The latest from Italy as the start of the Serie A season draws closer.
ITALIAN SERIE A LEAGUE DRAW
Last Monday, the Expo World’s Fair in Milan held the draw for the schedule of matches for the Serie A 2015-16 season. The first matches will be played on the weekend of August 22-23 with the important head-to-head of Fiorentina v AC Milan the big game of the opening round, while the last matchday will be May 15. As Euro 2016 will begin in June, the coach of the Italian National Team, Antonio Conte, pushed to move the start of the season earlier to have his players available for training sooner but his calls fell on deaf ears.
SERIE A ACQUISITIONS
This week’s football transfers began with an important new acquisition by Inter Milan in the shape of Stevan Jovetic. Manchester City have loaned the Montenegrin striker to Inter for two years at the cost of €3million, at the end of which Inter must acquire him for €12 million. While many Inter fans are enthusiastic about the ex-Fiorentina star, some are worried about his many injuries during the last two years at Manchester City. Meanwhile, the dispute for the Egyptian striker, Mohamed Salah, was settled after several weeks of uncertainty between Inter, Fiorentina, Roma and Chelsea when AS Roma acquired him on Tuesday. Roma fans were thrilled as over 200 welcomed him on his arrival on Wednesday at the capital’s Fiumicino airport.
AC MILAN ON A PAR WITH REAL MADRID
More than 40,000 spectators turned out at the Shanghai Stadium for a AC Milan-Real Madrid friendly match on Thursday evening. Led by their new coach Sinisa Mihajlovic, the Milan players held their own against Real, dominating the match for long stretches and creating the best opportunities to score, particularly by Antonelli, Niang and Bacca. The game ended 0-0, however, and the penalty shoot out was won 10-9 by Real Madrid. Milan’s new coach Mihajlovic was left optimistic after this match and the victory against Inter last week. His team demonstrated focus and organisation on the field, the right approach. “We did great,” he said. “But there’s still a lot of work to do.”
BAD LUCK FOR JUVENTUS
Juventus players seem to be having a streak of bad luck, particularly in midfield and defence. One star defender, Andrea Barzagli, was already injured and, in a friendly match against Lechia Danzica last Wednesday, another leader of the defensive line, Giorgio Chiellini, sustained a muscular injury and was told he would be out for almost one month. On Saturday, in another friendly match in France against Marseille (in which Juventus lost 2-0), German midfielder, Sami Khedira, also picked up a hamstring injury. These unfortunate incidents will be a problem for Juventus coach Massimilliano Allegri, who is preparing for Italian Super Cup on August 8 against Lazio in Shanghai.
ASIAN DEAL FOR AC MILAN
This weekend, after much negotiation between lawyers and financial advisors, the owner of AC Milan Silvio Berlusconi finalised the preliminary contract to cede 48% of the club to the Thai magnate, Mr. Bee Taechaubol. The deal for nearly €500million is in place and should be signed by September 30, giving the club capital to invest in new players. Another objective of the move is to increase visibility of the AC Milan brand in the Asian market. Within two years, under Bee’s direction, the club should enter the Hong Kong stock exchange.
FOOTBALL AND FAITH
A football training camp became a spiritual retreat last Tuesday, when the Archbishop of Naples, Crescenzio Sepe, paid a visit to the SSC Napoli team in training near Trento. He celebrated a mass on the football field, and told players that with faith and skill they could win the Italian championship. He is a die-hard fan who made reference to Napoli’s missed penalty kicks last season. This year, he told them, whoever takes the penalty kicks will have the Madonna at his side. He said: “And remember, there are never only 11 players on the team. You all know who number 12 is…”