Beyond the nation’s borders, Italian football has certainly faded into the background in recent years. A devastating match-fixing scandal in 2006 bitterly overshadowed the country’s World Cup triumph that year while the domestic league has clearly become a one-horse race ever since. Reigning champions Inter Milan have shown no signs of a slip up in the Serie A for the last three seasons and that trend continued with their strong start to the current season as well.
In the past fortnight, however, a dramatic series of events has led to a rise in the stock of Italian football. A competitive Sampdoria side has leapfrogged several of the league’s giants to tie with the Nerazzuri at the top of the table. Meanwhile, Inter’s city rivals AC Milan have taken a steep fall from grace in a new era without the likes of legendary skipper Paolo Maldini, star playmaker Kaka, and beloved manager Carlo Ancelotti.
The Rossoneri currently lie in the second half of the table following the most dismal league start in their history. Brazilian boss Leonardo is resting his hopes firmly on the shoulders of compatriot Ronaldinho, who has received a boost of confidence in the form of the prestigious golden foot award (reserved for players at, or past, the age of 29 for excellence in contributing to the game). Considering Ronaldinho’s inconsistency of late, however, his triumph has been called into question by the Italian media.
Although Ronaldinho’s achievement certainly attracted quite a bit of attention, it was Juventus defender Fabio Cannavaro who stole the headlines after being dragged into perhaps the most sensational controversy of the week. The former Real Madrid star, who will captain the Azzuri in the defense of their World Cup title next summer, was accused of doping under unfortunate circumstances. Since he was only using prescribed medication for a possibly fatal bee sting, he shouldn’t have been handed such an untimely drug test.
At least Fabio was cleared of the frustrating accusations on Monday morning, which will give him another reason to rejoice following his Italian side’s thrilling last-minute success in securing its ticket to next summer’s World Cup in South Africa. Unsurprisingly, Italy’s much-needed equalizer against a victory-seeking Ireland came through the heroics of Fiorentina striker Alberto Gilardino, who is enjoying perhaps the best phase in his professional career.
All of a sudden, the boring brand of Italian football has revived to become one that screams the word ‘drama’. Surely, the last few weeks have been quite exciting for the nation. However, the question is, can the Italians keep it up?
Will Internazionale continue to receive competition in the absence of Zlatan Ibrahimovic? Will AC Milan continue it shocking struggle starting at home to Francesco Totti’s confident Roma side this weekend? Will there be more thrills for the Azzuri en route to South Africa 2010? Let’s keep our fingers crossed as we witness everything unfold in the coming months.
Is Italian football on the rebound or is it still a bore? Have your say below!