In Italy, football has always been closely intertwined with politics. Bread and circuses, how do you charm the people again? And for the modern emperors, the Berlusconis and Agnellis, the Morattis and Sensis, no price was ever too high, no financial trick too cheap. The clogs of the presidents and patrons were part of it, it should serve as a guarantee for the supporters that the gentlemen up there can make all their dreams come true.
If, before the new season of Serie A, it is primarily the savers who are celebrated, the sensible accountants at the top of the highly indebted clubs, then one almost has to speak of a paradigm shift. Revolution? From above! The magic word of the summer Mercato is “Parametro zero”, which is the Italian term for “free transfer”. You’ve never been more frugal. There is probably no other way.
The four best-placed clubs last season – i.e. champions AC Milan, Inter Milan, Juventus Turin and SSC Napoli – have reduced their salary volume by a total of 71 million euros. Aurelio De Laurentiis, the patron saint of Naples and a Roman film producer, was particularly radical. He simply cut wage expenses of 30 million euros. That dramatically thinned out the ranks of big earners and exceptional talent, probably at the expense of their sporting ambitions. Lorenzo Insigne, a child of the city, Dries Mertens, something like Naples’ adopted son, and Kalidou Koulibaly, the previous defense chief – all gone.
And so Napoli, one of the “seven sisters” of Serie A, as they call the true and supposed grandees of the championship in Italy, is suddenly not counted among the title contenders. Neither do Lazio and AC Fiorentina. That doesn’t have to mean anything, of course, but the famous analysts of the newspapers agree and believe only four clubs can win the championship: Milan, Inter, Juve and, quite surprisingly, coach José Mourinho’s over-euphoric Associazione Sportiva Roma.
“Ibra” gives the boys’ tutor, his sons will also play for Milan
Favorite among favorites? Maybe Milan, the wonder champions from last season when anything was possible. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, soon to be 41, has extended the contract for another year – for one million euros, which should be a kind of minimum wage in its categories, a generous gesture. His sons, that’s also in the contract, will play for Milan. “Ibra” is needed above all to look after the young team, he should inject a little of his winning spirit into them. Milan have brought in 21-year-old Charles De Ketelaere from Bruges, a huge talent, he reminds them of the Brazilian Kaká, glory of the noughties, and this sweet indulgence in old times was then cost something – reportedly 34 million euros. Milan has new owners, Red Bird, a US fund. But the philosophy remains the same: lots of youth and a few veterans as mentors.
Inter landed a coup, at least from Inter’s point of view. After just one year, the club brought Romelu Lukaku back and transferred only eight million euros to Chelsea FC for the loan. You have to know that Inter sold the center forward to London in the summer of 2021 for 115 million. In Italy it is said that Chelsea’s former owner Roman Abramovich would never have agreed to such a lousy deal no matter how small the role of ‘Big Rom’ in the plans at Stamford Bridge.
Inter is now longing for the times when Lukaku, together with Argentinian Lautaro Martínez, shot the club to the championship. The duo are back together, so it’s a revival of “Lu-La”. It can work, but sometimes nostalgia goes horribly wrong. Inter, meanwhile, are losing their best from last season: Ivan Perisic, man of a thousand wing runs, has gone to London, to Tottenham. Robin Gosens replaces him, at least that’s the hope. The German national player still doesn’t seem to have really arrived in Milan after moving from nearby Bergamo.
Dybala and Wijnaldum were flown in by private jet. The President was at the wheel
Juventus needs the title more urgently than all of the competition. Two years without a Scudetto after winning the championship nine times in a row? This already feels like an era of tribulation. In Turin they remembered old times and brought back the French midfielder Paul Pogba, whom they call “Polpo”, “octopus”. He played for Manchester United for six years but is still only 29. Pogba has a problem with one knee, but he doesn’t want to have an operation because he might miss the World Cup in Qatar. On the other hand, is it wise to wait? Now Juve will probably have to do without him for a while.
The transfer of Matthijs de Ligt to FC Bayern filled the box office, half of the proceeds were enough to sign Brazilian Gleison Bremer from FC Turin, who is currently considered the best central defender in the championship. A lot is expected at Juve from the left foot of Ángel Di María. He should spoon balls by the dozen into the center from the right, the flanks have recently come from the left from Filip Kostic, the access from Frankfurt, and in the middle Dusan Vlahovic should make a goal from every template if possible. Or rather: must. The Agnellis are currently celebrating one hundred years of family ownership of Juve, which creates pressure.
The Roma boasts and is praised because they managed a rather brilliant Mercato for only seven million euros: Paulo Dybala, Nemanja Matic, Georginio Wijnaldum, they all gave it to “Parametro zero”. PSG even agreed to continue paying Dutchman Wijnaldum half his wages. Mourinho called them all to convince them to move to the football province. In Rome, he probably told them, you rarely win, every few decades, winning is very exciting there, that Olympic In addition, lately always full, the enthusiasm in the stars. The American club owners, Dan and Ryan Friedkin, father and son, brought the stars to Rome in a private jet, the senior flew the machine himself. If the Friedkins now also hold Nicolò Zaniolo, for whom Tottenham Hotspur would pay a temptingly high fee, then Roma have a thoroughly capable squad together. The greatest danger comes from the mood of the fans, their passion can quickly tip over. A few defeats and you already feel betrayed in Rome.
And then Italy looks with a little curiosity at AC Monza, the newcomer from the north of Milan. The club has never been top notch. The premiere brings Silvio Berlusconi back to the stage, he has owned the club for a few years. How much he invested there is not so clear, it is probably a lavish, pre-revolutionary sum. Once the first few rounds are played, Berlusconi will get himself elected to the Italian Senate, where they ousted him ten years ago. At 85 he is back on all stages, it’s the old song: politics and football, bread and games. With a crack in the plate.