After a summer when so many fine footballers dashed for the emergency exits it has been easy to feel sorry for Serie A. The profile of Italian sides in Europe currently sits a little lower than Sebastian Giovinco’s centre of gravity. And yet the weekend brought a sprinkle of stardust in the shadow of the Fiesole hills. Might Stevan Jovetic be one of the last top players still plying his trade in Italy?
He gave a virtuoso performance against a stuffy Catania side. There were flicks, chips, a goal and an assist as he powered his way to the top of the scoring charts. It looks like one of the best signings of the summer was when Andrea Della Valle convinced the Montenegrin to stay put and resist whatever overtures came his way.
His goal to break the deadlock at the Artemio Franchi was a piece of pinpoint accuracy in a game that threatened to drift into stalemate. That is what a fuoriclasse can give to a team. Suddenly, everything looked a whole lot easier for this completely revamped Viola side.
His assist to put the Florentines out of sight was the stuff that dreams are made of. Luca Toni, back after five years away, dedicated his simple tap-in goal to a son stillborn just a few months ago. There was scarcely a dry eye in the stadium.
Other teams, of course, can rightly argue that they have stars just as watchable as Jovetic. High-flying Lazio have their Brazilian ace Hernanes to thank for their wonderful start to the campaign after such an apparently pitiful pre-season. He was in fine form once again as Chievo were dumped with ease at Sunday lunchtime. The last time the Biancocelesti won their first three Serie A matches was when they were reigning champions of Italy in 1974.
And in Naples, too, they go understandably crazy for Edinson Cavani and new flame Lorenzo Insigne. Both of them were on the mark as Parma were being swept aside. What better way for Walter Mazzarri to celebrate his 300th match in charge in Italy’s top Division? And, although he would never admit it, it was another step closer to a first credible Scudetto challenge in a couple of decades.
Just like Fiorentina, Juventus also had to look to Montenegro – England be warned – for their weekend saviour. Having slipped behind to their old boy Ciro Immobile, they steamrollered back against Genoa thanks to Mirko Vucinic. He set up a couple of goals and scored a penalty to ensure the Bianconeri continued to share the pacemaking duties at the top of the table. Maybe only Champions League duty can slow their stride.
And a couple of their crown jewels got Inter through a potentially tricky trip to face a gritty Torino side. Diego Milito produced a lovely finish to put the Nerazzurri in the driving seat. Then they withstood some impressive Granata pressure before Antonio Cassano delivered the coup de grace. It might not have been an overwhelming display by the Milanese side, but they were pretty clinical in their finishing when chances fell to their key players.
In fact, everywhere you looked there were some star men still strutting their stuff. Maxi Lopez helping high-flying Sampdoria to a win which would have put them joint-top of the table without a point penalty, Alberto Gilardino back among the goals to snatch a shock win for Bologna and Toto Di Natale striking yet again but having to settle for a draw away to Siena. Maybe, when you scratch the surface, there are still a few players who can make you sit up and take notice.
But the deepest despair in Italy at the moment is probably at the side which sold the biggest stars in the summer. Adriano Galliani has been trying to put a brave face on it but, so far, things have turned out to be even worse than many followers of the Milan feared. A home defeat by Atalanta was another miserable night for Max Allegri’s men as they had plenty of pressure, but precious few ideas. The Ibra and Thiago Silva nostalgia just grows and grows. This week’s Champions League clash with Anderlecht already has a make-or-break look about it.
Meanwhile, the least-surprising news of the weekend was the departure of Giuseppe Sannino from the Palermo hotseat. Clearly desperate not to see anyone steal his thunder, Maurizio Zamparini got his first Coach-sacking of the season done with just three matches gone. No doubt there will be more to follow as the year progresses. At least that is clearly still one area in which Italian football remains among the world-leaders.