarate and Antonio Rozzi and had barely seen any action in the first half of the season, featuring in only 155 total minutes in. True inter did need some sort of depth at the striker position, especially with Milito's age and the sale of Coutinho, but surely a prospect for the future who would learn under the tutelage of Milito or a veteran than can truly offer something off the bench would have been more useful to the club.


Ezequiel Schelotto

Mateo Kovačić

The signing of Ezequiel Schelotto from Atalanta also appears an illadvised purchase seeing that after being in-demand following Cesena’s promotion in 2009-10 but has since truly failed to become a regular starter for the team. He hugs the touchline and uses his pace and direct attacking approach to good use, but he has declined rapidly since his move. He has fallen down the pecking order in Atalanta, which is damning of him because the team plays in a system that would suit his strengths but Massimo De Luca and Giacomo Bonaventura above others have been used more often. Surely a player who was not shining for a club such as Atalanta is not the caliber of player that Inter should be buying in their rebuilding state.

The purchase of Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovačić certainly is one for the future although Inter’s shortage of ideas in the midfield could force him to be thrown in the deep-end this season. If he fulfills the hype that sees him touted as the next Roberto Baggio, it could mean that Inter has secured one of the transfer bargains of the year, especially since they had beaten Chelsea, Real Madrid and Manchester City to his signature. His pace, power and ability with the ball means that all the necessary attributes are there for the player to become a key part of the Inter team for many years.


The early talk from many of his new teammates highlighted their excitement with his talent with Antonio Cassano stating, “He'll become a great player, I'm 100 per cent sure of that.” The fact that he was given Sneijder’s No. 10 jersey also speaks volumes for the belief that coach Stramaccioni has in the 18 year old Croatian.

Zdravko Kuzmanović The purchase of Serbian midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanović from VfB Stuttgart is also another good piece of business. He had impressed in his earlier stint with Fiorentina between 2007-09 and continued playing well after his move to Stuttgart, with interest in the player coming from Lazio and Juventus. He should prove to be a useful player for the Nerazzuri and at 25 years of age, the best is still to come.

Paulinho, The one that got away One of the misses of the window was the failure for a move to materialize for Corinthians midfielder Paulinho. The box-tobox midfielder has emerged as one of the most-wanted players from Brazil especially after his performances against Chelsea in the final of the Club World Cup Championship in Yokohama. Unfortunately, according to Inter President Massimo Moratti, Inter were not able to finalize the transfer due to Corinthians high asking price.


Despite the questionable transfers of Rocchi and Ezequiel Schelotto, Inter still retains the core of players that defeated Juventus and have the team in sixth place in the standings. The sales of Sneijder and Coutinho will not affect the team since Sneijder had been frozen out since September and Coutinho did not appear in many games for Inter.

The purchases of Kuzmanović and Mateo Kovačić could be excellent ones for the future with the purchase of Kovačić especially looking like an inspired one. So while Inter's winter dealings may not have the immediate impact usually associated with winter transfers, they may go some way in helping Inter's rebuilding side to success in future campaigns. Written by: Mahmoud Ghellai Click to follow him on twitter:

Palermo sack Melasani and re-hire Gasperini!

After just 19 games in charge with 3 successive draws, Palermo chief Maurizio Zamparini sacks coach Alberto Malesani in order to bring back Gian Piero Gasperini, who was sacked within the same month! This is no shock to Palermo fans, as Zamparini on average dismisses two coaches per season. The Chief explains his decision; "I've received a lot of phone calls from fans and people in the game who made me aware that Palermo played better under Gasperini. "I re-watched three matches with Gasperini in charge and three matches with Malesani - I then made a decision."


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On the 31st of January 2013, Mario Balotelli completed his £22 Million dream move to AC Milan from Manchester City. The club have officially tied former Inter striker to a deal that will see him remain at the Serie A club until 2017. City signed Balotelli from Inter Milan for £24m in 2010 and he scored 30 goals in 80 appearances for the club. He helped City to the Premier League title last season; “ I think to win the Premier League was a very special moment, and I am proud to have been a part of that“. AC Milan president was quoted as describing Balotelli as a ‘rotten apple’ and would not sign him for his team.

in regards to the national football team ‘gli azzurri’ and whom of course were involved in the World Cup in the USA that summer, losing in the final to Brazil on penalties. Another sporting example Berlusconi used in his favor to beat his political opponents was,

Why the sudden change of heart Silvio? According to political experts “ Before running against me go the multimillion purchase of Balotelli and win yourself two champions” could result in an extra 400,00 votes for the right coalition party, which of course is led by the former prime minister. This would not be the first time Berlusconi looked towards football in order to aid his political career. In 1994, Silvio branded his party as ‘Forza Italia’ translated into ‘Come on Italy’. This expression was only used


Balotelli’s Arrival     Upon his arrival in the city of Milan, hundreds of fans turned out to greet their new hero, with some sporting a No 45 shirt, the same number the 22 year old striker wore at Inter Milan and at Manchester City. Over a thousand fans welcomed the Palermo born striker as he celebrated his AC Milan move with dinner with manager Massimiliano Allegri and vice president Adriano Galliani at the ‘Da Giannino’ restaurant. The scale of interest generated over the move was enormous in Italy. Given Milan’s league form, it was time to restore some confidence to the team and the fans by acquiring a ‘big name’ to perform for the remainder of the campaign. Mario’s history with Inter Milan was not going to prevent him joining the city rivals. In fact, whilst still at Inter he was seen wearing a Milan shirt on a television show! According to former Inter defender Marco Materazzi; “He wore red and black socks to training, I would personally cut them in half, Imagine Ryan Giggs turning up to training in Manchester City colours!” Balotelli’s start with Milan on the pitch has already started paying dividends to the Rossoneri.



Cagliari v Milan (1-1)

Mario Balotelli’s debut was to be against a tough Udinese side at the San Siro. Mario being Mario showed no signs of nerves and seemed like he had never been away from the ‘peninsula’. The Italian striker scored twice against Udinese, including the winner with the last kick of the game, which was from the penalty spot. The game finished 2-1. Mario’s debut had already started with controversy because reportedly Giampaolo Pazzini was set to start, but was injured in the build up. The striker linked up wonderfully with his new strike partners, Stephan El Shaarawy and M’Bye Niang, whom have a combined age of 60, with Mario being the oldest! The team is much younger, with the exodus of many experienced players including, Clarence Seedorf, Gennaro Gattuso and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

In the striker’s second game for his new club, it was no surprise that he was in the starting line-up away to Cagliari. Milan went down on the stroke of half time by a fine Victor Ibarbo goal. Balotelli put in a fine display, constantly testing the Cagliari defence. However it was a Balotelli penalty once again that would prevent a shock defeat, which he earned after being dragged down. The point allowed Milan to remain unbeaten throughout the whole of 2013. Click on the picture below to watch the highlights of the game v Udinese

“Balotelli is a great player and will definitely help the squad. We are happy he has arrived and we are all going to welcome him. Letʼs hope he does well for Milan," Robinho “I am happy for Milan and for Balotelli. I can only speak highly and say positive things on both the player and the club,” said Ibrahimovic.


Does Serie A benefits from Balotelli's return?

Balotelllli's agent Mino claimed: "With Mario back in Italy, we have increased the quality of the Serie A by about 50%, while the Premier League is 50% less valuable. It was the right time to bring a top-class footballer back home."

The league has reached its lowest point in terms of quality and attractiveness. Often empty and old-fashioned grounds, trouble between fans and the departure of many top-class players have left what was once best league in the world in a state of depression. There is little interest from foreign TV and investors, and the Do you agree? Tweet us! Â entire league needed a big story to talk about. The Serie A president, Maurizio Beretta, said: "He is going to dramatically increase the quality of our league."




A classic goal-poacher during his playing days, Filippo Inzaghi has no lack of fond memories of the UEFA Champions League. After finding his feet with a number of clubs in Italy, it was at Juventus where Inzaghi first made his mark on the continent. His UEFA Champions League debut came in his maiden season with the Bianconeri – a comfortable victory against Feyenoord in 1997. "I remember that we played a great match, we played very well, and it ended 5-1, I was lucky enough to even score a goal," said the former Italy striker. "I think destiny let me start my Champions League adventure in the best possible way, and it then developed into something really extraordinary for me."

Inzaghi's goal scoring exploits in Turin earned him a move to AC Milan in 2001 for a reported ÂŁ17 million. Just two years later, he was lifting Europe's most prestigious club trophy at the expense of his former employers.


Though Inzaghi was not involved when Milan lost an astonishing final to Liverpool FC in 2005 due to injury, he was at the heart of the Rossoneri's revenge against the English outfit in the Athens showpiece two seasons later. "The good thing for us strikers is that our destiny is decided by great matches, by great finals," said the 39-year-old, who is now the coach of Milan's Allievi Nazionali (Under-17) team. "In that year (2007) I scored half the goals I scored in 2003, but I scored two goals in the final in Athens. The first one was a lucky one because of the part of the body which hit the ball, but I had already scored four goals like that before, so it was just a matter of instinct. Then the second goal, which I think was my goal, the goal of my career, it was a beautiful combination with Kaká. Whenever I watch that goal back and see how slowly the ball moves into the net, it brings up great emotions. We managed to do extraordinary things that year. Then I was named man of the match, and I will be always remembered, by every fan from Milan too, thanks to that game." Inzaghi’s final champions league appearance came in a group game versus Real Madrid in November 2010, in a 2-2 draw. “ I scored two goals in that match, coming from the bench. Against a Madrid of Mourinho’s, who has always shown a lot of respect towards me, the stadium was explosive. I couldn’t of asked for a better ending, apart from a win of course”. His double made him the joint leading overall goal scorer at the time in the competition with 70 goals, along with Raul. Jose Mourinho challenged AC Milan to play all the strikers they wanted but just asked them to leave out Filippo Inzaghi, when the two European giants met in the Champions League. “It was a source of great pride for me to have known Inzaghi during my Italian experience.”


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Is the Champions League a realistic target for Juventus? By Anthony Cooper Every season starts out with hope. The difference between teams is how much hope they have, and how realistic that hope is. For Juventini, this season started out with much more hope than the previous 3-4, and now the question turns to whether or not this hope can be fully realized. The Coppa was never a huge goal, however nice the treble would have been. I will even go as far to say in comparison with the Champions League, the scudetto took a back seat. With advancement from the round of 16 seemingly all but assured, let's take a look at what it would take for Pirlo's dream to come true. “Our goal this season is to win the League again,” he told Rai Sport. “But the Champions League is also a dream." - Football Italia What must happen? In order for this team to go all the way, which is something I do believe they can do, a few things must happen. Firstly, the squad must continue to travel as well as they have. In the Serie A there has been almost no difference, as they have gone 9-2-2 in 13 games at Juventus Stadium, and 8-2-2 in games away from their fortress. It would be easy to write this off as having a huge fan base all across the peninsula, but the team also took 4 points from their two toughest group stage matches at Chelsea and at Shakhtar, before taking all 3 points at Celtic. In addition to this, they need Mirko Vucinic to perform at a top level. In all competitions Juve have dropped points in 13 matches (2 Coppa, 3 UCL, 8 Serie A). Vucinic has appeared in 11 of those games, registering a paltry 4 shots on goal, and 1 goal with zero assists. That is pathetic. Consider he has appeared in 30 matches for Juve across all competitions; in the 19 victories he has registered 28 shots on goal, 9 goals, and 5 assists. I'll let you do the averages, but it's a huge difference. That MVP will show up is a foregone conclusion, and once Chiellini is back the backline will have no worries, which means Vucinic is the needed man.


Biggest Obstacle The biggest obstacle to this Juve team is fatigue, and Conte's odd rotation methods. For some reason he seems to like resting the entire midfield, or none of them, making the best midfield selecting factor for the season the yellow card ban. Elimination from the Coppa Italia will undoubtedly help, but worry remains that teams with deeper benches such as Barcelona, Madrid, and Bayern could gain an upper hand when it comes to fatigue. However, everything being said, I firmly believe this squad has the talent cohesiveness required to win the competition. The biggest remaining threat is most likely Bayern Munich, as Real Madrid are suffering a poor run of form and Barcelona traditionally struggle against Italian teams. The squad showed they can play possession football and win, or sit back (see Celtic match) and be ruthless on counters. Now it all comes to lads from Turin to go out and get the result. FORZA JUVE!  


Should Juventus pursue Marco Verratti as Pirlo’s replacement? By Mahmoud Ghellai

Ever since the Calciopoli led to the mass exodus of such talent as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Fabio Cannavaro, Patrick Veira, Lilian Thuram, and Gianluca Zambrotta as well as the demotion of the club to Serie B, it seemed as if the Bianconeri would be away from the elite for some time, but there was still hope that the core that remained behind, including the likes of Del Piero, Trezeguet, Nedved, and Buffon, would secure a swift promotion as well as be able to challenge for a title within 2-3 years. Although they did secure promotion the first year on the back of Del Piero and second in the league the first two years back, they fell down to back-to-back 7th place finishes as well as expensive flops such as Diego, Felipe Melo and Amauri.

In came Juventus legend Antonio Conte fresh off a season where his ultraattacking '4-2-4' formation at Siena earned positive reviews around the league. Conte's first order of business was bringing in Milan regista Andrea Pirlo, who was available on a bosman after Milan deemed him too old to continue, and that move proved the first of two masterstrokes by the Juventus coach. Because while Pirlo would become the creative force, it was the bargain signing of Bayer Leverkusen's Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal for €10.5 million that would provide the engine room and ball winning player that would allow Pirlo to thrive and experience a mini-renaissance in his career. He should have been among the top 3 players in the voting for the Ballon d'Or and a very convincing argument could be made for him to win it.


Juventus would go the entire league unbeaten while Italy would surprisingly make the Euro 2012 final with a Pirlo masterpiece against England in the quarterfinal highlighted with his ‘panenka’ penalty. Most Juve fans, and undoubtedly the hierarchy at Juventus, do realize that Pirlo is no spring chicken at 33 years and that his heir should be found sooner than later. Conveniently Pescara 18-year old phenom Marco Verratti made waves in Serie B with his performances making many people label him as the heir to Pirlo in the Italy national team set-up, and he was even called up to the preliminary squad for Italy's Euro 2012 but ultimately did not make the final cut. In the summer Juventus pursued Verratti, but refused to be held ransom over him. Eventually he agreed a big money move to Qatari-backed Paris SaintGermain but the reports linking him to Juventus this summer have not died down with several denials being made on both sides. Veratti's performances for PSG this year have done little to cool down the hype over Verratti and he recently earned his first international cap, scoring a lastminute equalizer against Holland.

Juventus however is wasting their time obsessing over a prized toy when in they’re midst lies a gem brought in, like Pirlo, on a bosman as well. Paul Pogba, distraught by the lack of playing time given to him by Sir Alex Ferguson, left for Juventus much to the anger of the Red Devils manager. This year Pogba's performances have been drawing rave reviews, his incredible passing range as well as his ability to find space and even score goals has been one of the highlights of Juve's season so far. Pogba's natural position is at the base of the midfield making the recruitment of Verratti a battle between two players for one midfield berth since Vidal should be considered immovable unless he is being rested and Marchisio's position calling for threatening runs into the box for goals not utilizing the best strengths of either player. In addition, his status as a Juve and Conte favorite making his first-team status assured.  


Conte could change his formation to accommodate both midfielders and he has shown willingness before to change his formation, going from a 4-2-4 to a 5-3-2 and currently uses a 4-3-3. A 4-4-2 with a midfield of Veratti, Pogba, Vidal and Marchisio would have no width while a 4-3-2-1 is possible, but would force Marchisio to play too far upfield to cause any real damage and he isn't creative enough to play there while only one striker does not appear to be to Conte's liking. Therefore it seems that although the recruitment of "Pirlo's heir" has a nice ring to it, Juventus already have the answer as to who would fill the Italian legend's void once he inevitably retires. And that answer is already there.   


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