BLOG ITALIA
Thursday December 31 2020
The good, the bad and a wish for 2021

Giancarlo Rinaldi revisits the good and bad things we witnessed in Italian football in 2020 and reveals his hopes for the New Year.

Hopefully we will never have another year like 2020. It has thrown all kinds of adversity at us over its eventful 12 months and yet - somehow or another - even in the midst of a global pandemic the football show went on in a series of odd instalments.

It is not easy to draw any conclusions over such a disjointed time for Calcio but here we go anyway with a slapdash summary of the good and bad things we witnessed in Italian football.

THE BEST

Milan's revival -Hands up who thought Stefano Pioli was the man to turn around the good ship Rossoneri? If you did, you certainly kept a low profile on his appointment to the job which was greeted with an underwhelming whimper in most quarters. And yet, slowly but surely, he has helped to rebuild a giant in danger of crumbling into the city's canal network. Sure, the hiring of Zlatan Ibrahimovic has helped, as any of his predecessors would probably point out. Nonetheless, he has done the simple things well, given Milan an identity and produced the best form of any Serie A side in the calendar year. Will it last? Who knows? But it has already endured much longer than many sceptics predicted and the club deserves credit for that.

Ronaldo and Immobile's goals -If one thing has remained constant in these unusual times it has been Cristiano and Ciro's ability to find the back of the net. It is no surprise, really, as they have been doing it for some time now. but their strike rate has been up at levels we used to think were consigned to the history books. The Juve man is globally revered for his abilities and has looked a class above most defenders he has had to deal with domestically. His Lazio counterpart seems to struggle more for recognition - but just keeps answering his critics with goal after goal after goal.

Atalanta in Europe - It might easily have been Inter getting this accolade after reaching a continental final, but they blew their reputation big style with an early - and avoidable - Champions League exit. Instead, it is the little boys from Bergamo who deserve the plaudits for making their mark with a brand of football that has earned them recognition outside of Italy. Yes, there have been significant setbacks, but that has not changed their philosophy one jot. They just get back up and go for it again and no wonder they are often a highlight of any European goals show. They will be looking to upset more big reputations next year.

 

THE WORST

Football without fans -If we had known what was around the corner, we would surely have savoured those last games more. The thought of rubbing shoulders with thousands of others at a big match now seems a distant memory. It was a huge delight to see football come back in any form, but its silent version is a pale imitation of the one with a backing track of a roaring crowd. Any early thoughts that hearing the coaches' cries or the players' chat would make up for that atmosphere have quickly evaporated. They have tried their best with background noise, graphics and any number of other inventions but it is simply not the same experience for anyone involved.

Soft penalties -Anybody who believed VAR would cure Italy of its love of a spot kick was sorely mistaken. Instead, if anything, we have seen them multiply as replays from multiple angles provide even more opportunity to intervene. Not every contact is a foul but in Serie A it would seem that this has not been fully appreciated. Simulators everywhere have almost been given an added incentive to practice their art while battering the ball against an opponent's arm has become a skill in itself. There have been signs, towards the end of the year, that it might be calming down, but it was a constant, and tiresome, theme for much of 2020. And I say that regardless of the side on the receiving end.

Heroes gone -If we thought the year could not get any worse it delivered a double hammer blow to Calcio in its final months. First we lost Diego Maradona, then Paolo Rossi - two very different legends of the game. The little Argentinian will be forever revered in Naples for delivering two Scudetti and wrestling power away from the northern giants. He was, quite simply, the best footballer many of us have ever seen with a colorful tale to tell away from the pitch too. Pablito was a quieter kind of guy but his explosive impact in the summer of 1982 will never be forgotten by millions of Italians. Out of nowhere, he ignited and delivered a World Cup the nation had been waiting on for more than 40 years. May they both rest in peace.

 

A WISH FOR 2021

We never fully appreciated, perhaps, just how nice boring and normal could be. If next year gives us anything, it would be nice if it was a return to that. If supporters could get back through the gates of grounds to cheer, jeer, whistle and applaud that would be the greatest gift imaginable. It is all very well to watch multi-millionaires strut their stuff in silent theatres via satellite but quite another experience to witness the action live - at any level. A slow return for fans in the months to come would be wonderful and a signal of hope in the springtime. Then - why not? - we could all dream of being in the crowd to watch Roberto Mancini's Italy lift the European Nations trophy next summer.

@ginkers

Have your say...
I have to disagree with the comments so far about VAR. If being kept away by the pandemic has made us appreciate the experience of being there in the stadia then VAR (aside from all the other problems with it) has made me appreciate the pure joy of immediately celebrating a goal in the past, rather than the dissipated excitement of waiting for the inevitable VAR check before belatedly celebrating.
on the 2nd January, 2021 at 3:41pm
I totally agree with Caramoyya, VAR should not be used for millametre offsides, give the forward the advantage, no penalty unless it was deliberate etc. VAR should be used for kung fu kicks, deliberate fouls, last man etc. that have gone unpunished in the past. In the year when we lost the GOAT whose career was basically finished by being constantly kicked at the age of 30, is it too much to ask? I would rather have it than not, and give the coaches 3 calls per game
on the 2nd January, 2021 at 8:18am
As a LAZIO FAN i pray all clubs can rebuild new stadiums ASAP as old one are rubbish. Hope they can rebuild like Premier league
on the 1st January, 2021 at 11:42pm
i think VAR is great and was needed... if only we had in past world cups and for all the bad calls / no calls in major games in UCL and league. it just needs to be mastered by refs and officials. and YES too many soft pks !

really sucks theres no (real) fans to add to the atmosphere, and witness the greatness of top players and teams and especially the newly promoted teams.

hopefully euro 2020/1 is great and azzurri go far, as i think they would have all this crazy didnt happen.
on the 1st January, 2021 at 12:09am
The biggest wish for 2021:
The politicians let the clubs build new stadiums - not just renovate.
My wish:
Inter 61.000
Milan 61.000
Roma 52.000
Lazio 45.000
Napoli 45.000 or at least take away the upper 8 seats in the second tier and replace them with 10 lower seats in the lower tier to make the distance between the seats and field closer. Then lower the field 2-3 meters and build a new roof.
Fiorentina 41.000
Bologna 31.000
Parma 28.000
The rest 20.000-30.000
on the 31st December, 2020 at 4:26pm
I have tickets for Italy’s games in Rome vs Turkey, Switzerland and Wales. I hope this Covid stuff is dealt with by then - but I don’t think it will be. It’s only six months away and things just seem to be getting worse. On the positive side, I’m an EU citizen now so I don’t have to worry about Brexit stuff and restrictions on my movement.
on the 31st December, 2020 at 3:26pm
Amen.
on the 31st December, 2020 at 12:34pm

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