Football: Berlusconi revolution: Milan urged to sign Italians

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The Independent Online
Italy

The school of thought that Europe's top leagues might, after all, be better off if their clubs did not overload their playing staffs with foreigners has gained an unexpected convert.

The media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, the man who brought Gullit, Van Basten, Rijkaard and, more recently, Kluivert and Weah to his club, Milan, has, it seems, had a change of heart. Having seen his team fall seven points behind their bitter city rivals and Serie A leaders, Internazionale, after just three games, Berlusconi clearly feels that his multi-national collection of expensive footballers is under-performing.

"I am sorry to see few Italians in Milan's line-up," Berlusconi said this week. "In the future, our strategy should be to fish for young talent on the Italian market. This would also benefit the national team." This is quite an admission from a man who has allowed his club to have 14 foreign players on its staff - three more than any of its rivals - and sell two young Italian internationals, Marco Simone and Christian Panucci, to foreign clubs this year.

The Milan coach, Fabio Capello, took a different view. "We can no longer think in terms of an Italian team. We are involved in a European, open market," he said. "But teamwork is difficult when you change several players, and language problems make understanding of tactics difficult."

Belgium

The news does not get any better for Anderlecht, the disgraced Brussels club. Still reeling from the news that they have been banned from the next European competition for which they qualify, after they admitted paying a "loan" to the referee in charge of a 1984 Uefa Cup semi-final tie against Nottingham Forest, they now risk losing their sponsor.

Any more scandals and Generale Bank will be taking their money elsewhere. "If similar facts emerge, I think that we will indeed take a quick decision," the bank's marketing director, Paul Lembrechts, said.

Nigeria

Preparations for next year's World Cup finals, for which they have already qualified, are typically running far from smoothly in Nigeria.

Philippe Troussier, the coach who steered them to the finals, was sacked on Thursday. According to national radio, the Frenchman was sacked for "technical incompetence."

Jessica Rizzo, an Italian porn actress, has signed a sponsorship deal with a women's football team from the town of Montecatini in Tuscany.

Rizzo owns a satellite television channel which broadcasts pornography, and the team's shirts will promote the decoder cards needed to access the channel.

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