Saturday, July 15, 2006

The Verdict
By Imtiaz Mussa

The landscape of European football and the Italian Serie A has just changed drastically.

Juventus, AC Milan, Lazio, and Fiorentina have found out their penalties for their involvement in a match fixing scandal.

-Relegated to Serie B
-Automatic 30 point deduction next season
-Stripped of their 2005 and 2006 Serie A titles
-Kicked out of the 2006-2007 Champions League
-Five-year ban for ex-general manager Luciano Moggi
-Five-year ban for ex-chief executive Antonio Giraudo

AC Milan
-Allowed to stay in Serie A but given automatic 15 point deduction
-Kicked out of the 2006-2007 Champions League
-One-year ban for vice-president Adriano Galliani
-Club official Leonardo Meani banned for three years and six months

-Relegated to Serie B
-Automatic 7 point deduction next season
-Kicked out of the 2006-2007 UEFA Cup
-Three-year ban for president Claudio Lotito

-Relegated to Serie B
-Automatic 12 point deduction next season
-Kicked out of the 2006-2007 Champions League
-President Andrea Della Valle banned for three years and six months
-Four-year ban for honorary president Diego Della Valle

What Does This Mean for the Clubs Involved?
They all say they will appeal within the three days they are given but the relegations and bans from European action will remain.

AC Milan received the smallest punishment in comparison to their counterparts. They will probably miss out on European action in 2007-2008 because of the point deduction but staying in the top flight will ensure the club of not going in total financial meltdown. They are going to lose a bunch of players but they should get a solid return back.

Lazio had been facing financial problems for a few years so this is the worst news possible. They money given to them by Serie A and UEFA are huge parts of their budget that won’t be there. What makes this worse for Lazio is the fact that they don’t have many high caliber players that they can sell to help.

Fiorentina is the team you have to feel bad for. In June 2002, the club ceased to exist after falling into heavy financial problems. They were re-established later that year but started in the lowest league in Italy and had to work their way back to the top flight and earned a Champions League spot. They may be able to handle the demotion better than Lazio as they have some bigger names to sell. Namely Serie A’s top scorer from last year Luca Toni.

Juventus are the most successful and most popular team in Italian football. Not only does the relegation hurt the club, but it also hurts the league because it’s practically a certainty that they won’t be back for at least two years. Juve can certainly survive this partly because they are about to cash in on their big name players led by goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

What Does This Mean for Serie A?
The quality of Italy’s top flight has just taken a massive hit. By losing Juventus, they have lost their most successful club for at least two years. The Serie A race in the upcoming season will come down to Inter Milan and AS Roma. Inter Milan has already said they will try to sign either Luca Toni, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, or David Trezeguet. Roma will also spend a bit but that may be it. There isn’t much money in Serie A.

In regards to the European spots that have been vacated, Inter, Roma, Chievo Verona and Palermo, who finished third, fifth, seventh and eighth, are in line to take the places of the penalized clubs in next season's Champions League. Chievo Verona and Palermo may have to start in the preliminary stages instead of the third round which is typically where the lower two qualifying clubs start while the top two are automatically in the group stage. Livorno, Empoli, and Parma are probably headed to the UEFA Cup. Since three teams have been relegated, Messina, Lecce, and Treviso are probably going to stay up instead of getting relegated for finishing in the bottom three.

What Does This Mean for the Players?
No players were involved in the match fixing. This involved officials and referees. The major players on the clubs are going to want out. For Juventus, Lazio, and Fiorentina, this is a no-brainer. But for AC Milan, the debate is interesting. Since Milan is still in Serie A, certain players may stay but what will be deciding factor is the fact that Milan will be out for European action for the upcoming season. Just how much players want to play in Europe will determine whether they stay or go.

How Does This Figure Into What’s Going On in Europe?
Real Madrid elected a new president who brought in Fabio Capello to be the new manager. Capello was the manager of Juventus last season but resigned amid the match fixing charges. With a new regime come a whole bunch of new signings and you can expect some Juventus players to make their way to Madrid. It is expected to start with Italian captain Fabio Cannavaro and may also include Gianluca Zambrotta and Emerson. Defending Champions League and La Liga champions Barcelona are being linked with defender Lilian Thuram and Zambrotta and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon.

There is plenty of speculation surrounding certain players leaving Manchester United. Following the Rooney red-card against Portugal, Cristiano Ronaldo made it clear that he would prefer to leave England fearing the abuse he may take. The 21 year old winger should fetch United approximately £25 million but United are adamant that they need him. In all honesty, the last thing Manchester United should be doing is selling a talented young midfielder Wayne Rooney has already reached out to Ronaldo hoping that he will stay. Yesterday, we found out that striker Ruud van Nistelrooy told Sir Alex Ferguson that he wants to leave Manchester United. This should come as no surprise considering the way last season ended as Ruud promptly left the team before the last match of the season. Real Madrid and Bayern Munich are very interested in the Dutch striker and with a strike force that features Wayne Rooney, Louis Saha, promising youngster Giuseppe Rossi, and the returning Alan Smith and Ole Gunner Solskjaer, Ruud is expendable. Plus, United could use that money to get Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso, or Patrick Vieira.

Arsenal have lost defender Sol Campbell and are exploring all options. Reuniting Thierry Henry with French striker partner David Trezeguet would be rather interesting. Chelsea already signed AC Milan’s Andriy Shevchenko before the World Cup and appear set with their roster. But don’t be surprised if they do make a move for another player. Liverpool have made a slew of signings and appear to have their roster in place. Tottenham Hotspur could use a striker as they head to the UEFA Cup this season. They apparently really like Luca Toni.

In the upcoming days, expect more rumors to come out and some of them may end up being true. Some of the biggest clubs in Europe are about to get better increasing the gap between the rich and poor.


Anonymous Martha said...

Great roundup, Imtiaz -- thanks. For what it's worth, I heard this morning that Mutu has also jumped the Juve ship. Oddly, however, he's headed to ... Fiorentina.

9:07 AM  

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