World Football: Forza with Milan as Juve eye a Bettega world

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

WITH fans throwing fish and smoke bombs and club presidents dropping bombshells of another kind, events off the field are providing distractions none of Italy's Serie A teams will welcome as they go into today's league matches. The league leaders, Milan, learned last week that their president, Silvio Berlusconi, has decided to enter the Italian general election with his own Forza Italia party. And Juventus announced that their president, Giampiero Boniperti, will be replaced by former Juve player Roberto Bettega.

Milan stressed that Berlusconi's political plans would have no effect on the club and general manager Adriano Galliani said that Berlusconi would stay on as club president.

The champions travel to Bergamo to face struggling Atalanta with their French pair, Jean-Pierre Papin and Marcel Desailly, both doubtful because of injury.

Atalanta, second last in the table, will be weakened by the suspension of their Brazilian, Alemao, whose recent return to the side had seen them pick up six points from their last four games.

Boniperti's departure from Juventus at the end of the season has led to speculation that long-serving coach Giovanni Trapattoni will also leave.

Trapattoni played down reports of his impending departure as he prepared his side for a difficult home game against Foggia.

'For me, nothing has changed. The important thing is that the team doesn't get distracted by all of this fuss,' he said. 'We have important targets (the Uefa Cup and Italian title) and we've got to achieve them.'

For the Foggia game, Juve will be without their German, Jurgen Kohler, and Brazilian Julio Cesar, while midfielder Dino Baggio is also doubtful. Foggia, humiliated in a 6-1 midweek Italian Cup defeat by Parma, will be without suspended defender Giordano Caini.

Roma and Napoli meet in Naples at the end of a difficult week for both clubs. Riot police were called to Roma's training headquarters on Tuesday when 300 fans threw smoke bombs and fish at players and management in protest at the club's recent poor form.

For the Napoli game, Roma will be without captain Giuseppe Giannini and German midfielder Thomas Hassler, who are both suspended, while coach Carlo Mazzone intends to drop the Serbian midfielder, Sinisa Mihajlovic.

Napoli, currently facing bankruptcy, learned this week that Dutch company ING are no longer interested in buying a 50 per cent stake in the club.

Diego Maradona has demanded dollars 500,000 to play in the opening game of a tournament in the United Arab Emirates next month, a local newspaper reported yesterday.

Al-Ittihad said the organisers refused to pay the money. 'The organisers felt that the requested money was too much . . . Maradona was either trying to take advantage of (being asked to play in the UAE) or to indirectly say he did not want to play. The organisers reply was 'thanks but no thanks',' the paper said.

(Photograph omitted)

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