As Massimo Allegri and AC Milan did their best to aid Lionel Messi's quest for more records, Italian football got a reality check.
By
Tony Palumbo's Offside, Tony Palumbo

15 Mar 2013 - 2:44 PM  UPDATED 3 Mar 2014 - 4:59 PM

Italians in Europe

In case there were still some sceptics about Inter Milan’s degree of madness, here is further proof. Starting its UEFA Europa League match versus Tottenham with a 0-3 deficit, the Nerazzurri led 3-0 at the end of the 90 minutes in the return leg in Milan. The final score after extra time was 4-1, and Tottenham has qualified.

If nothing else, Inter showed that, on its day, it is capable of any result. Maybe, rather than a new coach, it needs a psychiatrist.

In the other match involving an Italian team, Lazio accounted easily for Stuttgart. It was a great day for Libor Kozak who scored Lazio’s three goals.

In bad news for the Rome club, there was a potentially serious injury for its goalkeeper, Marchetti Stramaccioni, which will no doubt be weighing heavily on the minds of the club's boisterous fan set.

Juve wants Cardozo

Juventus is leading Serie A by a huge margin, and is all but assured of a second consecutive Italian Serie A championship. It is also still in the running for the UEFA Champions League. Nevertheless, some supporters are whingeing about the club’s January recruitment campaign. It’s difficult to disagree with them, given that the only signing of some repute, at least on paper, is Nicolas Anelka. Juventus officials are after Oscar Cardozo in - the Benfica goal-scoring machine - in the off-season. He has just signed an extension of his contract until 2016. But we all know what football contracts are worth nowadays. Not even the paper they are written on.

Youth on parade

If you want to excel, you have got to start young. That’s what Juventus 'supporters" must have thought while attending the first leg of the junior Coppa Italia final between Juventus and Napoli. The match attracted 17,000 spectators.

A minority of which had this lovely message for their Neapolitan
counterparts: 'Vesuvius, wash them with your fire". Vesuvius is the volcano overlooking Naples. Juventus and Napoli fielded nine foreign players between them in the match, a great advertisement Great for the future of Italian football.

Serie A reality check

AC Milan's 0-4 loss to Barcelona in the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 is a sad indictment of Italian football and a clear indication of the gap now separating Serie A and Spain's Primera Division. Not that you'd know it reading the Italian press - criticism of the Rossoneri's performance has been quite subdued.

So much so that one question appears legitimate. 'Do most Italian journalists drive a FIAT?". The owners of FIAT also own Juventus. Gossip aside, we all know how ferocious Italian sports journalists can be. But not in this instance. I challenge you to an interesting game.

Read coverage of the match and ask yourself: 'Was the score really 4-0 in favour of the Catalans'?

Having said that, Milan appears ready to pounce on Napoli for second place and, by all reports, is planning a further strengthening of the team for next season. A couple of defenders for Milan and Juventus will finally have a real rival.

Totti ticks over

There is yet another record coming up for Roma captain Francesco Totti. On Sunday he will reach Gianni Rivera, playing his 527th game in Serie A.

They will be together in ninth place among Serie A players. And Totti will keep adding to his record. He has decided that he will play another four years, until he is 40.

Pope's eyes on the global game

Jorge Mario Bergoglio, the Argentinian cardinal newly appointed Pope, is a keen football follower and a supporter of San Lorenzo de Almagro, the Buenos Aires team.

The club was established in 1908 by a priest. You may be interested in Diego Maradona’s comment: 'Now, both the God of football and the Pope are Argentinian". You’ll never be able to accuse Diego of being modest.

Deja vu for Palermo

Giuseppe Sannino is the new coach of Palermo. Not so new, actually, since he was on the Sicilian bench at the beginning of the season. A few more sackings later (Malesani and Gasperini twice) and he is back with the team in a desperate situation. One question for Chairman Zamparini. Maybe, if he had let Sannino work in peace, Palermo would not be facing relegation?

Allegri aids Messi cause

'Learn from your mistakes!" It’s something you would have heard from your parents and your teachers more than once. An exception to the rule is obviously Massimiliano Allegri, the AC Milan coach. After the 4-0 defeat at the hands (and feet) of Barcellona he had the nerves of stating: 'This result is not a disaster but a chance to grow up."

Pity the Rossoneri did not lose 8-0. The growing up process may have reached its climax. Meanwhile, with some help from Milan defenders, Lionel Messi has scored two goals and overcome Ruud Van Nistelrooy as top scorer in the showpiece. The Dutchman has scored 56 goals, Messi 58.