Scandals, austerity overshadow Serie A kick off
ROME - Agence France-Presse
In this photo takenon Aug 16, Juventus coach Antonio Conte watches a football match between team A and team B Juventus players in Villar Perosa, northern Italy.AP photoDespite the national team’s stellar performance at Euro 2012, a cloud hangs over Italy’s domestic game as the 2012-13 Serie A season gets underway this weekend.
Italy’s run to the European Championship final, even if it did end in a 4-0 defeat to Spain, should have galvanized the game on the peninsula.
But, while pride in the Azzurri has been restored, Serie A is not the force it once was. These days, Italy’s leading clubs struggle to compete financially with their continental rivals, notably Paris Saint-Germain, which has plundered the likes of Milan duo Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, Napoli’s Ezequiel Lavezzi and the man seen by many as the next Andrea Pirlo, Pescara’s Marco Verratti, this summer.
Then there is the latest match-fixing scandal to hit the Italian game.
As part of the “Last Bet” or ‘calcioscommesse’ affair, Atalanta and Siena will both start the season with points deductions, as will promoted duo Sampdoria and Torino.
Of the many individuals punished for their involvement in the scandal, the most notable is Juventus coach Antonio Conte.
The man who led Juve to last season’s title without losing a game has been banned for 10 months for failing to disclose knowledge of two fixed matches while at Siena during the 2010-11 season.
Conte can continue to take training and work with the team during the week, but will not be involved on match days.
Instead, assistant Massimo Carrera will fill in, starting with Saturday’s home game against Parma.
The Bianconeri remain the team to beat, especially with last season’s runners-up Milan having lost Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva, as well as Inter-bound Antonio Cassano.
Fans of the Rossoneri have been left looking to the future with a sense of trepidation.
“Juve are clear favorites to defend their title,” admits Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri.
“We have a good squad with young players who were here last year and now have a bit more experience and some new faces too, so we should be able to compete for a place in the top three.”