Roma's magical season continues

Posted by James Horncastle

AP Photo/Studio FNRudi Garcia has guided Roma with laser-like focus to second place in Serie A.

The ballots for Italy’s Coach of the Year award aren't yet open, but Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Montella already knows who he will be voting for.

“If it were down to me,” said the Fiorentina manager, “I would give the Panchina d’Oro to Rudi Garcia for the overall job he has done at Roma. He has stabilised the atmosphere around the club, given a strategy to the team, as well as continuity and balance. In addition to that, I like his pragmatism on the pitch and his way of playing football. Continue Reading...

Ciro Immobile's form makes him a World Cup must for Italy

Posted by James Horncastle

Valerio Pennicino/Getty ImagesCiro Immobile's lighting up Serie A. Is the World Cup next?

Zdenek Zeman is sat, his legs crossed, one elbow resting on a knee, holding a lit cigarette in front of his face. Standing before him through the wreaths of smoke is a blond-haired blue-eyed kid, barely 21, whom Pescara have organised to loan from Juventus.

He plays up front, Zeman is told. This is Ciro Immobile. He's taken aback. Come again, Zeman thinks to himself. He's called what? Then with that dry sense of humour of his, the wizened "Bohemian" of the Italian game asks: "How can you be a striker with a surname like that? Continue Reading...

Donadoni has revived Parma ... is Milan next?

Posted by James Horncastle

Marco Luzzani/Getty ImagesDonadoni's worked wonders with Parma. Is Milan next?

The kids of Cisano Bergamasco didn't have anywhere to play football. There wasn't enough space in the oratory and they weren't allowed on the local sports field. A church courtyard seemed their only hope.

One day, the priest heard a knock at the door. He opened up to be confronted by a boy with a mop of curly hair. "Can we have a kickabout?" he asked on behalf of his friends. "Only if you're careful and don't damage anything," the priest replied. "And only if you accept to being an altar boy when needed. Continue Reading...

Juve and Fiorentina must let football do the talking

Posted by James Horncastle

Valerio Pennicino/Getty ImagesMontella and Conte must keep their teams focused on the games rather than the traditionally fiery rivalry between Fiorentina and Juventus.

It was a tweet considered not to be in good taste. At least not in Florence.

Moments after Juventus' 1-0 win against their team in Turin early on Sunday afternoon, the champions' official account posted the following message to its followers: "Fiorentina good for lunch. We'll see each again in four days time, for dinner."

The context here is culinary. A bistecca alla fiorentina is a delicious, juicy grilled steak traditionally accompanied by rosemary flavoured olive oil and a bowl of white Tuscan fagioli beans. Continue Reading...

After years of rumors, are Milan finally for sale?

Posted by James Horncastle

Andreas Solaro/AFP/Getty ImagesAfter many false starts, is Silvio Berlusconi finally looking to sell Milan?

On Wednesday, Bloomberg claimed AC Milan is "weighing a sale" and Lazard, the financial advisory and asset management company, had "sent marketing documents to potential buyers." Not for the first time Fininvest, the Berlusconi family holding company, denied that the club or a stake in it has been put on the market.

Journalists, however, needed to hear it from the man himself. A book launch in Rome on Thursday drew more media than expected, not because the author had published a great work, but on account of the attendance of Silvio Berlusconi. Continue Reading...

Tevez finds Turin to his liking

Posted by James Horncastle

Daniel Garcia/AFP/Getty ImagesTevez played for Boca Juniors from 2001-04, winning the Copa Libertadores in 2003.

With his bowler hat and round spectacles, Dani Osvaldo looked like Willy Wonka’s rival chocolatier, Arthur Slugworth, as he touched down in Turin ahead of his loan move from Southampton to Juventus last month.

However, the Argentine-born Italy international striker would have instead preferred to be mistaken for Charlie Bucket from the Roald Dahl children's novel, because he felt like he’d come into possession of a golden ticket.

At Juventus’ Vinovo training ground -- let’s think of it as the factory in this story -- Osvaldo was about to meet and work alongside someone he idolised throughout his early teenage years as a Boca Juniors fan growing up in Buenos Aires: Carlos Tevez. Continue Reading...

Fiorentina's fortunes turn full circle after securing Coppa Final berth

Posted by James Horncastle

Gabriele Maltinti/Getty ImagesFiorentina are in their first final in 13 years as they'll head to Rome to face Napoli in the Coppa Italia final.

Andrea Della Valle just couldn’t take it any more.

The tension was getting to him. His nerves were shot. And so in the second half of Tuesday night’s Coppa Italia semi final second leg, the Fiorentina owner got up from his seat at the Artemio Franchi and went inside. “I don’t think I’ve ever been this emotional before,” Della Valle said. “I left a few minutes before the end. Well, quite a long time before the end.”

It was just as well he did as he might well have had a heart attack in the 94th minute when Luis Muriel was through on goal. Continue Reading...

Miralem Pjanic focused on AS Roma success

Posted by Ross Dunbar

Giuseppe Bellini/Getty ImagesDespite having a few interested suitors, Miralem Pjanic is focused on having success at Roma.

Miralem Pjanic doesn't like classical music. But it didn't stop the Italian media comparing him to the conductor of an orchestra after Roma steam-rollered through their first eight league matches of the Serie A season.

The Bosnia and Herzegovina international has been influential in Rudi Garcia's impressive work at the Stadio Olimpico, as Roma prepare for the city derby with Lazio on Sunday. An article written by ESPNFC’s AS Roma blogger Julian De Martinis highlighted Pjanic’s importance to Roma early in the season, averaging 53 percent shot accuracy, 88 percent pass accuracy and winning 55 percent, according to Squawka's statistics. Continue Reading...

Seedorf aims high despite a massive task at Milan

Posted by James Horncastle

Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty ImagesClarence Seedorf is just the man to reinvigorate the Rossoneri.

Sat in the crowd at the Vicente Calderon on Sunday night was a certain Clarence Seedorf. He was there scouting Atletico Madrid, the team against whom he scored one of his most famous goals. You remember the one. It was during a season opening Madrid derby 17 years ago, a soaring diagonal shot into the top corner from just inside the opponent's half.

Seedorf, in the white and purple of Real, was only 21 years old. That season he would lift the Champions League for the second time in three years after doing so with Ajax in 1995. Continue Reading...

Vucinic-Guarin fiasco opens old wounds between Juve and Inter

Posted by James Horncastle

Getty ImagesThe proposed exchange of Inter's Fredy Guarin and Juve's Mirko Vucinic reminds us that Juve has held the upper hand in business transactions between the clubs.

Conspicuous by his absence on the Juventus team bus was Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Everyone else was on board. The driver had even started the engine. They had a pre-season friendly to play and didn’t want to be late. Ibrahimovic was still in his hotel room playing PlayStation. “Why are you still here?” Didier Deschamps, the coach, demanded. Ibrahimovic had told Juventus that he wanted to leave following the Calciopoli scandal in 2006 and their relegation to Serie B.

Until then, they hadn’t listened to him, even offering a new contract, which Ibrahimovic refused to entertain signing. Continue Reading...

In the road to recovery, Rossi should look to Baggio for inspiration

Posted by James Horncastle

Getty ImagesIn the race to recovery, Giuseppe Rossi should take a page from Roberto Baggio's storied career and defy the odds.

Roberto Baggio lay contorted on the icy cold turf, one hand resting on his left knee, the other covering the anguish on his face. The fog at the Ennio Tardini led him to think that he was surrounded by "ghosts," those of nearly 16 and a half years earlier and his first serious injury.

Moments before, Brescia teammate Igli Tare had laid a ball off on the edge of Parma's penalty area for him. As Baggio approached it, he jumped, feeling a searing pain in his leg and fell grabbing it. Continue Reading...

Lotito, Petkovic feud adds more pain to sad Lazio

Posted by James Horncastle

Paolo Bruno/Getty ImagesVladimir Petkovic had his problems at Lazio but did deliver a Coppa Italia. Yet it wasn't enough to prevent his complicated firing as manager.

"One swallow doesn't make a summer."

Lazio owner Claudio Lotito, a man with a certain predilection for idioms (especially if they're in Latin), came out with this one in the winter. His team had just beaten Livorno 2-0 in arguably Italy's most politically charged fixture. It was also Lazio's first win in three games in all competitions.

In essence Lotito was asking: had his club turned a corner or was this another exception in an otherwise disappointing start to the season? Continue Reading...