Only four teams have something left to play for in Serie A after the events of Week 37, as Giancarlo Rinaldi explains.
Maybe there was a full moon over the San Siro on Sunday night. Some kind of collective madness seemed to sweep across both Milan and Roma and their respective supporters. On a weekend which had been full of mellow and melancholy farewells, they gave it a frenetic and frustrating finale.
Whatever the reason, the bozos were out in force inside the stadium. Giallorossi supporters were warned for racist jeers towards Mario Balotelli which later saw the match suspended. Then the home fans got in on the act by flashing a laser pen in the eyes of Bodgan Lobont. Clearly bringing at least half a brain is not yet an entrance requirement at Serie A matches.
Not that events out on the pitch were much better. Sulley Muntari was sent off after saying something to the referee and then going through a ludicrous attempt to physically stop Gianluca Rocchi from showing him the red card. It did him no good, of course, and only ended up looking like an unintentional and slightly awkward episode of Strictly Come Dancing.
Later it was Francesco Totti’s turn to rise to the bait. Hounded by former teammate Philippe Mexes, he swung an elbow in the Milan man’s direction. The dramatic closing stages were played out 10 against 10 but nobody could break the deadlock in a result which satisfied neither side. It meant Roma’s only hope of Europe is to win the Coppa Italia, while the Rossoneri have to wait another week to crack open the Champions League champagne.
Their fate is still in their own hands, as veteran Massimo Ambrosini pointed out. A win at Siena for Max Allegri’s side would guarantee a third place finish no matter what fourth-placed Fiorentina do at Pescara. But, like a plate of pasta with a drizzle of truffle oil on top, the final week’s fixtures are now a little more tasty.
The other verdict which is still open is that of who finishes fifth and gains Europa League access via their Serie A finish. It is advantage Udinese in that regard with a two-point edge over Lazio. The Biancocelesti, of course, could also qualify via the Coppa Italia if they lift the trophy ahead of their city cousins.
There is no uncertainty left, however, at the bottom of the table. Palermo and Siena - defeated by Fiorentina and Napoli respectively - had their relegation confirmed while Genoa and Torino celebrated survival with draws against Inter and Chievo. In truth, that was all about as predictable as an investigation into whether a hair gel order at Milanello was destined for Stephan El Shaarawy or Adriano Galliani.
Everywhere else you looked there were goodbyes being said or doubts about the future. Even as the title party was in full flight at the Juventus Stadium, there seemed to be uncertainty about where Antonio Conte might find himself howling at a set of players next season. The Bianconero boss seems to be using his recent triumphs as a bargaining chip to seek a stronger squad. Without that guarantee in place, he was decidedly non-committal in his post-match comments following the draw with Cagliari. But, if I was a betting man, I would have a small wager that he will still be walking hand in hand with La Vecchia Signora when August rolls around.
It was a similar story in Naples after a tremendous second-placed season. With Edinson Cavani and Marek Hamsik sealing a comeback win against already-relegated Siena it should have been a celebration. However, there was a distinct feeling that Walter Mazzarri could soon be taking a leaf out of President Aurelio De Laurentiis’ book and be speeding off into the sunset on the back of a Vespa.
In Milan too, the coaching coats appear to be on the most shoogly of pegs. In the red and black corner, Allegri seems to be the most Marmite of managers in the Division. You either take the view that he achieved a miracle with his current squad to reach the top three or that he was dug out of a hole of his own making thanks to a combination of El Shaarawy, Mario Balotelli and a few fortuitous refereeing decisions. The only view that matters, of course, is not yours or mine but that of Silvio Berlusconi.
The story is slightly different on the black and blue side of the city. After promising plenty, Andrea Stramaccioni has failed to deliver even the Europa League. But, where the fates have smiled on the Rossoneri, they have positively pummeled the Nerazzurri in terms of injuries and officiating. How much should their young Coach carry the can? That really depends on your point of view.
Another possible goodbye to his home fans was that of Fiorentina’s Luca Toni. With his 36th birthday approaching, he held a Press conference during week to thank the club for this season but add that he will only play where he feels “wanted” next year. If that happens to be elsewhere, he said farewell in the finest style with his eighth goal of the season in the victory over Palermo which consigned his old team to Serie B and ensured his current side the Europa League – at the very least.
One player definitely on his way out is Lazio’s Cristian Brocchi. Injuries have forced the battling midfielder to hang up his boots on a career which included Milan, Inter, Verona and Fiorentina as well as the Biancocelesti. “I was never the star of the teams I played in,” he said. “But I always gave my all to help my teammates achieve results.” Few could argue that was the case for one of the most whole-hearted footballers of recent years. He hinted he would like to go into coaching now that his days on the pitch are over. And, with the turnover rate in Serie A, there are bound to be opportunities for him sooner or later.