The Champions League group stage is just around the corner and Milan public relations in the face of Galliani and Ancelotti are already talking about Milan’s infamous CL DNA. While I believed in it during the ‘oughties, I don’t put much value on the current team’s ability simply because the biggest part of that DNA in my mind was experience.
Soccernomics has nicely showed the link between success and experience. An important part of experience comes from the club but I wanted to look at the players. A quick glance showed that current goalkeepers have less CL experience than a Dida, the whole defense can’t match a Maldini, the Seedorf-Gattuso-Pirlo trident tops the midfield and strikers are left behind by a Sheva. But how do Milan match up against other clubs?
For that I did some simple research that was more fun than evidence. I added up all CL competition games (doesn’t include preliminary matches or coach experience) from the UEFA site and I divided them with 116 which is the number of games Maldini played. Simply because having a number of games was too boring and after post-Maldini stress there is not much better to do than to make him a benchmark.
1. FC Barcelona 943/116= 8.136 mldn
2. Real Madrid CF 909/116= 7.84 mldn
3. Manchester United FC 871/116 = 7.51 mldn
4. Chelsea FC 614/116= 5.29 mldn
5. FC Bayern München 593/116= 5.11 mldn 6. AC Milan 455/116 = 3.92 mldn
7. Arsenal FC 415/116 = 3.58 mldn
8. FC Shakhtar Donetsk 363/116 = 3.13 mldn
9. Paris Saint-Germain FC 351/116 = 3.03 mldn
10. Juventus 332/116= 2.86 mldn
11. Manchester City FC 330/116 = 2.84 mldn
12. FC Dynamo Kyiv 249/116= 2.15 mldn
13. FC Zenit St Petersburg 238/116 = 2.05 mldn
14. Valencia CF 234/116 = 2.02 mdln
15. Galatasaray AŞ 212/116= 1.83 mldnn
16.SL Benfica 209/116=1.80 mldn
17. FC Schalke 04 209/116= 1.80 mldn
18. Málaga CF 209/116= 1.80 mldn
19. FC Porto 119/116= 1.72 mldn
20. LOSC Lille 162/116= 1.4 mldn
21. FC Spartak Moskva 151/116= 1.30 mldn
22. FC BATE Borisov 134/116=1.16 mldn
23. AFC Ajax 133/116= 1.15 mldn
24. Olympiacos FC 106/116 = 0.91 mldn
25. Borussia Dortmund 99/116= 0.85 mldn
26. GNK Dinamo Zagreb 86/116 = 0.74 mldn
27. RSC Anderlecht 67/116 = 0.58 mldn
28. CFR 1907 Cluj 63/116= 0.54 mldn
29. SC Braga 59/116=0.51 mldn
30. Celtic FC 23/116= 0.2 mldn
Of course the more important part is how much of that experience is on the field during matchday but in the end the 6-th place injected a little optimism into me before we kick off (this was done before the Milan loss vs Atalanta).
I have a confession to make: I can not watch Roma. For some reason, I just can’t stand them. Never. Their glorified captain, who admittedly, on his day, is one of the most joyful players to watch. Their despicable fan base. Their equally pathetic city rivals. There’s nothing to like about Roma. Not even their kit. That’s why it baffles me when people praise them, for anything at all. I have never enjoyed watching Roma in my life. Even when Spalleti was in charge, transforming Totti from one of the best trequartisti to a false 9 and eventually a Golden Boot winner, and leading them to play highly entertaining football in the eyes of some, I was not a fan.
Phew, feels good to get that off my chest. Now with that on the table, it’s easy to conclude that initially I had no time for Aquilani. For me he was simply the 3rd in line after Totti and De Rossi. Oh great, another passionate Roman who intended to remain a one club man. Whether he was as good as he was hyped up to be didn’t concern me, as I thought the most I’d probably see of him would be our two games vs Roma and perhaps the derby della capitale if I was in the mood to watch 22 angry men fight or a big Champions League game if I fancied a 7-1. So on average, no more than five games a season. Except if he did crack into the Nazionale, which is of course no easy task unless you’re a Juventus player. Just ask Simone Pepe.
Anyway, things change and thankfully Aquilani changed clubs so I could get to form an opinion on him. That opinion is that the man can play. Exquisite technique, great passing, and a rare intelligence are traits that led Aquilani to become one of my favorite players. Even long before he was linked with a transfer to Milan. My first real introduction to Aquilani came in Euro 2008. Yes, you guessed it, the Spain game. Though it would be 3 years until I got to watch the game. So, technically my story with Albertino dates back to the summer of 2009. I was used to the fuss of every transfer window, many baseless rumors emerge and fade as quick as Roberto Baggio’s goal celebrations, and the norm was that Aquilani would be linked with every club possible, only for the player and his club to confirm their relationship is unbreakable. Though that time things ended quite differently. Alonso – a great, great player and a fantastic human being; one that oozes class on the pitch and off it, left Liverpool and ironically Aquilani was signed to replace him. I say ironically because Xabi Alonso is a defensive midfielder while Alberto Aquilani is an offensive one. Though what matters the most is that by changing clubs, there was a slight chance I’d get to watch him more regularly and eventually be obsessed with him. He should be thankful enough for that.
That chance arrived a year later with Juventus. A late summer swoop on loan to La Vecchia Signora meant Aquilani was back to Serie A, and of course automatically back to La Nazionale through the magical gate of Juve. My first attraction towards Aquilani was that he chose 14 as his shirt number, which also happens to be my favorite number. But then I realized he can also play a bit too. That boy, Aquilani, got some touch on him! Over the course of the season, I found myself watching Juve a lot more than I’m used to, but it wasn’t out of the ordinary. The reason was precisely Aquilani. He had swept me off my feet. His touch on the ball is such a treat to the eye, and I’m pretty sure the ball enjoys the company of Aquilani’s feet, because they treat it so nicely. With class touch and gifted technique, Aquilani’s ball control is reminiscent of an artist painting with his legs. Because that’s essentially what he is, an artist, a beautiful genius who is capable of analyzing space and imagining passes ahead that no one would imagine were possible.
There’s plenty to like about Aquilani apart from his football too. For starters, I love his name. Aquilani. Derived from Aqua, water. And he’s got a first name to match it as well: Alberto. Beautiful, so Italian. His name is just as good on the eyes as it is on the ears. Just reminds me of water and the color blue, which are two things I love a lot. Another obvious trait is his likable face, a face of a guy one would love to hang around with. Next up would be his pretty Michela. A gal we’d surely all love to hang around with as well! But see, that’s the beauty of Aquilani, he reflects Italy in every way possible. The son of Rome, the capital of Italy, and hometown to many famous artists and architects. Il Principino, the little prince, resembles just that. He is like a painting by Da Vinci or a music piece by Mozart, enjoyable at all times. His football is so poetic that sometimes I think he belongs in a museum, to be admired in the way he was meant to be.
So often I found myself last season wondering if one day Aquilani would get to play for Milan. While watching a Juventus game, or reading new rumors linking Pirlo to Juventus, my mind would wander into a mini-daydream with Alberto donning a Rossonero jersey and composing a beautiful attack in Milan’s orchestra. It seemed too far of a dream, but sometimes I got myself too excited at the prospect of that happening. I once read a comment that Aquilani is the heir to Rui Costa. That’s brilliantly spot on. And that is why, deep down, I believed that one day Aquilani would in fact become a Milan player. That day had to arrive. Aquilani was simply born to play for Milan. I couldn’t think of a more perfect couple.
Despite that, I have no interest in the transfer market. Don’t get me wrong, discussing football is probably one of my favorite activities. I could spend days discussing tactics or different players, and recalling previous matches or random events from them is a hobby of mine. But I fail to see what’s exciting in the transfer market. Thanks to the internet and the increasing amount of rubbish rumors, as well as the emergence of games where “You could be the manager!”, we have a growing population of aspiring managers. On the computer. Notice I said managers, as apparently being a coach is no fun. It’s not enough to be responsible for the line-up, training, tactics, and team-talks. No transfer, no fun. I guess all coaches should head to England then. Oh well. It truly baffles me. Anyway, back to the original point. Links eventually emerged and faded during the summer, but I kept my hopes up of my dream coming true. Pirlo joining Juve and Aquilani joining Milan through Liverpool were two things I wished for and predicted as early as last February. That’s not to say there were no obstacles. The Hamsik and Montolivo deals had to fall through as well as Aquilani’s loan to Fiorentina to prompt Galliani to sign up my favorite Roman. I would be lying to say I didn’t secretly hope for the situation to pan out the way it did. During the final week of the market, when it became clear that Aquilani has become the club’s priority, I almost had a heart-attack. A weird combination of excitement, adrenaline, high pressure, disbelief, fear of the transfer collapsing, impatience for the official announcement, and sleepless nights awaiting Alberto to put on a Milan jersey were unforgettable moments for me personally. The moment the transfer became official presented me with such a great feeling. A feeling of fulfillment. To see him wear our beloved jersey finally and enter the pitch as a Milan player was also a new high, I just felt such awe and couldn’t take my eyes off that genius with the swift touch on the ball. We’ve already witnessed his first glorious assist, yet I don’t know how I will celebrate his first goal. Probably by a mix of Inzaghi’s most passionate celebration with Tardelli’s after scoring in the World Cup final in addition to Grosso’s vs Germany. Yes, I plan on waking up the whole neighborhood. Let’s hope that moment arrives soon enough as I frankly can’t wait.
In the end, Mr. X or no Mr. X, the most important thing is that Aquilani is here. There was not one player on earth that I’d have preferred to join Milan this summer more than Alberto, and for that I’m grateful. Though I might not forgive him for picking 18 as his shirt number when 14 was wide open. And it was a good luck charm for him in Juve and La Nazionale as well. But, what can one do? Celebrate I guess. I’ve been waiting and dreaming of this moment far too long to let a shirt number bother me too much. Aquilani is an AC Milan player? I guess life is just that good. Thanks to everyone who made it happen, and more importantly, Benvenuto Alberto.
A Journey Through Calciopoli Outside The Regular Walls
Calciopoli was an Italian football scandal that involved some of Italy’s elite football clubs. The scandal erupted when a few telephone interceptions showed a relationship between team managers and referees. The teams were accused of manipulating games by selecting favorable referees. As a result of these accusations trials took place and each of the teams involved were punished. Juventus were relegated to Serie B, were stripped of the 2005 and 2006 Serie A titles. They also had 9 points deducted. (they started in Serie B with a point tally of -9 and not 0). AC Milan had 8 points deducted from their 2006/2007 Serie A season. They also had 30 points deducted off their 2005/2006 Serie A campaign but still managed to make it to the Champions League. Fiorentina, another team that was punished, had 15 points deducted from their 2006/2007 Serie A campaign and were out of the Champions League. Lazio and Reggina had point deductions as well. As a result of the punishments, Internazionale Milan was awarded the 2005/2006 Italian Serie A trophy.
Perfect picture, eh? No. There’s much more about Calciopoli than the above would suggest. From illegal activities that lead to the discovery of some shady phone calls to the appointment of pro-Inter people in organizations related to Italian football, to the fact that Inter eventually turned out to be the only party that benefited from the scandal raises questions that SHOULD be highlighted and answer. We’ve decided to take the time and let you know what has been forgotten or what was meant to be buried with time.
Inter – Only Team To Benefit From Calciopoli
Anyone who watches series like C.S.I would know that the number one suspect of a certain crime would be the one with the biggest motive and evidence that connects him to the murder. Well, it’s sort of the same story. Who had the biggest motive to destroy Juventus and AC Milan? I’ll let you come with the answer yourself. Why would Inter want to destroy Juve and Milan? Well, the only way to make it back to domestic success would be with the top 2 teams out of sight. Before Calciopoli, Inter Milan hadn’t won the Scudetto since the 1988-1989 Serie A season. During that period, Juventus and Milan dominated Serie A. Both teams had won a combined 11 Serie A titles since Inter’s last. These facts clearly show that Inter were a relatively “weaker” team than AC Milan and Juventus in Serie A. That was of course before Calciopoli. Now if one takes a look at the titles won by Inter after Calciopoli, the record is crazy. Inter won 5 consecutive Serie A titles, with no real competition in 3 or 4 of them. Inter also went on to become a team that attracted a lot of great players like Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was vital for most of these 5 titles. Coincidence? Don’t think so, but that’s just a piece of the puzzle. Please, continue reading.
Telecom Italia – FIGC – Gazzetta Della Sport – Moratti
Putting the “Inter benefited the most” argument aside, one must take a look at the parties involved in the “development” of the Calciopoli case. How were they connected? Was Inter again involved in a rather sarcastic way? Sarcastic it is, as conflict of interest doesn’t come out of nowhere.
First Party: Gazzetta Della Sport
Gazzetta Della Sport is an Italian sports newspaper that is known by the name “ Gazztta Dell’ Inter” by rival fans. The newspaper is owned by Carlo Buaro, vice president of Inter and a self-proclaimed Interista. How is the newspaper related to Calciopoli? It all started when the newspaper itself performed an ILLEGAL ACTIVITY and published transcripts of Luciano Moggi’s telephone conversations. Those transcripts however didn’t make their way to any incriminating party involved. However, Gazzetta Della Sport’s involvement doesn’t stop there. The media frenzy that resulted from these transcripts forced FIGC (the Italian football federation) to open an investigation.
Second Party: FIGC
Before Calciopoli evolved, Adriano Galliani was the president of FIGC. Due to the scandal, Galliani was forced to resign from that job since AC Milan were one of the clubs accused of involvement in a certain type of cheating (“certain type” will be discussed further on in the research). His resigning from the presidency of the FIGC was no controversy but actually a step forward toward “a better trial”; or at least one would have hoped so. The person that was appointed to replace Galliani was Guido Rossi. He was a director at Internazionale Milan from 1995 to 1999. He is also a self-proclaimed Inter fan, a shareholder in the club, and a friend of Massimo Moratti. As part of his first assignment Rossi would be in charge of Calciopoli. Interesting, eh? Well, here’s another interesting thought: Guido Rossi handed the 2005/2006 Serie A title to Inter after Juventus were relegated. His relationship to the case doesn’t stop there. He later on resigned from his position as president of FIGC and became president of TIM (Telecom Italia).
Third Party : Telecom Italia (TIM)
Telecom Italia (TIM) was the company that recorded the conversations that lead to the scandal. That doesn’t mean that Inter were part of all this or even that Telecom Italia “purposely” involved themselves indirectly in the case. However, the following issue does raise some suspicions. On the board of TIM were both Massimo Moratti and Carlo Buora. The connections between the many parties involved in Italian football and Calciopoli don’t end there. Inter’s second largest shareholder after Moratti, Mario Provera, is the owner of Pirelli, which owned TIM at the time and is the official shirt sponsor of Inter Milan. So in a nutshell, all parties involved were connected in every possible way.
Calciopoli: The Trial
This “circus” doesn’t stop there. What was Milan and Juventus REALLY accused of? Well, in a nutshell, “having an exclusive relationship with the referee designators”. That relationship itself was seen to have given both teams an advantage. Milan were accused of having that relationship with referee designator Pairetto. Meanwhile, Juventus were accused of having that same relationship with another referee designator, Bergamo. The teams violated a rather minor infraction – unsportsmanlike conduct. One can say that both teams deserved to be punished. But what was the punishment for such violation? A fine. The punishment never exceeded that. How did it reach titles stripping and point deductions? Well, our friend Guido Rossi comes up again. He decided to make “contacting a referee designator” an infringement (wasn’t against any rules before that). He managed to group all the calls together and sprinkle a little magic, “enough” to accuse the clubs of “match-fixing” when there’s no evidence whatsoever of that. So basically he grouped a series of minor infractions to create a rather major one.
During trial, 171000 phone calls “magically” missed from the court documents and were not taken into consideration when Juventus, Milan and the rest of the teams were punished. The calls that were taken into consideration were the ones that seemed “perfect” enough to incriminate the clubs and parties punished. What about the rest of the phone calls? Couldn’t these phone calls have helped brighten Juve and Milan’s picture? Or even accuse a certain club of cheating? Say, Inter Milan? Some of the phone calls eventually came out and the Inter presidents were overheard speaking to referee designators.
Either Punish All, Or Punish No One
The facts stated show that Calciopoli may as well have been invented by Inter to incriminate other teams. If Juventus did wrong by having an exclusive relationship with the referees then why were all phone calls involving Inter ignored? Moggi himself said it: either all should be punished – or none. And since many were, then Inter should have as well. They should be punished upon the same standards that Juve were punished on.
“This will be an interesting adventure for him. He has the time to do things properly, I trust Leonardo and am happy he is with us.” With these words, Moratti finished introducing Leonardo to the media as his team’s new coach. As he proudly presented his man, the whole football world sat shocked at the identity of Inter’s most recent employee. Little did anyone know at the time how that move would pan out; however, there was only one thing guaranteed: this season’s Serie A was just about to get very interesting. Taking a trip down memory lane, one couldn’t help but wonder how times change.
One fine day, in the summer of 1997, Galliani flew to Paris. He had a simple mission: to come back with Leonardo. Fabio Capello had already identified his man, the task was given, Galliani had to obey. Leonardo hadn’t joined Milan at the best of times, as the club failed to reach objectives season after season, and a Scudetto medal is the only silverware he could boast with Milan. Yet what was built was much more important, a foundation of a relationship that would grow for years to come. An inseparable bond between Berlusconi’s club and Leonardo was being created, or at least it seemed so at the time.
With Berlusconi, Leonardo’s relationship always seemed difficult, he even said so himself, “I can’t deny our relationship is difficult. We are different, maybe incompatible.” Narcissist was a word Leonardo used to describe Berlusconi, while I couldn’t think of a better word to describe Leonardo himself. “A narcissist doesn’t like anything that isn’t a reflection of himself”, declared Leonardo after leaving, but couldn’t the same be said about the Brazilian? Berlusconi revealed that Leonardo had been too “tough-headed”. For a President that had bossed the likes of Sacchi, Capello, and Ancelotti to name a few, Silvio Berlusconi was no rookie in his business; however, Leonardo was. From the outside it seemed as if Leonardo couldn’t accept criticism from the boss, yet if he hopes to continue in this business, he needs to change his ways. Comparing his treatment with how Zamparini treated Delio Rossi or even how Moratti treated Benitez, it is easy to say Leonardo hadn’t seen the worst treatment from Milan’s owner. This week Ronaldo claimed that Leonardo is “class at human relationships” and that he “knows how to deal with people”, but sadly he failed to build the most important relationship in his career thus far.
Yet how far apart Milan and Leonardo have come was a surprise. Milan is a club famous for its family traditions, so no matter what Leonardo was still “one of them”, and removing him from the payroll wouldn’t change the personal relationship between the club and the ex-employee. That seemed to be the case with Leonardo as well. “I can’t coach another team in Italy, it would be too soon, I couldn’t do that to Milan”. Of course we all know how that turned out. Contrary to popular belief, Leonardo indeed could bite. This same man who studied philosophy and hails Ghandi’s peaceful ways, proved that there is more to his personality than just being “class at human relationships”. Generally viewed as a “good guy” due to his class looks and easy going attitude, Leonardo definitely proved that he could ruffle a few feathers.
Following the “divorce”, opinions differed on whether Leonardo had been treated fairly or not. As a coach, some argued that he had shown enough in his first season to deserve the opportunity to continue his adventure, but mostly it was people’s emotions that preferred him. Leonardo seemed too nice of a person to be treated in that manner by Berlusconi, believed the majority. However, it didn’t take long for Leonardo to prove them all wrong. “I want to change skin, to see things as a non-Milanista”, revealed the man last September. Well, at least for once he stayed true to his word. Remember, this is the same man who said he couldn’t coach another team in Italy, only to jump at the chance to coach Milan’s fiercest rivals almost 7 months into unemployment. “I didn’t know what it meant to be a coach, it’s been an extraordinary experience but I don’t know if I will do it again in the future, definitely not for the next few years”. With these words Leonardo ended his stint on Milan’s bench, openly admitting that coaching wasn’t in his short-term plans. Only to join the Nerazzuri shortly after, forgetting all his past promises and declarations.
By joining Inter, Leonardo had signaled the end to a 13-year relationship with Milan. “I wasn’t looking for work, I was looking for a dream and this is the biggest challenge there is”, cried the man who received a more affectionate send off than Paolo Maldini himself. “I thank Milan for 13 years together and I will never forget them but now I start a new adventure. I am a free man”. Clearly Milan were tying down his freedom. After all, that is a club that offered him the chance to finish his career on a high by re-signing him in 2003, as well as giving him work by getting him on the payroll as a director and scout, among other things. As a thank you, Leonardo fought with Berlusconi, left the club, then insulted Berlusconi some more, got rid of his “rossonero skin” as he called it, and then answered Moratti’s call. Not bad for someone who didn’t want to be viewed as a “good guy”, in his own words not mine. Despite Galliani’s desperate attempts, “If he joins Inter one day, I will never forgive him!” quipped Galliani at the time where the rumors had reached the top, “Of course I am joking about not forgiving him. However, I would feel upset to see a former AC Milan player and coach like Leonardo working for our city rivals”. It didn’t matter to Leonardo anyway. “Galliani would respect my decision”, declared the Brazilian, forgetting that Galliani may be the single most important man in Leonardo’s career. He was the man responsible for kick-starting his coaching career, in Galliani’s words “In 2009 I spent three months convincing Leonardo he was able to be a coach and I was right. We hear from each other sometimes and I think his role is as a coach, I knew this before he did as he used to say he wanted to be a director”. The two hit off an amazing relationship that saw Galliani help Leonardo with post career depression. After all what Galliani did for Leonardo, and after Milan’s vice-president last minute attempts to stop the move, Leonardo didn’t bother and now speaks of Galliani as a rival. It would be naive to believe that Leonardo would put Galliani’s feelings before his, don’t forget Leonardo moved on easily from a 13-year relationship with Milan. Obviously it’s much easier to get over one person than to get over a whole entity. So much for being “class at human relationships”.
As if he couldn’t wait to make more enemies. Soon enough after joining Inter and committing the ultimate sin, Leonardo started creating the “anti-Milan”. Perhaps feeling lonely on the other side of Milano, Leonardo tried to convince old pals Maldini and Kaka to jump ship too! Of course it seemed unlikely that either of these two gentlemen would have the indecency to commit the same horror decision, but he tried anyway. Leonardo seemed insecure, desperate some might say for proving Berlusconi and Milan wrong. Perhaps that’s why he seemed like such a perfect match with Moratti, as both men had one target, and one target only: to get back at Milan. Leonardo for the obvious reasons, and Moratti for perhaps watching how once again an ex-Interista favorite of him was enjoying success with the cross-town rivals. Now with both clubs finding themselves in the middle of a tug-of-war for the Brazilian Ganso, Leonardo knows he has a high-profile role to play, and he is doing the best he could. Reportedly the Inter coach speaks on the phone daily with the young Brazilian starlet, such is his eagerness to get one over Milan. Lauded in the past for helping Milan sign world class Brazilians Kaka, Pato and Thiago Silva, Leonardo is now doing his deeds on the “blue” side of the city. For him, the Milan chapter is over, and he is doing the best he could to become “one of the rest” at Inter.
Till this day, Leonardo is still part of the “Hall of Fame” on Milan’s website. Still considered one of the club’s legends, he was recently invited to Berlusconi’s 25 year party. Needless to say he didn’t show up. The difference in class is obvious. Milan didn’t take the matters personal, yet Leonardo did. For Milan, Leonardo’s time with the Rossoneri will forever remain a beautiful part in the club’s rich history. However, for Leonardo, Milan was just another step in his career. The Brazilian was quick to cash in and forget the memories. Him and Inter seem to be a perfect match, indeed worthy of each other.