While controversy reigned in Turin, Mauro Icardi caught the eye at Sampdoria. Giancarlo Rinaldi wraps up a memorable Week 22.
This could have been another blog about the moaning and groaning of Antonio Conte. His post-match whines when his team failed to beat Genoa on Saturday hogged the headlines for much of the weekend. But let’s give top-billing to the magnificent Mauro Icardi instead.
This is an emotional time for Sampdoria. They lost President Riccardo Garrone this week to a long illness and wanted to put together a fitting football tribute when Pescara came to the Stadio Luigi Ferraris. They did so in style and Icardi was the torturer-in-chief.
It was a performance full of teenage verve and vigour. He led his opponents a merry dance and by the time the final whistle blew, he had amassed four goals out of a phenomenal 6-0 triumph. It helped put a smile back on the faces of Doria fans at the end of a poignant few days.
There was also reason for Italy boss Cesare Prandelli to be happy with the outcome. Rosario-born Icardi had always indicated that he would favour the land of his birth over that of his ancestors when it came to international duty. However, his post-match comments hinted he might yet have a future with the Azzurri rather than the Albiceleste.
“I’ve always said that I feel Argentinian but if Italy called me up that would be a positive thing,” he said. “If that should happen, we shall see, I will choose whatever is best for me.”
And now, with a heavy heart, to matters in Turin. First we had Conte claiming his team deserved not one, not two, but three penalties after failing to beat Genoa and crying Vergogna - disgrace. Then director Beppe Marotta weighed in to suggest that the referee was in difficulty because he hailed from near Naples - home to the Bianconeri’s most serious title rivals. The once famous Juventus style had clearly left the building.
It’s not the individual incidents but the subtext of the claims which is starting to become more tedious than those pounding club anthems they insist on playing at your local gym. Week in, week out, we are asked to believe in some kind of post-Calciopoli agenda to keep punishing La Vecchia Signora. It plays well with their own support but, to anyone with a memory longer than their last tweet, it is all a bit tiresome.
Conte could look closer to home than the referee for his team’s failings of late. They were slow to get into gear on Saturday after would-be challengers Lazio had already slipped up against Chievo. Their attack, too, looks desperately low on goal threat despite seeing enormous amounts of the ball. And, for all their complaints, nobody in Serie A has had more penalty kicks awarded to them this season than the Bianconeri.
But it is easier to come out all-guns-blazing and blame your failure to take three points on the match officials. The hope, of course, is that it gets you a key decision or two in your favour in the weeks to come. How distant seem the philosophical days of Samp guru Vujadin Boskov with his broken-Italian wisdom: “A penalty it is, if the referee whistles”.
The sad thing is that, behind these recurring storms of protest, there is actually a great season being played out. Napoli roared back to within three points of La Vecchia Signora by achieving what nobody else has managed so far in Serie A this season – winning against Parma at the Stadio Ennio Tardini. But, who knows, perhaps the ball boys were all from Frattamaggiore?
Besides the Partenopei, it was also a good weekend for Milan who clawed their way back into the European places. Those who watched them in the opening weeks of the season will think this is a recovery worthy of Lazarus. They underlined on their away trip to Atalanta that they have learned to grind out victories and that, while others around them have slipped up, has allowed them to progress. What if Max Allegri is not the incompetent some seemed to believe a few months ago?
The Rossoneri overtook a Fiorentina side once again cursing its luck after losing from a winning position at Catania. Enjoying good possession and spurning a string of chances has become a recurring theme for the Viola of late. With three League defeats and Coppa Italia elimination, 2013 is proving to be their unlucky number. Their Sicilian conquerors, meanwhile, have the scent of Europe in their nostrils.
If continental football arrives for Roma, it looks like it might be more likely to come through the Coppa Italia after another madcap match with Bologna. A goal glut seems to accompany the admission charge whenever the Giallorossi are in action. Their attack is thrilling but, at the Stadio Dall’Ara, their defence had a gap the size of the A1 autostrada right up its middle.
There was plenty of excitement, too, in Sunday’s night fixture between Inter and Torino at the Stadio Meazza. The Granata are a much-improved side while the Nerazzurri remain an intriguing work in progress. They dished up a 2-2 draw which was full of surprises - none more so than Riccardo Meggiorini bagging a double against the club where he started his career.
If only games like that and performances like Icardi’s could be the talking points from now until the end of the season. Instead of whinging about the decisions not given by a referee, we could actually focus on what Serie A teams had gone out and achieved. But, then, that probably would not be Italian football, would it?