Who will win Serie A’s Europa League race?

This season has again seen Juventus powerfully dominate the Italian top flight with Roma following closely behind. Napoli too seem to be almost sure of a Champions League spot, whilst Fiorentina also will finish in Europe as they face the Neapolitans in the Coppa Italia final.

This leaves the Europa League places up for grabs and with fifth and sixth place allowing for teams to feature in the competition, the battle is heating up. The final two places will seemingly be fought out between five teams, all with a good argument to say that they deserve one of the spots.

Inter are sitting at the top of the pile in fifth spot and perhaps would be the book makers favourites to qualify. Their last game saw them thrash Sampdoria away 0-4 and on the face of it that would suggest that they will finish strongly. Closer examination however, shows up three draws and a win in their last four games, twice here it should be noted they threw away good leads. The fixture list ahead is also daunting as they face fellow hopefuls Parma, Napoli, Milan and Lazio before the end. The Nerazzurri could go into their last game against to Chievo already out of the hunt.

Parma are two points behind Inter and by their own admission have had a great season. Unbeaten from November until the end of March their run was brought to an end by Juventus. This caused a minor breakdown in their European dream as they fell victim to double defeats in Rome, as Lazio and Roma both rolled over them. Some form has been brought back as they beat Napoli and drew with Bologna but the next game against Inter is key. Should they beat the Nerazzurri then only Torino and perhaps Sampdoria could hamper their chances between now and the end of the season.

Torino are on 48 points just three outside the qualification places. They have had a majestic season with the front two, Circo Immobile and Alessio Cerci forming a deadly partnership. There goals have kept ‘Toro’ in with a fighting chance recording three wins in their last three. The fixtures ahead are a mixture however, as they have to face Lazio, Parma and Fiorentina before the end of the campaign.

By their own admission Milan’s season has been shambolic. Clarence Seedorf has steadied the ship to a degree but is still under immense scrutiny and is perhaps not expected to be in his role next summer. Much may depend on his ability to qualify for Europe, a task which has seemed beyond them for most of the campaign. Four wins in four may suggest that fans should sit up and take note but the nature of the wins suggest otherwise. Their displays have not suggested that they are a team that can maintain this momentum and with games against Roma, the derby against Inter and a tough away tie against Atalanta it would be a surprise if they made it through.

Lazio are also sitting on 48 points and are in mixed form. Two wins, a draw and two defeats in their last five suggest that they may not have the legs to make it to the European places but they have an outside chance. If they manage to beat Torino in their next match at home they will have Livorno and Hellas Verona to face before a game against Inter who themselves will be coming off the back of some tough fixtures. The way in which the Romans matches pan out just may see them gain some momentum.

To predict is quite simply to guess this season as it is at the end of most campaign. Form often goes out of the window and when teams suddenly have nothing to play for then the nature of some games change. The romantics would have Parma and Torino charging into Europe on the back of a nostalgic wave. The realist would perhaps prefer the two Milan clubs due to the sustainability of a challenge and in turn the coefficient.

By Richard Hall

Follow me on Twitter @Gentleman_Ultra

Is the Europa League dream over for Donadoni’s Parma?

Roberto Donadoni was still upbeat after last night’s 4-2 defeat to Roma. With statements like, Parma could have been more aggressive and that, with a full squad the game could have been different, it gave off the impression that this was merely a blip. Parma had been charging towards a Europa League spot but does Donadoni’s nonchalance hide a potential implosion.

Parma have been magnificent this season and have had fans and journalists comparing them to the great Parma sides of the 1990’s. Up until two weeks ago they sat proudly in sixth place in the table, eleven points ahead of Milan and unbeaten in the league since last November. Even that was to high flying Juventus.  They have been playing superb football and with players such as the marmite Amuari, Marco Parolo, the long forgotten Ezequiel Schelotto and ‘the big fish in the small pond’ Cassano,  it has come as a surprise. None the less this rag tag group has been making everyone stand up and take note on Donadoni and his dirty dozen.

When the Gialloblu welcomed Juventus to the Stadio Ennio Tradini many thought Juventus were in for a tough game but not many thought the Turin giants would fail to win. The ‘Old Lady’ did not let anyone down winning 1-2 but there was no panic in the ranks. Parma had acquired enough points to handle a blow from the runaway league leaders and would just have to recover against Lazio.

This is where the problems started as Donadoni’s consistent side outfit started to fall apart. In a bizarre 90 minutes Lazio won 3-2 in a match they tried very hard to let Parma back into. Donadoni bemoaned that Parma could have won easily if luck had gone their way and that their fate was still in their own hands if they beat Roma in the next match.

Parma stayed in Rome to play the last 79 minutes of the game called off earlier in the season. The cracks were perhaps starting to show and their normal measured approach that had deserted them against Lazio did so again. It was a deluge of goals (not rain) that engulfed the Stadio Olimpico this time and as the Gialloblu went down 4-2. Donadoni tried to stay bullish but could the problem be bigger then he makes out.

The next match for Parma is at home to inform Napoli, this is followed by a local derby against Bologna before they host Europa League challengers Inter. This will require some steel to get through this period and the points will be needed. They finish the season with an away trip to Cagliari before taking on in form Torino and Sampdoria. Should the fight go to the last day and they will face relegation stricken Livorno.

It is testament to Parma that after these three defeats they still hold sixth position. Donadoni has produced some superb football and if they can stop the rot then they still have a real chance. A win against Napoli is a tall order but it is possible, they beat them 0-1 away in November.

However it turns out for the Gialloblu they have brought pleasure to many who have watched them play this season. The fact that they are even being seriously compared to the great Parma side of the 1990’s is an achievement in itself.

By Richard Hall @Gentleman_Ultra

First published on Bleacher report by Richard Hall

A guide to the Ultra groups in Serie A: Lazio

City: Rome

Key Ultra Groups:  Irriducibili (Unbreakables/ Indomitables), Eagles Supporters, Ultras Lazio.

Other Ultra Groups:  Banda Noantri (Our Gang), Viking Lazio, Commandos Monteverde Lazio (C.M.L ’74), Gruppi Associati Bianco Azzurri White and Blue Association Group), Folgore (Lightening), Boys, Marines, Gruppo Sconvolti (The Deranged Group), Gruppo Rock (Rock Group), Ultras 74, Brigate S.Giovanni (S Giovanni Brigade), I Golden Boys, Nucleo Armato Biancazzurro (Nuclear Armed White and Blue), I Vigilantes (The Vigliantes), I Leopard, Eagles’Korps, Gioventus Biancazzurra (White and Blue Youth), Eagles’Girls, Avanguardia (Vanguard) , In Basso a Destra (Down on the Right), Only White, and Caos Group.

T’avemo arzato la coppa in faccia.” ‘We raised the Cup in front of your face’ was a banner flown over the city of Rome. Lazio fans had innovatively hired a light aircraft to deliver the message. Another proclaimed: “The real truth is that we hurt you: 26-05-13.”

This was one of the greatest days in Lazio’s 114-year-history, the day they beat Roma in the Coppa Italia final. For the duration of the summer the Laziali revelled in schadenfreude, tormenting their Roman counterparts at every given opportunity.

For the Derby in September 2013, the Lazio Ultras had planned a special choreography. Balloons would lift a giant Coppa Italia above the Curva Nord, just as a reminder – as if Roma needed one – that it was the Biancocelesti who had won the most important Derby della Capitale in history. The authorities banned the display, wary of the backlash it would likely cause. In a sardonic response the Laziali left the Curva Nord empty for the first five minutes of the game, but for a banner which read:

 ‘Ah, I forgot, it’s the ‘memorial’ derby. I’ll finish my beer first…’

‘Laziale or Romanista?’ There is perhaps no question more important in the eternal city. Founded in 1900, S.S. Lazio is the city’s oldest club. In 1927, when the National Fascist Party merged Rome’s biggest clubs, the Biancocelesti were the only ones to resist. Roma fans claim to support the club that truly represents Rome however Laziali are quick to remind them of who arrived first.

The realm of Lazio’s Ultras – the Curva Nord of the Stadio Olimpico – is world renowned. It has been at the vanguard for some of Italy’s most colourful choreographies. The groups have changed but their support for the Aquile (Eagles) has been steadfast, none more so than the Irriducibili.

Formed in 1987, the first members of the Irriducibili were originally known as Cani Sciolti (Wild Dogs). After dislodging a group called Viking, the character ‘Mr Enrich’ was adopted as their mascot – a little man who kicks furiously – and as one of their members claimed “signifies rebellion against the political and football system.”

In 1992 British flags adorned the Curva following the arrival of cult hero Paul Gascoigne. He was received warmly by the Irriducibili, whounveiled a banner depicting a pint of English beer with the message ‘It’s ready for you’. That year also saw the dissolution of Lazio’s first prominent Ultra group, The Eagles.  They were formed in 1976, two years after the team’s first Scudetto success, which saw the numbers in the Curva proliferate.

The arrival of food tycoon Sergio Cragnotti marked the beginning of one of the clubs most successful eras in which they won their second Scudetto in 2000. This coincided with the clubs centenary year and the Curva Nord’s celebrations brought 25,000 people onto the streets.

Such was the popularity of the group that numbers oscillated between 6-7,000 people, sometimes even more. They became infamous nationwide and a feature which distinguished them was their merchandising business. The group franchised and sold their merchandise in and around Rome. This helped them provide their own away-day packages as well as fund their fanzine - La Voce Della Nord (The Voice of the North).

In a sense the group gained brand notoriety. However their merchandising business was criticised by some in the Curva. This led to a schism in 2006 and a group called Banda Noantri (Our Gang) now known as In Basso a Destra (Low on the Right) were formed.

In the book – Football, Fascism and Fandom  Alberto Testa and Gary Armstrong state:

“The Irriducibili were challenged with the insult of embourgoisement; that they had compromised and were now money driven.”

Both groups co-existed in relative harmony mainly because of their ideological standpoint (both held neo-fascist sentiments), yet four years later a crossroads was reached.

In 2010 the Irriducibili invited a politician, Renata Polverini, (from the moderate right) into the Curva during an election period. At a time where the club were struggling this angered other groups on the Curva. To add insult to injury the politician also sat on the portrait of Gabriele Sandri, a faux pas which was unforgivable.

In respect for what they had done since 1987, Fabrizio Toffolo – the leader of the Irriducibili –announced the dismantling of the group on the radio. Having sought aid from a source that used to sit on the Curva Nord, it would appear the Ultras are now united under the banner of Ultras Lazio. This group is mostly comprised of youngsters and former Irriducibili members. Other smaller groups including Avanguardia, In Basso a Destra, Only White, and Caos Group also reside on the Curva.

Unfortunately it’s impossible to discuss Lazio’s Ultras without mentioning their political extremism, something explored in depth in Football, Fascism and Fandom. At times heinous views have plagued the Curva Nord. Monkey grunts, racist banners and fascist memorabilia have all been used. One particularly unabashedly racist banner was unveiled against Roma reading Auschwitz is your town; the ovens are your houses.” (The banner was a reference to Roma’s association with the Testaccio neighbourhood which has a Jewish population). Paolo Di Canio performed a fascist salute to the Curva Nord while playing for Lazio during a derby in 2005. Di Canio – a former Irriducibili member – saw the salute as a badge of identity with the Ultras.

The Laziali have also suffered two tragedies. The first was back in 1979, after a Lazio fan called Vincenzo Paparelli was hit in the eye and killed by a flare fired by a Roma supporter. It was Italy’s first football related fatality. In November 2007, a 25-year-old by the name of Gabriele Sandri was shot and killed by a police officer. The police claimed the shooting was accidental after an officer (Luigi Spaccatorella) intervened to stop a fight between Lazio and Juventus supporters at a motorway service stop. Sandri’s death triggered nationwide outrage and emphasised the deep contempt Ultras feel towards the authorities. In the capital, Laziali and Romanisti united causing havoc across the city. Sandri’s funeral attracted over 5,000 mourners.

The Laziali feel it is their duty to look after the clubs best interests. This has led to years of struggle with the Biancocelesti’s president, Claudio Lotito, a pantomime villain in the eyes of many. It appears strange that the Ultras would protest against a man who saved the club from liquidation. But during his tenure Lotito removed the policy of supplying the Irriducibili with 800 free tickets for matches. He also refused to fund the Curva Nord’s choreography and rejected a proposed takeover of the club by former Lazio legend Giorgio Chinaglia. Thus the ultras feel that the only way their Eagles can soar is to jettison Lotito.

This season 6,000 supporters held a protest before their home game against Sassuolo. In the stadium thousands of placards reading ‘Libera Lazio’ (Free Lazio) were on display. At the time of writing, the Ultras have announced they will boycott games for the rest of the season as they continue their Anti-Lotito campaign.

The Laziali and in particular the Irriducibili could be described as pioneers. Having transformed the style of support on the Curva their name has become, one of, if not the, biggest in the domain of the Italian Ultras. When sky blue fumes choke the air and the Curva Nord ripples under a gargantuan banner, to the back-drop of Vola Lazio Vola, the Stadio Olimpico truly becomes the heart-beat of this ancient city.

By Luca Hodges-Ramon - @LH_Ramon25

 

 

 

Classic Serie A Matches: Lazio - AC Milan, October 3rd 1999

Bang after bang could be heard from both ends of the Stadio Olimpico, smoke descended onto the pitch, cries of “FORZA LAZIO” from the Curva Nord were countered with shouts of “MILAN, MILAN”. This was Rome and it was a red hot cauldron as these two title chasing giants went head to head.

Just like the crowd, the match started at electrifying pace and within the first 60 seconds Christian Abbiati was forced to punch clear a wicked Sinisa Mihajlivic corner at the near post.
Lazio settled and Alen Boksic burst clean through only for Abbiati to fly out his goal smartly to smother.

Boksic was causing all sorts of problems down Milan’s right, this time he got the better of Helveg, then he beat Costacurta, hanging a ball up at the back post for Segio Conceção to knock back into the danger area. Milan failed to clear as the ball fell to Juan Sebastian Veron to fire home on the volley, Veron and the home crowd went wild. 1-0 to the hosts.

It was nearly two moments later as Argentine Veron got the ball out right. He unleashed a venomous drive from some 30 yards only to see it clip the top of the cross bar.

Milan had their chances to get back into it as Shevchenko beat Nesta for pace only to be denied by Marchegiani in the Lazio goal. On 34 minutes Milan did draw level as Shevchenko sent Serginho on his way he cut back for George Weah to knock home and silence the Curva Nord. Half time approached, it was 1-1 and game on.

It was end to end stuff now and Lazio very nearly restored their lead. Boksic stung the palms of Abbiati in the Milan goal.

Lazio took the lead in bizarre circumstances as Mihajlovic whipped another corner into the near post unexpectedly, it bounced and hit Abbiati in the Milan goal before it nestled in the net. The hosts were 2-1 up and the crowd watched with Diego Simeone spinning away claiming the goal.

With 10 minutes until the break the Lazio went 3-1 up thanks to some lovely football. It was all about Marcelo Salas who started and finished the move. He played in strike partner Boksic who stroked the ball wide left for Conceção to hang a cross up for little Salas. He continued his run and rose high thumping his header past a helpless Abbiati, it was 3-1 and appeared to be game over.

This thrilling half was far from over though, count this star studded Milan side off as your peril as they once again silenced the hostile home crowd as star striker Andriy Shevchenko burst into the Lazio box rounding the goalkeeper and finishing high into the roof of the net. It was now 3-2 in this Serie A thriller and that is how the first 45 minutes would end.

The much anticipated second half was underway and straight away Milan were on the back foot as Abbiati was forced to claw away another Marcelo Salas header.

Milan settled again and attacked as George Weah’s blistering pace left the Lazio defence for dead. He was upended by Marchegiani in the Lazio goal, the whole ground held their breath as Mr. Bazzoli pointed to the spot, Penalty!!
It was over to Shevchenko to draw the game level and he was the coolest guy in the Olimpico as he sent Marchegiani the wrong way, 3-3.

With still half an hour to play and the game very much in the balance the biancocelesti faithful found there voice again. They tried to lift their shell shocked stars as Conceicao’s attacks forced the youngster Abbiati into a simple save.

On 69 minutes the home side were stunned again as Serie A’s hottest striker gave Milan the lead for the first time in the game. It was a move which saw Shevchenko beat the Lazio defence with his frightening pace and power and drove the ball past Marchegiani for his fifth goal in four games and his hat trick. It was now 3-4 in the classic encounter.

Milan were really struggling with Lazio’s set pieces as Lazio sub Roberto Mancini got on the end of a corner only for Abbiati to deny him on the line, it was a world class save from the rookie.

It was now wave after wave of Lazio attacks as Milan tried to hold on for the three points but they caved in on 72 minutes as the little Chilean Salas got his second of the game. Veron cut back for the unmarked Salas to smash the back high into the goal sending the fans into raptures.

4-4 is how this amazing game would finish, it truly was one of the most entertaining games Serie A has ever witnessed.
Lazio would go on to win the Scudetto this season pipping Juventus by a point, Milan finished a disappointing 11 points off the pace.

Following on from his hat trick that day Andriy Shevchenko would go on to with the Capocannoniere with 24 goals.

Clarence Seedorf’s Milan travel to the Olimpico this weekend desperate for a win, let’s hope we get another 8 goal thriller.

http://youtu.be/YY_JVwy9FlU

By Giovanni Dougall

@giovannid86

When Calcio Ruled The World: Igor Protti

If you ever find yourself holidaying in the beautiful western coast of Tuscany, you may find yourself visiting the scenic port city of Livorno.

Famous for it’s mouth watering sea food, it’s hundreds of years of history, and it’s breath taking views of the Mediterranean. It is worth mentioning the name Igor Protti to any of the locals and you’ll soon see that like any other Italian city it’s famous for it’s football.

Protti a short (5’7”) penalty box striker (looked more like a Pirates of The Caribbean extra that an Italian footballer) was born and bread in Rimini and it was here he would begin his footballing career in the mid eighties.

He spent the majority of his career playing in Italy’s lower leagues having spells at Rimini, Virescit Boccaleone and Messina between 1983 and 1992. He constantly scored goals wherever he went in his early career.

It was in season 1995-1996 that Protti’s profile really shot to fame as his goals for Bari saw him share the Serie A top goal scoring charts with Lazio great Guiseppe Signori. Despite Protti’s 24 goal haul that season his Bari team were still relegated.

This kind of form finally saw Protti earn his big move as Lazio swooped for the prolific striker. Here he partnered their free scoring Signori to form a devastating attack.

However Protti was somewhat of a difficult character and his big move to the Rome club was an unsuccessful one, this eventually saw him being released from his contract.

The following few years would prove difficult for Protti having more poor spells at Napoli and Reggiana.

In 1999 the little striker would find himself returning to Livorno in Serie C1, a club he had a successful spell with some tens years previous.

It would that appear after a few unsettled years Protti had finally found a home in Tuscany he very quickly became a fans favourite with the Amaranto faithful scoring week in week out.
Protti was named club captain and his goals would lead Livorno back into Serie A in 2003-2004.

Now a club legend Protti lead Livorno to a 9th place finish the following season. (the clubs highest ever in the too flight.)

Protti announced his retirement in 2005 and having scored over 100 goals for Livorno and bringing huge success to the club his number ten jersey was retired.

The success he brought to the club meant so much to the city he was given the freedom on Livorno in 2007.
It was at this ceremony Protti insisted his number 10 shirt come out if retirement “give anybody back the dream to dress it one day.”

Protti was no doubt a talent but much like today’s Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli his personality certainly held him back when he got his chance. His failure at Lazio amongst others meant he never succeeded at national level.

When Calcio Ruled The World, Igor Protti came to life both on and off the pitch

By Giovanni Dougall

@giovannid86

When Calcio Ruled The World: Angelo Peruzzi

To look at you’d never believe Angelo Peruzzi is one of the greatest goalkeepers Serie A has ever seen.

At 5 feet 11 inches Peruzzi was a short stocky goalkeeper keeper but this did not stop him being one of the best.

In a career lasting 21 years Peruzzi won everything playing with some of the best teams in Italy and at the time in Europe.

It started in 1986 at Roma, he would be there for 5 years with a loan deal to Verona in 1989-90.

He failed a doping test in 1990 as he was taking an appetite suppressant that contained a banned substance.

Peruzzi then moved to Juventus in 1991 to try and revive his career and he certainly managed to achieve this

.
He racked up over 200 appearances for the bianconeri in an 8 year spell, winning 3 scudetto and a UEFA Cup and Peruzzi whilst also becoming a European Champion in 1996.

Peruzzi left Juventus in 1999 and had a season at Inter. In 2000 Lazio splashed out €17.9 million to get Peruzzi as their number one where he would spend 7 seasons and would pick up Italy’s Goalkeeper of the Year award for the third time in 2008.

Peruzzi made 31 appearances for Italy, this would have been more if it wasn’t for the likes of Gianluca Pagliuca, Francesco Toldo & the great Gianluigi Buffon being about at the same time.

His international highlight was being a World Cup winner in 2006 as Buffon’s understudy.

When Calcio Ruled the world, Angelo Peruzzi was frustrating some of Europe’s greatest strikers week in week out.

By John Dougall

When Calcio Ruled The World: Hernan Crespo

When you hear the name Hernan Crespo you immediately think of the 1990’s and ‘that’ Parma team.

Crespo was one on Serie A’s most clinical finishers had everything. Power, pace, great in the air, bags of skill & a world class finisher.
He could score all types of goals and became especially famous for that darting run across a defender ending in a lethal strike.

It was not always like that, when Crespo first arrived in Italy to join Parma in 1996 he failed to score in his first 6 months at the Stadio Ennio Tardini.
This would change as coach Carlo Ancelotti kept his faith in Crespo and he would go on to score 12 goals in 27 games in his first season pushing Parma to a 2nd place finish.

The highlight of his Parma career came in the 1998-99 UEFA Cup Final. He scored the opening goal against Marseille in a 3-0 win. This was a typical Crespo goal, deadly and accurate.


That’s the Crespo we all remember bearing down on goal hair flowing behind him in that famous gialloblu hooped shirt.

This form continued and he scored 80 goals in 4 seasons helping Parma win a UEFA Cup, Coppa Italia and a Super Coppa.

In the year 2000 and Lazio spent £35million (a then world record) on arguably the worlds best forward. He would spend two seasons in Rome where he scored an impressive 39 goals in 54 appearances winning more silverware with another Super Coppa in 2000.

Lazio’s financial trouble forced them to sell their prized asset for €26 million Euros to Inter. Here he would only spend a season before being transferred to Chelsea where he never really looked at home, he would spend the next few years between Chelsea & out on loan deals at both Milan giants. Between these years he would win another 2 Super Coppas as well as a hat-trick of Scudetto’s at Inter. He was also unlucky not to win the Champions League in 2005 in that infamous Istanbul final when he scored the opening 2 goals.

After a brief spell at Genoa in 2009 Crespo would return to the city he had such affection for. It was a far cry from the Parma he left 10 years earlier but he continued to score & became Parma’s top scorer for a forth time.

In December 2013 Crespo was named Parma’s greatest ever player. With 94 goals in 201 games the clubs all time top scorer.

When Calcio Ruled The World Hernan Crespo was terrorising defences for fun.

By Giovanni Dougall

@giovanni86

 

What Kaka’s Return to Form Means for AC Milan

 ”Siam venuti fin qua per vedere segnare Kaká,” was the message from the Milan fans “We came here to see Kaká score.”
The Brazilian had returned from his torrid time at Real Madrid to a place that he believed was home and a fan base that undoubtedly adored him.
 This, however, was a different Milan to the one he left five years ago and come to think of it a different Serie A. 
He himself was a different Kaká to the man who left for Spain, albeit with a tear in his eye.
It is possible to immediately question the motives or reasoning for Kaká’s return to Milan. On the face of it he looks like an injury prone 31 year old who had failed at Madrid, limping back to a club whose fans love him so much they will forgive his decline.  
It should not be forgotten, however, that Kaká desperately wanted to stay with the Rossoneri and only moved when it was made abundantly clear that they could not turn down the 65 million Euro sum Madrid had offered.
It is true that he was unlucky with injury, but he is still only a youngster when compared to two of Serie A’s best players, Antonio Di Natale and Francesco Totti.
Kaká took a huge reduction in pay to return to “his” club, which suggests that his heart is in this move and as a player this can prove vital.
Milan are certainly a different team to the one that Kaká left. The Brazilian had been top scorer in the 2008/09 squad who finished third that year. He was playing alongside Alexandre Pato, Ronaldinho, Paolo Maldini, Andrea Pirlo, Alessandro Nesta, ‘Pippo’ Inzaghi, and Clarence Seedorf.
The team had an identity and oozed with class even if mostly on the wrong side of 30.
The world has changed much in this time and these institutions of the Italian game have now gone and been replaced with the rebellious Mario Balotelli, the inconsistent Robinho and the floundering striking efforts of Giampaolo Pazzini and Alessandro Matri, the expectations on Kaká are now even greater.
Kaká is visibly more relaxed now that he is back as a Rossoneri and it has showed in his early performances, although he is being used sparingly by Massimiliano Allegri. This has most likely helped him as he looks fitter and much sharper than he did in Spain.
In the games when he has had time to get onto the ball and show what he can still do it is obvious that he has integrated into the team and is working hard for them.
His relationship with Nigel De Jong was evident against Lazio as he started to develop a good understanding with him, an element that could be crucial to the Milan midfield. His crowning moment came against Lazio when he pulled in from the left before unleashing a devastating drive that threatened to pierce the Romans net, a moment of magic that gave the fans what they had been craving.
Milan currently sit an unacceptable 11th in the Serie A standings and many in the Italian Press are starting to use that famous word “crisis.”
Kaká’s return has certainly given their fans a lift but only time will tell if he can return to his form that at one time left the Curva Sud in awe.
The Rossoneri need his help desperately and there are signs that he certainly could become integral.
However, even if this was the Kaká of old, this is not the Milan of old and it is debatable if the Brazilian can carry them on his own.
FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER @Gentleman_Ultra

What Kaka’s Return to Form Means for AC Milan

 ”Siam venuti fin qua per vedere segnare Kaká,” was the message from the Milan fans “We came here to see Kaká score.”

The Brazilian had returned from his torrid time at Real Madrid to a place that he believed was home and a fan base that undoubtedly adored him.

 This, however, was a different Milan to the one he left five years ago and come to think of it a different Serie A. 

He himself was a different Kaká to the man who left for Spain, albeit with a tear in his eye.

It is possible to immediately question the motives or reasoning for Kaká’s return to Milan. On the face of it he looks like an injury prone 31 year old who had failed at Madrid, limping back to a club whose fans love him so much they will forgive his decline.  

It should not be forgotten, however, that Kaká desperately wanted to stay with the Rossoneri and only moved when it was made abundantly clear that they could not turn down the 65 million Euro sum Madrid had offered.

It is true that he was unlucky with injury, but he is still only a youngster when compared to two of Serie A’s best players, Antonio Di Natale and Francesco Totti.

Kaká took a huge reduction in pay to return to “his” club, which suggests that his heart is in this move and as a player this can prove vital.

Milan are certainly a different team to the one that Kaká left. The Brazilian had been top scorer in the 2008/09 squad who finished third that year. He was playing alongside Alexandre Pato, Ronaldinho, Paolo Maldini, Andrea Pirlo, Alessandro Nesta, ‘Pippo’ Inzaghi, and Clarence Seedorf.

The team had an identity and oozed with class even if mostly on the wrong side of 30.

The world has changed much in this time and these institutions of the Italian game have now gone and been replaced with the rebellious Mario Balotelli, the inconsistent Robinho and the floundering striking efforts of Giampaolo Pazzini and Alessandro Matri, the expectations on Kaká are now even greater.

Kaká is visibly more relaxed now that he is back as a Rossoneri and it has showed in his early performances, although he is being used sparingly by Massimiliano Allegri. This has most likely helped him as he looks fitter and much sharper than he did in Spain.

In the games when he has had time to get onto the ball and show what he can still do it is obvious that he has integrated into the team and is working hard for them.

His relationship with Nigel De Jong was evident against Lazio as he started to develop a good understanding with him, an element that could be crucial to the Milan midfield. His crowning moment came against Lazio when he pulled in from the left before unleashing a devastating drive that threatened to pierce the Romans net, a moment of magic that gave the fans what they had been craving.

Milan currently sit an unacceptable 11th in the Serie A standings and many in the Italian Press are starting to use that famous word “crisis.”

Kaká’s return has certainly given their fans a lift but only time will tell if he can return to his form that at one time left the Curva Sud in awe.

The Rossoneri need his help desperately and there are signs that he certainly could become integral.

However, even if this was the Kaká of old, this is not the Milan of old and it is debatable if the Brazilian can carry them on his own.

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When Calcio ruled the world: Christian Vieri

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Christian Vieri is still one of the most iconic strikers ever to have graced the world game. Over 18 years he played for 12 clubs making 374 appearances and scoring 194 goals. Add to this his national record of 29 goals in 43 games and it is clear to see why he is in the FIFA 100 best players of all time list.

At 6ft 1inch Vieri was the complete predator, strong and instinctive when it came to finishing he had rapid reactions. This was at its most apparent when he was plying his trade with Inter where injuries prevented him fulfilling what could have been one of the most dangerous partnerships of all time with Ronaldo.

Vieri’s career is littered with silverware won at his clubs and personally as well. When Calcio ruled the world, nobody could stop Vieri scoring.

When Calcio ruled the world: Diego Fuser

Diego Fuser was the complete winger in the early 1990’s. These were the glory years for Serie A and the flanks were dominated by Fuser whether playing for Torino, Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio, Parma or Roma.

It is testament to his abilities that he managed to play for such a distinguished list of clubs in a career that spreads from 1986 at Torino to the unbelievably the present day where he still plys his trade for Colline Alfieri Don Bosco (an amateur side in Piedmont.)

Strong, athletic, quick and incredibly skillfull Fuser shone as one of the most dangerous wingers in the divison. Most noted for his time at Lazio where he played from 1992-1998 featuring 188 times and scoring 35 goals.

When Calcio ruled the world, Fuser was just getting started!