For the supporters of Milan and Juventus their teams' qualification for the final of the Champions' League this week provoked unconfined joy, with car horns honking into the small hours, but for the coaches there were scores to be settled.
In Milan, Carlo Ancelotti, the Milan coach, castigated the local media for their approach to the Milanese semi-final derby, which had been typified by the headline 'whoever loses goes' over a picture of himself and Hector Cuper, Internazionale's coach. "It should have been a party for the city, instead it went over the top," he said. "Remember, teams like Bayern Munich and Manchester United were left to watch on television."
The following day, in Turin, Marcello Lippi directed his ire at a wider target. Angered at the rubbishing of the Italian game, the Juventus coach said: "This shows Italian football is to be respected. I don't know if it is the prettiest but it is football that should be respected. Right from the start of this season Italian football has had the desire to show it was not as bad as critics were saying and now we have two teams in the final."
While Lippi's sentiments are understandable it is too early to declare a risorgimento of the Italian game. In the previous two seasons, no Serie A club reached the last eight. Both teams have stuttered en route to the final, Juventus being beaten 3-0 at home by Manchester United and Milan needing an injury-time winner to knock-out Ajax in the quarter-final.
The qualification within Lippi's praise echoed an Ancelotti reference to the negativity which still dogs the Italian football psyche. He said: "There may never be another Milan derby in the semi-final of the Champions' League: we should have given another image. It is time for football, and especially Italian football, to change course."
Cuper would agree, having been ferociously criticised despite having the best record of any Internazionale coach in years. The Argentinian, Inter's 11th manager in eight seasons when he took over in 2001, was within one match of the title last season and reached the Uefa Cup semi-finals. This season they hold the second automatic Champions' League qualifying place. This after losing Ronaldo to Real Madrid shortly before the start of the season and Christian Vieri to injury in the run-in. However, having failed to win a major honour with either Real Mallorca, Inter or Valencia, despite five European semi-finals in six years, he is regarded as a "loser" and thus ill-fated. His successor is expected to come from the capital, either Roma's successful veteran coach Fabio Capello, or Lazio's promising but inexperienced Roberto Mancini.
Whoever comes in will be expected to assimilate the next eye-catching signing of president Massimo Moratti. Top of the list, suggest local media, is David Beckham, with Ryan Giggs close behind. Beckham for Inter? Vieri would relish his crossing and the right-flank partnership with Javier Zanetti would be formidable. The shopping is better in Milan than Madrid and Wednesday confirmed Real's most pressing need is for a centre-half. Not that footballing logic decides their buying policy.
As for the final, while it may not stir the soul of non-Italians, both sides deserved to progress and each revealed much to admire, not all of it defensive. Andrei Shevchenko's front-running is akin to Ruud van Nistelrooy's, while Gianluca Zambrotta's two performances against Roberto Carlos should be edited into a video and sent to Beckham.
As the Serie A champions Juventus will start favourites, but the suspended Pavel Nedved will be missed and it is only seven weeks since Milan beat them 2-1 in the league.Reuse content