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ITALIAN MYTHOLOGY By Alan Walsh

There is a mythology about Italian football. It extends back into the eighties and remains as the corrupting influence that has today robbed the league of its luster, it's competitive edge and financial security. It's a mythology cast and fortified by spectacular recent history, and it's illustrated by the key factors surrounding the very latest scudetto outcome. This mythology is the culture of the super-squad.

It's a notion which most easily finds its roots in the AC Milan team just after the Berlusconi takeover, when the stars started arriving. A revelation in terms both of tactics and trophies, the primary legacy of that team unfortunately now seems not the ball winning grindstone determination that steamrollered it's way to multiple European and World titles, but the romanticism of dragging together a who's who list of global champions and allowing them play. The myth is that Desailly, Gullit, Papin, Savicevic, Boban, Rijkard and Van Basten turned up and wowed global football as a fresh unstoppable force. The reality is that under the taught tutelage of Arrigo Sacchi and, afterwards, Fabio Capello, based on the marginot line tactics of Baresi, Tassotti, Maldini, Sebastiano Rossi, Costacurta and Albertini, the team simply made a daunting immovable object. It was the simple formula of taking the first and best weapon of Italian football, a dominant, charged defence, bulldozer 4-4-2, and adding the most gifted available attackers. It's a similar system which also launched the next great European side, Juventus, to the same heights. On the dependable foundation of Ferrara, Peruzzi, Conte, Tacchinardi, Pessotto, Padovano, Birindelli, and Lombardo, came Deschamps, Paulo Sousa and Zidane. This is not an exclusively Italian/foreigner point, it's about tradition, foundation and reliability. Somewhere after Juve's last failure in a Champions league final, however, something seemed to come unstuck in Serie A. Perhaps because of the global football boom, because of flotations, because of canal plus, teams became romantic about AC Milan's legacy, about Juve's successes, and reached for their cheque-books.

The turnstile player policy which ensued could only ever result in abandonment of tradition. A Milan without its tight Italian line, with only the flair. The true advantage Italian soccer had was lost. The foundation has been shed. The faux advantage, the cash surge, has quickly been caught by foreign TV deals in England and Spain, and the shrewd foreign purchasing of gifted players forsaken after a year by Italian giants has drained off many of the worlds best midfielders and attackers. Italian teams no longer make Champions League quarter Finals.

There is, thankfully an upside to this. The outcome of this years scudetto, though tight, is another alarm call for the Moratti's and the Cragnotti's. Juventus sold the best player in the world, consolidated a long held Italian-style foundation of Pesotto, Ferrara, Iuliano, Tacchinardi, Zambrotta, Conte and even Del Piero with an Italian keeper, Buffon, and a handful of other seasoned stars. Playing simple 4-4-2, Marcello Lippi reaffirmed the basic stability and discipline that has kept the old lady from ever slipping below third in recent times and enforced the determination to overcome what so often seemed an impossible position. While Roma played wingbacks and three man attacks and Inter rotated the squad beyond all recognition week to week, Juve stuck to 4-4-2 and, bar injuries and suspensions, the same cast. Their victory, though it stings like battery acid for the lifelong Inter fan writing this, is a reaffirmation of what brought Serie A to the peak of world calcio. Recognition of the value of foundation and continuity. An abandonment of the Milan myth and a grasping of its reality.

It is, in fact, the same factor that bodes well for the Italian squad this summer. Despite lacking a Zidane or a Beckham the squad reached the finals under a traditionalist, Trappatoni, playing 4-4-2. Working cautiously forward from a rock defence, a stable, balanced midfield without any single creative focal point to a simple two man forward line. It will be the most difficult team to score against in Japan and has at least two players likely to finish top scorer.

In the meantime a round up of this years other league winners throws up, among others, Dortmund, Arsenal, Valencia and Ajax. Teams with stable and long established cores added to scrupulously. The teams that drenched their squads with stellar talent, Real Madrid and Manchester Utd for example, finished third or lower. The first thing Inter vowed to do after the Lazio defeat was fill their squad with experienced champions for next year. Roma are being linked with every striker in the world and Lazio are busy making wish lists of players well beyond their means. The only lesson possibly learned this season is of the value of stability and it seems it still may have to be learned in many quarters. Perhaps the culture of the philanthropist owner, so lacking abroad, has turned out to be detrimental after all and that the myth of AC Milan covers also the schoolboy aspirations of unfettered millionaire investors.



Italian-soccer.com
 

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very good article there...

being hinest when i first saw the thread name i said hmm...is this going to be about the old score a goal and defend the 1-0 scoreline situation???

obviously not!
 
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