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December 2005

Cafu eyes Brazil homecoming
31.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Marcos Cafu has confirmed he’ll end his career at San Paolo, suggesting this will be his last season with Milan.

“I have just one dream: to return to San Paolo as a player,” he told Brazilian newspaper ‘Globo Esporte.’ “When I moved to Europe, I left the door open for a comeback.”

As Cafu will be 36 years old at the end of the current campaign, it’s highly unlikely he will put this move off for another season.

The right-back left San Paolo after six years to join Spanish outfit Real Saragozza in 1994, but returned to Brazil soon after for Palmeiras.

His Serie A career took off with Roma in 1997 and he went on to win the Scudetto and 1994 and 2002 World Cups.

All set for a spell in Japan after his contract with the Giallorossi expired in the summer of 2003, Cafu was instead handed a revival at Milan, lifting another Serie A title.

News of his departure is a blow for the Rossoneri, who are also losing Jaap Stam at the end of this season, as the Dutchman has already revealed he’ll go back to Holland.

As Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta are in their late thirties, a revolution will be needed in Carlo Ancelotti’s defence.

The most likely target to replace Cafu at right-back is Lazio's Italian international Massimo Oddo, though Marco Cassetti of Lecce and Reggina's Giandomenico Mesto are other options.

Meanwhile, the indefatigable Cafu jokingly explained that he would gladly go back over his glittering career and change a few things.

“If I were to do it all again, I’d try to play as a striker. Someone like me has to push forward, come back to defend, go up the field again and put in a cross. If you make a mistake, the attacker moans and shouts at you. Yes, it’s definitely easier to be a hitman in football!”

In-Depth Player Profile: Cafú
30.12 || Seamus

If you saw the name Marcos Evangelista de Moraes you’d probably either shrug your shoulders or sprain your tongue: after all, who is he? You’d probably cast your mind back and come up blank, and so you should. After all, the word Cafú bears no resemblance to Marcos Evangelista de Moraes – despite being one and the same person: a champion of the footballing world.


The nickname, and the myriad successes earned with those four letters on the back of a jersey, hide a story of perseverance as rare as it is fascinating. After all; who would put up with being laughed off no less than twelve times when trying to convince clubs to give him a chance? And who would guess that the same ‘reject’ would conquer everything in his path – and with a smile?

To understand this particular saga we have to rewind back to a place called Jardim Irene; nominally ‘Irene’s garden’, but really one of the city of São Paulo’s many sprawling favelas (shanty towns). Marcos was one of those boys people outside of Brazil usually see on documentaries; one of six children growing up so near, yet so far, from the gaudy wealth of the ‘zona sul’ (south side).

Despite the presence of five other children in a cramped three-room house, Cafú remains proud of his parents for accomplishing a difficult feat – he never starved or lacked clothes. It may sound a simple fact, and the truth is that we are talking about the basics, but given the appalling poverty and temptation to fall into despair it was a triumph that he will never forget.

Predictably enough he never excelled in the academic subjects on offer at the Escola Estadual de Primeiro Grau Ronaldo Garibaldi Pereti, preferring the physical contact with a ball and a group of friends to a book and a silent room. He began to make a name for himself on the local dirt pitches of his home neighbourhood, becoming well-known for his speed and stamina.

The logical step for young Marcos was to see if a future really existed in the world of football, and it was to be a gruelling process that may well have seen less determined individuals throw the towel in. He was turned away from clubs on a frequent basis, sometimes without even a chance to demonstrate his worth on the field, many times being told to pack his dreams in because he wasn’t professional material.

Cafú was rejected no less than four times in the São Paulo FC ‘peneiras’ (trials that sieve out the promises from the lies in the groups of eager youngsters). He continued a not-so-Grand Slam of Paulista clubs by being turned down by Corinthians, Palmeiras, Santos and Portuguesa – as well as Atlético Mineiro, just to name the main clubs.

In the middle of the eighties, Cafú enrolled himself into a footballing academy run by the ex-footballer Pedro Rocha. This led to a word-of-mouth recommendation to play with Nacional, but Cafú, despite actually being accepted, didn’t last long and was let go. From there he aped his low performances at Portuguesa, going down several rungs to play at Itaquaquecetuba.

The countryside club allowed Marcos to finally begin to flourish, paralleling his ‘baptism’ with a nickname that would echo round the world: Cafú. Due to his lightning incursions up the right wing, Marcos was compared to the Fluminense and Atlético Mineiro speed merchant Cafuringa. The name stuck when it was abbreviated to the catchier Cafú.

By 1988 Cafú’s performances had risen to the level that spotters from the youth divisions of São Paulo FC ended up signing the re-baptised Cafú for service at Morumbi. As soon as he’d arrived he slipped into the squad vying for the ‘Copa São Paulo’. This prestigious youth tournament was the stage for Cafú to shine, conquering the trophy and definitively worming his way into the Coaching staff’s memory. The next step would be professional, and it would happen faster than he thought.

São Paulo had built themselves up to the status of most successful Paulista team of the eighties, but as the decade wound to a close they were losing steam. The surprise loss of the 1988 Paulistão (São Paulo State Cup) put a dent in the hitherto roaring career of Coach Cilinho, and parallel to the loss of focus in direction, many of the team stars had been sold off.

The young Cafú was to be part of a new harvest; nurtured into a fine vintage by a man who would become synonymous with modern São Paulo FC: Telê Santana – the Coach of the 1982 Seleção. 1989 saw Cafú as a second-choice bench warmer as SPFC hoisted the 1989 Paulistão, still under the aegis of Cilinho, and the next year saw him edge his way into the team by playing in midfield.

Cafú had the best physical performance of the Tricolor squad, his stamina impressing even cynical veterans like Physio Turíbio Leite de Barros. "I’d already worked with over 800 professional footballers and had never seen anything similar. Cafú was perfectly capable of being a top sprinter or a top marathon runner.”

Barros was not alone in seeing something special in Cafú: Paulo Roberto Falcão, seleção Coach at the time, called the player up to face Spain in his first international. Telê Santana arrived in October 1990 and Cafú’s meteoric rise started in full swing. Telê saw the 20 year-old wasted in a midfield position, and wanted to exploit his qualities out on the flank where he could do more damage.

The Coach explained his idea to Cafú, and the player accepted despite never having played as a wing-back before. Overtaking and crossing now formed a large part of his training schedule as Cafú built up the basics of a good wing-back. Even Telê himself was impressed at the speed of Cafú’s transition from midfield 4x4 to surgical wing-back.

His adaptation was wildly successful, and Cafú was a bulwark of the squad that hauled in two Paulistas, two Libertadores, two Intercontinental Cups, two Cup-Winners’ Cups and a ‘Supercup’ (Libertadores Champions Challenge). Telê had discovered one of the best right wing-backs in Brazilian history in the same boy who’d been turned away 12 times and told he didn’t have it.

Given his background, making it to the first eleven of São Paulo FC was a success story in itself, but Cafú wanted more. He was a keystone in a SPFC team that counted on Raí, Leonardo and Muller. Now he made his switch to challenge for a spot in the seleção. The 1994 World Cup saw him benched in favour of Jorginho, but after the US the number 2 shirt became his – and has been for the past twenty years.

In fact you could say that Cafú was born into the World Cup. On the morning of the 7th of June 1970, Cleusa de Moraes was in the São Paulo Municipal Hospital. While Cleusa went into labour, Brazil took the field against reigning WC Champions England. The hospital staff divided their attentions between the magic of Pelé, Gérson and Tostão and the birth of Cafú. As Brazil won one nil, thanks to a Jairzinho goal, 3.6kgs of future Brazilian Captain saw the light.

After their impressive trophy haul, the great SPFC team began to wane, and Palmeiras – bulked up by a wealthy partnership with Italian food giant Parmalat – started to steal fire from a Tricolor that had succumbed to Velez Sarsfield and lost a Libertadores final right in Morumbi. Cafú sensed the time was right, and decided to jump ship and move to the Verdão.

The Alviverde club had just won their second Brasileirão in a row, and wanted to strengthen their squad for an assault on the 1995 Libertadores Cup. Although the CTs (Training Centres) of both clubs are only separated by a cinder-block wall in Barra Funda, Cafú would have to make a stopover in Spain in order to swap the red-white-and-black for the green of Palmeiras.

São Paulo needed the money from a Cafú sale to make up for some rather hare-brained spending, but couldn’t sell the idolised player to their arch-rivals, so plumped for Real Zaragoza of Spain. In the contract there did exist a written clause that the player couldn’t be lent of sold to another Brazilian team. Five days after the sale, Zaragoza announced that Parmalat were the real buyers.

Cafú played out a forgettable season at the Aragonese Club, and on the 2nd of July signed for a Parmalat Club – southerners Juventude, rather than the more expected Paulistas Palmeiras. He played the second part of the Brazilian season for the Caxias do Sul team, and in January 1996 made the final move back to the Paulista Capital; albeit this time in a green jersey.

After a bureaucratic stint at Zaragoza, Spain, Cafú returned to the big smog of São Paulo and was presented as a Palmeiras player in January 1996. Together with Djalminha, Rivaldo, Luizão and Muller, Cafú formed a central part of an impressive team that scored over 100 goals that year, and they started with a near-impeccable Paulista conquest.

The year in Brazil traditionally starts with the regional State tournaments, and in São Paulo it’s the turn of the ‘Campeonato Paulista’ (Paulista – i.e. São Paulo State – Championship, a.k.a Paulistão – Big Paulista). Traditionally dominated by the so-called ‘Paulista Big 4’ (Corinthians, Palmeiras, Santos, São Paulo), the competition is hotly competed and was won by Palmeiras thereby breaking a two-year trophy drought.

The Brazilian league would finally be won by Mario (‘Super Mario’) Jardel’s Grêmio that year, the Palmeiras team was a sign of things to come and Luis Felipe Scolari (a.k.a. Felipão) would capitalise on both the 1996 basis and the partnership with Italian food giant Parmalat to take things to another level.

Although Djalminha stayed for an extra year, Rivaldo went off to Deportivo La Coruña, Muller returned to São Paulo and Cafú was soon bound for the Italian Capital as AS Roma snapped the player up. His time there was diametrically opposed to his experience in Spain as he became the lord and master of the right-back position and the most popular Brazilian to don the Roma jersey since Paulo Roberto Falcão.

His way was smoothed by the presence of fellow Brazilian Aldair. There was a good feeling in the squad, and title hopes were high despite the fact that Roma hadn’t had much success in the Calcio since the 1982-1983 season which, funnily enough, counted on a certain Falcão as the midfield dynamo. Fábio Capello arrived to helm an ambitious title onslaught after having landed the title four times as Coach of AC Milan and having led the Merengues to the Liga title the year before.

The 2000/2001 season was to be Roma’s year as they beat Juventus and arch-rivals Lazio to lift the much-longed-for scudetto. Apart from Cafú, four other Brazilians helped the Italian team to re-conquer the domestic title: centre-backs Aldair (a Brazilian held in even higher esteem than Cafú by Roma fans), Antônio Carlos and midfield chief Emerson.

2002 was to be the year that Cafú had been waiting for ever since 1994: a chance to play a World Cup Final and win it, although little did he know that he’d also be lifting the golden statue as Captain of the seleção. In the USA edition, Jorginho was still the owner of the number 2 shirt (although Cafú played part of the final against Italy) and 1998 was tainted by the bitter loss against Zidane’s France – despite Cafú playing six of the seven games and being voted bested wing-back of the tournament.

Cafú had endured a difficult progression in the Brazilian squad, coming in for heavy criticism when Paulo Roberto Falcão called him up for a friendly against Spain. The Carioca (Rio de Janeiro) press were particularly harsh on the player, seen as a mediocre midfielder on the coast. Luckily his transformation into a speedy wing-back by São Paulo Coach Telê Santana helped him overcome the original thumbs-down.

Despite searches for a suitable contender, Cafú was the best available when Jorginho threw in the towel on his international career with the Canarinha. 1998 saw him making a cracking debut against Scotland, and the tournament raised opinions of him in Brazil as a highly competent wing-back – even if the FIFA prize rewarding his performance didn’t completely shut his critics’ mouths.

Following 98 Wanderley Luxemburgo was the Brazilian boss and handed over the Captaincy immediately to Cafú after Dunga announced his retirement. He continued in the post up until 2000, only handing the armband over temporarily in 1999 when in dry dock after surgery on his right knee. The crunch came in a WCQ game against Paraguay: Brazil lost 2-1 and Cafú was sent off.

Luxemburgo didn’t like Cafú’s performance, sending off or post-match reaction and stripped the player of the Captain’s armband. Soon after that Wanderley was sacked after the 2000 Olympic Games fiasco, and Emerson Leão stepped into his shoes briefly before being turfed out in favour of Luiz Felipe Scolari – Felipão.

Right from the start he picked Emerson as his voice on the pitch, but one day before the WC 2002 debut Emerson sustained a dislocated shoulder in training and was cut. Cafú was Captain once more and played a consistent tournament, leading Brazil to conquer their ‘penta’ – fifth World Cup and himself to the very top of the podium to dedicate the win to his wife, Regina; his sweetheart since 12 and the person that had told him never to give up on his dream.

Back in Club competition, AS Roma was coming to the end of an era. Cafú had already helped his team to a bittersweet runners-up position behind Juventus before Japan and Korea, and he wanted a change of scenery – not to mention a better contract – after six years in Rome. The answer was AC Milan, and he moved up north for the 2003-4 season at 33 years of age. The season would end, ironically, with Milan winning the Scudetto over his ex-Club.

So now Cafú prepares himself for his fourth World Cup in a row – his previous three already stand as a record – with 36 years under his belt. Fittingly enough for one of only five Brazilians to have lifted a World Cup trophy, Cafú will celebrate his birthday two days before Brazil make their debut in the World Cup. With Parreira promising the most offensive Brazil since the first Mexico Cup, the Captain of that team was born during that same 1970 World Cup. Will Cafú stop there?

Fact File

Name: Marcos Evangelista de Moraes
Nickname: Cafú
Birth Date: 07/06/1970
Birth Place: Jardim Irene, São Paulo
Height: 1.74m
Weight: 73kg
Clubs: São Paulo (1988-1995), Real Zaragoza (1995), Juventude (1995), Palmeiras (1996-1997), Roma (1997-2003), Milan (2003-)

Trophies

Two World Cups (1994 and 2002) – Brazil
Two ‘Copa América’ (1997 and 1999) – São Paulo FC
Confederations Cup (1997) – Brazil
Two Toyota World Club Cup Challenges (1992 and 1993) – São Paulo FC
Two Libertadores Cups (1992 and 1993) – São Paulo FC
Two South American Cup Winners Cups (1992 and 1993) – São Paulo FC
One Libertadores Super Cup (1993) – São Paulo FC
One Brasileirão [Brazilian League] (1991) – São Paulo FC
Four Paulistas [São Paulo State Cups] (1989, 1991, 1992 – São Paulo FC and 1996 – Palmeiras)
One Copa São Paulo (1988) – São Paulo FC
One European Cup Winners Cup (1995) – Real Zaragoza
One Scudetto [Italian League] (2000/2001) – AC Milan


Aaron Marcus

Maldini returns to Maldives
29.12 || webmaster

Source: TheDailyJournalOnline.com

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) - Paolo Maldini, the A.C. Milan fullback who was in Maldives when the Indian Ocean tsunami struck, is back to help fight rising drug abuse in the archipelago.

Maldini was on vacation in the low-lying islands when the tsunami hit on Dec. 26, 2004. He has returned a year later, UNICEF spokeswoman Meital Rusdia said Tuesday in the capital, Male.

Several other Italian soccer players - including AC Milan striker Filippo Inzaghi and Juventus defender Gianluca Zambrotta - were also in Maldives, but all the players were unhurt by the tsunami, which killed 82 people there.

On Tuesday, Maldini was set to kick off the nationwide Unity Cup soccer tournament in the islands - an event to promote a healthy, drug-free lifestyle for young people.

Drug abuse has been rising quickly among youth in Maldives in the past five years, and UNICEF said the tsunami exacerbated the situation by making disaster-hit communities more vulnerable to the drug inflow. The government says that over 40 percent of the country's population is under 15 years old, and that 15 percent to 20 percent of this group are using drugs.

UNICEF is organizing the tournament along with the country's Ministry of Youth & Sports and the Football Association of the Maldives.

FIFA, soccer's world governing body, ranks Maldives in 141st place among 205 soccer playing countries.

Four more years for Ancelotti
29.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti has shot down claims his Milan days are numbered by assuring he’ll stay on for another four years.

“I have been here for four years and will stay for the next four,” he told RAI Sport after repeated Press speculation on his future.

“I can only laugh at these rumours, as I have the good fortune to enjoy such a special relationship with my club. Nobody knows how clear, affectionate and honest our rapport is. Therefore, all this talk from outsiders doesn’t interest me in the slightest.”

Ancelotti’s position has been under the spotlight since ending last season empty-handed and the hiccups in both Serie A and the Champions League this term has raised suggestions that he’ll be sacked if he fails to pick up more silverware.

It’s a curious position for the Coach to be in, as in four years he has won the Scudetto, Champions League, Coppa Italia and European Super Cup.

“It has been a positive 2005 in a certain sense, as we reached the finish line in every tournament and proved ourselves to be competitive. It didn’t go well in the end, but we gave it our all.”

Losing out to the Serie A title to Juventus was disappointing, but Ancelotti’s leadership skills came under attack following the epic Champions League Final defeat to Liverpool, having led 3-0 only to go down on penalties.

“We want to reach the next European Cup Final in Paris and we’ll see what happens then,” he noted. “As for the Scudetto race, we need to close the gap by a few points and hope Juve slow down a little.”

The Rossoneri are currently third in the table, languishing nine points adrift of the leaders.

Milan cool on Lugano
27.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan have distanced themselves from the rumours linking them to Sao Paulo defender Diego Lugano.

The 25-year-old Uruguayan has been among a number of names connected to the Rossoneri as they look to bring in some younger players to their aging defensive line.

Lugano was one of the key men for Sao Paulo on their way to lifting the World Club Championship earlier this month and is expected to challenge Corinthians Argentinian striker Carlos Tevez for the South American equivalent of the Ballon D’Or.

Milan are thought to have agreed a deal to ensure they have first option on the player should Sao Paulo decide to sell, although city rivals Inter and Spanish sides Real Madrid and Sevilla are also interested.

But Milan's Brazilian contact Leonardo has played down talk of a switch in January. "Lugano is a player that, in a short time, has already written his name in football's history as one of the best defenders. He is obviously on a list of very good players, but that doesn't mean that Milan is interested in him and having negotiations to buy him."

Lugano was a guest at Kaka’s wedding and is a good friend of the Rossoneri’s tricky Brazilian, further fuelling the transfer speculation. Having taken former Juventus hardman Paolo Montero’s place in the Uruguayan national side he has inevitably earned comparisons and Leonardo believes he would have no trouble adapting to the European game.

“The position in which he plays is one of the main problems that teams have in Europe and I am sure that Lugano could get adapted to any European team,” he added.

Gila targets top scorer crown
24.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan striker Alberto Gilardino has admitted that finishing the season as the Serie A top scorer is his objective.

Gilardino has been runner-up in the Capocannoniere race for the last two seasons, but his summer switch to Milan could make the difference this time around.

After a slow start, Gila is third in the standings with 11 goals – four short of Juventus’ David Trezeguet and five shy of international teammate Luca Toni at Fiorentina.

"It is only normal that goals are very important for a striker, therefore it is normal to think about winning the strikers’ crown," he stated.

Gilardino ended 2005 in style with a brace at Livorno on Wednesday, yet he is already focusing on the future.

"It was vital to end the year like that for me and the team," he added. "Now we must start the new one in the right way."

One of the major reasons behind Gilardino’s success in front of goal is his understanding with Andriy Shevchenko and Kaka.

"It took a little bit of time for Shevchenko and myself to get to know each other," continued the former Under-21 international.

"As for Kaka, he is a fantastic player and there is a great feeling between the Brazilian and myself."

Barzagli on Milan wish-list
24.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Palermo have confirmed that Andrea Barzagli is a summer transfer target for Italian giants Milan.

The Rossoneri are looking to rejuvenate their ageing defence and Barzagli has been rumoured to be a target.

Now the Sicilian side have confirmed those whispers by admitting that the Italian is a wanted man.

"Milan do like Barzagli a lot," Rosanero sporting director Rino Foschi conceded to journalists.

"I can tell you that they are monitoring him with great attention. I actually hope that he one day ends up there because he is the ideal player for Milan."

Barzagli, who joined Palermo from Chievo in the summer of 2004, is highly-rated and a regular in Marcello Lippi’s national squad.

He seems to be the ideal candidate for the Rossoneri given that he can play both in the centre or as a full-back if needed.

Milan are looking for new stoppers as Marcos Cafu, Jaap Stam, Billy Costacurta and Paolo Maldini are all on the wrong side of 30.

They have already been linked with Lyon’s Cris, PSV’s Brazilian international Alex, Cristian Chivu of Roma and Sao Paulo’s Diego Lugano.

It’s believed that Milan have already started initial talks with Palermo, especially as Juventus have also been associated with the former Under-21 international.

Meanwhile, Cagliari chief Massimo Cellino has threatened a mass-clear out at his club after their disastrous start to the season.

"I have great doubts over the commitment of the players to the shirt," said the Sardinian President. "I’m ready at this point to put everyone up for sale."

Milan ponder De Jong swoop
23.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan are pondering a swoop for Juventus target Nigel De Jong, who is available on a free transfer in the summer.

De Jong has attracted the interest of Juventus as a player of huge potential for the future but the versatile defender has now registered on the Rossoneri’s radar.

De Jong, whose father, Jerry, played for Holland in the 1990s, has come through the ranks of the Ajax academy and grown into one of the most promising players in the Netherlands.

He made his breakthrough two years ago when he won the competition for a right-back berth with Hatem Trabelsi. Since then, the 21-year-old has proven his ability to also play at left-back and on both wings.

These are exactly the sort of qualities that Carlo Ancelotti is looking for as he scours the transfer market for two defenders – one an experienced stopper and another a young player of promise.

De Jong has also received glowing reports from Holland manager and former Milan teammate Marco Van Basten, who is said to have recommended the ambitious Ajax starlet to Ancelotti.

Milan do face stiff opposition from Juve, though. The Bianconeri have a great relationship with the player’s agent, Mino Raiola, who negotiated with Juve sporting director Luciano Moggi in the deals that took Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Emmerson and Pavel Nedved to Turin.

Livorno 0:3 AC Milan - post-match comments
22.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Roberto Donadoni: “Milan were the better team. Despite the fact they were lucky to take the lead, after that goal they knew how to control the match. We were unable to find a way through and it’s tough in that position against masters of the sport.”

Carlo Ancelotti: “We have turned a corner and this was our best away performance of the season in Serie A. With a more compact midfield it takes some of the pressure off the defence, which is why we’ve kept two consecutive clean sheets. This is why Kaka out wide on the right can help to find ways through a strong opposition midfield.”

Livorno 0:3 AC Milan - match report
21.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Scorers: Gilardino 24, 60 (M), Shevchenko 71 (M)

Milan end the year on a high after inflicting Livorno's first home defeat of the season and protecting their Champions League spot.

Few would've thought it at the start of the season, but Livorno had the opportunity to spend Christmas on level terms with Milan in the Serie A table. A win at the Stadio Armando Picchi - where they were unbeaten all term - would tie the Tuscans with the mighty Rossoneri. The fact that they are Coached by former Milan legend Roberto Donadoni is an added bonus to an intriguing tie.

Carlo Ancelotti needed a victory to maintain their Scudetto hopes, but was without the injured Filippo Inzaghi, Christian Vieri, Paolo Maldini and Marcos Cafu. Francesco Coco and Diego De Ascentis faced off against their former club.

The match was preceded by an emotional ceremony in which Livorno 'retired' the No 10 jersey worn by Igor Protti. The veteran hung up his boots at the end of last season after 124 goals for the club between Serie A, B and C.

The Rossoneri had an aggressive start and Kakha Kaladze's overhead kick was well held, while a Kaka volley was rather more testing for Marco Amelia.

Livorno slowly pushed their way into the game and Cristiano Lucarelli nodded a Nikola Lazetic cross well wide at the back post after the defence had been left standing.

Milan broke the deadlock on 24 minutes, as Andriy Shevchenko threaded through for Alberto Gilardino to beat the goalkeeper, but the Livorno defence was static on this occasion.

Shevchenko fired a good chance wide of the target and Amelia saved a Clarence Seedorf strike, while Gilardino nodded Andrea Pirlo's corner kick over the bar.

Dida fumbled Colucci's shot from close range and was fortunate that Livorno failed to take advantage of this error. Moments later, a Cristiano Lucarelli turn and volley was just wide of the target.

The Milan goalkeeper struggled to stop a Cesar Prates cross-shot floating into the net, but towards half-time the visitors began to increase the pressure again with a Kaka effort and good save on Serginho.

The Rossoneri had a great chance to double their lead after the break, but were extremely unlucky. Gilardino's header on a Seedorf cross was cleared off the line by an acrobatic Colucci intervention and came off the upright to rescue Livorno.

A De Ascentis cross came off Dario Simic's arm, but the two were very close together and the referee did not consider it to be voluntary.

Milan doubled their lead on the hour mark. Shevchenko was again heavily involved in the build-up, his pass immediately redirected into the centre by Seedorf for a cool Gilardino finish.

Stefano Morrone's effort was comfortably saved, but the Rossoneri went 3-0 up soon after through Shevchenko. The Ukrainian was left unmarked for a low header on Pirlo's chipped free kick from the right.

Amelia kept the scoreline down with a tough save on substitute Manuel Rui Costa's piledriver.

Livorno: Amelia; Grandoni, Vargas, Galante; Cesar Prates, Morrone, Passoni, Colucci (De Ascentis 56) , Coco; Lazetic (Pfertzel 76), Lucarelli

Milan: Dida; Simic, Nesta, Kaladze, Serginho; Kakà (Jankulovski 88), Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Gilardino (Rui Costa 84), Shevchenko

Ref: Trefoloni

Ancelotti refuses to crack
20.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti has denied that Milan have already been run out of the title race this season. "We won’t be worn down," he insisted.

The Rossoneri are nine points behind Fabio Capello’s runaway League leaders at present, but after their 4-0 win at the weekend and Juve’s first draw of the season their tails are up again.

Two points have been clawed back on the Bianconeri and Ancelotti is determined that there is plenty of fight left yet in his Milan side.

"Everybody is expecting us to crack from one moment to the next," he said. "But we are certainly not worn out yet."

Milan take on fifth-placed Livorno tomorrow in what promises to be a demanding match for the Rossoneri, who are only three points ahead of Roberto Donadoni’s men.

The Amaranto have taken 13 points from their last five matches and have yet to lose at the Stadio Armando Picchi, while the Diavolo have lost their last two games on the road.

"The clash with Livorno will be a crucial match in our season," added Carletto. "We want to end the year on a high and show that we are also good away from home.

"We will have to be very alert," he continued. "We need to be quicker in attack and not run the risk of leaving ourselves exposed at the back."

Milan plan new stadium
19.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan chief Adriano Galliani has confirmed that his club plan to leave the San Siro in favour of moving to their own stadium.

The Rossoneri chief has threatened to find his outfit a new home in the past and he’s now insisted that they have taken the first steps to building a brand new arena.

"Milan are seriously working towards constructing a stadium which will be based on the Schalke Arena in Germany," he stated. "We are only at the beginning, but we are serious."

Milan currently share the legendary Stadio Giuseppe Meazza with Inter, but Galliani maintains that leaving the San Siro is a must for the future.

"There is nowhere in the world where two such important clubs share a stadium," he continued.

"We really need one each. What will Inter do? They will build their own or decide to stay at the San Siro."

Galliani also admitted that it would make financial sense, especially given the lucrative naming rights market.

"The name of the stadium will be given to a sponsor," he underlined. "We will follow the examples set in Germany, England and America."

One of the major criticisms labelled at their current home is the poor state of the San Siro turf.

That has led to suggestions that an artificial surface would be introduced in the future, but Galliani ruled out such an option if the Rossoneri do move to a new address.

"I think natural turf would be much better," he noted. "They tried artificial surfaces in American football, yet they are now reverting back to the natural stuff."

Milan seem to have decided to follow in the footsteps of Juventus, who are set to start a revamp of their Stadio Delle Alpi in the summer of 2006.

Milan seek Simunic signing
19.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

The long-sought saviour of Milan’s defence has been identified in the form of Hertha Berlin stopper Josip Simunic, according to reports in Italy.

Milan’s quest for a domineering defender has been ongoing for some time, but appears to have finally reached its conclusion in the towering form of Simunic, who is out of contract at the end of the season.

The Australian-born centre-back has been monitored by both Inter and Sampdoria over recent months, but it appears that Milan have pipped their rivals to the post and already struck a private agreement with the player to join.

Indeed, should the club from the German capital wish to make some money on Simunic, rather than lose him for nothing in June, Milan are said to be prepared to acquire him as early as January for a fee of just £700,000.

Milan, whose Achilles heel this season has been thwarting aerial balls from set-pieces, see the 27-year-old as the ideal solution with Simunic - an old-fashioned man-marker - regarded in Germany as the best header of the ball in the Bundesliga.

The 6ft 5in stopper is also a mainstay of the Croatia national team and would be eligible to play in the Champions League, despite having appeared in the UEFA Cup with Hertha this term.

Galliani divulges Pirlo secret
19.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan chief Adriano Galliani has revealed why Andrea Pirlo can’t stop scoring free-kicks at the San Siro.

The Italian international netted his fourth of the Serie A campaign with a beauty against Messina on Sunday and Galliani insists he knows why.

"He always scores at home because he practices with our Adidas ball," said the Rossoneri Vice-President.

"Obviously, it has a different weight to the others because he also tried shooting with Inter’s ball but it didn’t come down as quickly."

The 26-year-old has become Serie A’s leading set-piece specialist, striking fear into goalkeepers throughout Italy with his unerring accuracy from dead-ball situations.

The Milan playmaker somehow manages to get the ball to take flight over the wall, but then dip back down at speed just under the crossbar at the decisive moment.

Pirlo’s almost unique skills are also set to be on show at the 2006 World Cup Finals in Germany.

"The good news is that we use the same ball that they are going to have at the World Cup Finals," added Galliani, much to the delight of Azzurri boss Marcello Lippi.

Pirlo recently revealed that the secret to his incredible free-kick taking ability is all in the toes. "I use the last three toes of my foot," he said.

AC Milan 4:0 Messina - post-match comments
18.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti: “We played well and created dozens of scoring opportunities, but the important thing today is the fact we closed the gap by two points. I am also happier with the clean sheet than scoring four goals.”

Bortolo Mutti: “It was a real struggle for us, as Milan were clearly superior in every area of the team. However, the penalty was non-existent and they really didn’t need help from the referee and debutant Olorunleke could be psychologically hit by that incident.”

AC Milan 4:0 Messina - match report
18.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Scorers: Shevchenko pen 22, 47 (Mi), Pirlo 83 (Mi), Gilardino 85 (Mi)

An Andriy Shevchenko brace put Milan back on track and swept Messina aside at San Siro.

The Rossoneri had lost three of their last four Serie A games and fallen 11 points adrift of leaders Juventus, so a win over Messina was essential. Paolo Maldini, Marcos Cafu, Pippo Inzaghi and the suspended Alessandro Nesta were ruled out, so Carlo Ancelotti had to reshuffle his defence.

The Sicilians were boosted by the win over Chievo and the fact they conquered the San Siro last season, but decided to rest Massimo Donati and Rahman Rezai to avoid costly bookings for Wednesday's Derby dello Stretto, giving Olorunleke his Serie A debut.

A Jaap Stam piledriver from distance was off target, but the first real scoring opportunity arrived after 18 minutes. Alberto Gilardino's looping header on an Andrea Pirlo pass brought a great flying save out of Marco Storari.

The Messna goalkeeper was again tested with a tough save on Clarence Seedorf's trademark rocket from distance.

Referee Paolo Tagliavento pointed to the spot soon after, as debutant Olorunleke clashed with Gilardino in the area. The push wasn't particularly clear, but Andriy Shevchenko stepped up and confidently rolled home to give Milan the lead.

Storari worked hard to block Kaka's effort at the near post, while there was perhaps an even clearer penalty incident on Gilardino ignored, as Marc Zoro seemed to hold him back by the shoulders.

Gennaro Gattuso thought he'd scored when he caught a wonderful Pirlo ball over the defence, but he hesitated and allowed Zoro to close him down at the near post.

There were also penalty appeals at the other end for Stam's nudge on Riccardo Zampagna, while Dida's uncertain exit almost allowed Zampagna in.

Arturo Di Napoli's shot took a deflection off Kakha Kaladze and skimmed the woodwork, very nearly resulting in an own goal.

The Sicilians were much more confident just before the break and Giuseppe Sculli shrugged off a challenge to place his angled drive mere inches past the far post.

Serginho tried to get Milan back on track with a brilliant solo run and powerful strike that was palmed out for a corner, then Storari used his body to keep out a Gilardino snapshot from point-blank range.

The Rossoneri foubled their lead with a fantastic team move straight after the restart. Shevchenko, Gilardino and Kaka combined a series of cheeky backheels until the Ukrainian fired in an angled drive.

A glancing Gilardino header went close, as did a Kaka strike from the edge of the box.

Messina weren't out of it yet and Dida flew to palm out a Zampagna free kick from 20 metres. From the resulting corner kick, the goalkeeper did well to smother Sculli's free header.

Massimo Ambrosini made his comeback three months after suffering a microfracture to his fibula, while Christian Vieri replaced Shevchenko and forced Storari into a tough save.

Kaka had a goal disallowed for offside after a fine team move, but replays show that Messina player Cristante redirected Vieri's backheel towards the Brazilian, so the goal should probably have stood.

Andrea Pirlo put the result beyond all doubt with another of his trademark free kicks that dipped just under the crossbar. It was the midfielder's last kick of the ball before he made way for Johan Vogel.

Gilardino netted the fourth moments later, as Ambrosini fought his way through the defence and the ex-Parma man slipped his finish inbetween Storari and the near post.

Milan: Dida; Simic, Stam, Kaladze, Serginho; Gattuso, Pirlo (Vogel 84), Seedorf (Ambrosini 76); Kakà; Shevchenko (Vieri 63), Gilardino

Messina: Storari; Zoro, Olorunleke (Donati 69); Cristante, Aronica; Zanchi, Mamede, Sculli (Rafael 76); D'Agostino; Di Napoli, Zampagna (Muslimovic 78)

Ref: Tagliavento

AC Milan vs. Messina - match preview
18.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan may well be out of the title race, but victory is still essential as Carlo Ancelotti will demand that his side erase memories of last weekend’s derby defeat with maximum points against Messina at the San Siro. Bortolo Mutti’s visitors approach the match as outsiders, but received a boost from a 2-0 win over Chievo and will look to take advantage of Milan’s recent troubles.

Despite a turbulent start to the season which has seen Milan beaten four times already, the Rossoneri still have a perfect home record. The odds are against Messina repeating last season’s shock 2-1 victory at the San Siro. The Sicilians have also had a far from ideal start to the season and have only won once on their travels, they need to continue their recent improvement if they are to avoid being dragged into a relegation battle. They also need to work on their disciplinary record. With 39 yellow cards and one red, the Stadio San Filippo side are the bad boys of Serie A.

Back-to-back League defeats against Chievo and Inter have led to intense criticism of Ancelotti and especially his ageing defence. Milan have not been convincing even in victory and wins against Lecce and Schalke were a little fortunate. After switching off in the derby, Ancelotti will surely know that another slip up would be unacceptable.

Paolo Maldini is set to return for Milan and veteran Alessandro Costacurta is also full fit. Messina were buoyed by the emotional return of former captain Salvatore Sullo last weekend after his recovery from cancer, and welcome back Gaetano D’Agostino and Salvatore Aronica from suspension. However, Brazilian defender Rafael and Atsushi Yanagisawa are unavailable. Ivica Iliev and Luca Fusco look unlikely to feature after a training ground dispute with Coach Mutti.

Milan (probable): Dida; Simic, Maldini, Stam, Serginho; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf, Kakà; Gilardino, Shevchenko

Messina (probable): Storari; Zoro, Rezaei, Zanchi, Aronica; Coppola, Donati, Giampà, D’Agostino; Sculli, Zampagna

Ref: To folllow

Ancelotti boosts Milan confidence
17.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan may be struggling, but Carlo Ancelotti remains confident they can kick-start their campaign against Messina and assures Bayern Munich should be worried.

“We still want to have our say this season,” said the Coach after falling 11 points adrift of leaders Juventus. “We can still challenge for all the trophies and make up some of that lost ground in the Scudetto race.”

The Rossoneri have suffered three defeats in their last four Serie A games and slumped to fourth place, but Ancelotti insists the results haven’t reflected their performance.

“We may have hit a few hurdles along the way, but in my view Milan have played the best football in Italy this term. There are another two games before the Christmas break and we want to pick up victories in both although, clearly, to keep our Scudetto hopes alive we can only pray for a Juventus slip.”

Their biggest problem has been at the back, specifically when defending from set-pieces, as all three of Inter’s goals in the derby came from dead-ball situations.

“On Sunday we will adopt a new tactic when defending from free kicks,” he revealed after letting in 18 goals in 15 games. “It’s true we have been penalised by this sort of thing, as we have only conceded eight goals from open play. Only Juve have done better with five, so our defence is reliable. The responsibility on set-pieces belongs to everyone in the team and I doubt anyone devotes as much time to this as we do.”

There were also question marks over Dida after he spilled an Adriano free kick to gift Obafemi Martins a goal in the 3-2 derby defeat.

“Dida will continue to be our Number 1, as he is very reliable and we all have total and utter faith in his abilities. Messina will come here looking to hit us on the counter-attack, so above all we need to really desire this result. I want to see the kind of commitment that can get us back into the title race. Don’t forget, last year we closed an eight-point gap in the space of a week.”

Nonetheless, with the Scudetto drifting away, Milan look set to focus on their Champions League clash with Bayern Munich in February.

“The Germans are a stimulating opponent in a wonderful stadium,” concluded Ancelotti. “This is a very unlucky draw – but only as far as Bayern are concerned.”

Massimo Ambrosini returns to the squad after a long injury lay-off, but Marcos Cafu, Paolo Maldini and the suspended Alessandro Nesta will force him to extensively reshuffle the defence.

Milan squad: Dida, Kalac; Costacurta, Kaladze, Jankulovski, Simic, Stam; Ambrosini, Gattuso, Kakà, Pirlo, Rui Costa, Seedorf, Serginho, Vogel; Gilardino, Inzaghi, Shevchenko, Vieri

Seedorf: Bring on Bayern
17.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Clarence Seedorf is happy that Milan have drawn Bayern Munich in the Champions League and believes their hopes of winning in Italy and Europe are still alive.

“Milan v Bayern Munich is one of the classic ties in continental football,” claimed the midfielder who had won the trophy with three different clubs.

“It’ll be a great game against a formidable adversary. These are the ties that everyone wants to get their teeth into. There’s a long way to go before February’s meeting and our current form counts for nothing.”

These two teams already met in 2003, when the Rossoneri won both encounters 2-1 in the group phase on their way to the Final at Old Trafford. The Germans also lost out in the semi-finals of both the 1967-68 Cup Winners’ Cup and the 1989-90 European Cup.

“In any case, both Bayern and Milan will play to win. There is reciprocal respect, but absolutely no fear. We hope that these will be two memorable evenings for our fans.”

Italian football followers have already had a taster of Bayern this season, as the Germans beat Juventus 2-1 in Munich before losing by the same scoreline in Turin during the group stage.

“Bayern haven’t changed much over the last few years,” continued Seedorf. “They are a solid squad with a lot of quality. Ze Roberto and Michael Ballack are doing well, but they know that we made them suffer in the past and we’ll try to repeat those performances again.”

The Rossoneri are struggling at the moment and have fallen 11 points adrift of Serie A leaders Juventus, but Seedorf warns that they cannot simply pick one competition over another.

“We can’t think that it’s possible to ‘rest’ for the next couple of months and then hit the gas in two games, because falling further behind in the Scudetto race would simply increase the pressure on us to progress in the Champions League.”

Indeed, the Dutchman believes that the title is not yet out of their grasp despite slipping down to fourth place behind Inter and Fiorentina.

“We are not going to spend the rest of the season sitting back and applauding Juventus. Both Milan and Inter are doing well. It is the Bianconeri who are performing above the norm. We do need to improve, but the situation isn’t that serious. With another string of positive results, we can get right back up there and it’s far too early to say the Scudetto has been decided.”

Milan turn to £10m Chivu
16.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan are looking to resolve their defensive difficulties by raiding Roma for Cristian Chivu, according to reports in Italy.

Chivu has been with the Giallorossi since the summer of 2003 and has two-and-a-half years left on his current contract, but Milan are prepared to shell out on the right player to plug the gaps in their creaking defence.

The Romanian is still only 25 years old but has a wealth of experience after making his name with Ajax at an early age.

He is also a versatile defender who can play at both full-back and in central defence.

Chivu suggested that he would be prepared to move on when he jumped to the defence of Fabio Capello last month, after the former Roma Coach was publicly criticised by Francesco Totti.

"Capello brought me to Italy and I would like to team up with him again," he said at the time.

"I must thank him because the fact that I am here is also down to him. When it comes to Capello, all you have to do is look at the number of League titles he has won."

However, Milan could now lure Chivu to the San Siro with a bid of £10m – a fee that the cash-strapped club from the capital would have difficulty in turning down, especially after the lesson they have learnt with regard to Antonio Cassano, for whom they will struggle to recoup much of their £20m outlay.

With Paolo Maldini, Marcos Cafu and Billy Costacurta out injured and approaching the twilight of their careers, Milan know that reinforcements are badly required in order to rebuild their ageing side.

The arrival of Chivu in January would also strengthen their Champions League challenge as the Resita-born left-back is eligible to play in the competition, having only appeared in the UEFA Cup with the Giallorossi this season.

Galliani galled by Bayern draw
16.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan chief Adriano Galliani was disappointed with the draw for the next stage of the Champions League. "We wanted to avoid Bayern Munich," he said.

The Rossoneri face a tough task to get through to the quarter-finals after being drawn against the German champions.

Bayern finished second to Juventus in their qualifying group and even inflicted one of only two defeats the Bianconeri have suffered this season.

Juve’s other loss was at the hands of Milan in Serie A, which should make their clash with the men from Munich a mouth-watering tie – not that Galliani thinks so.

"We wanted to avoid Chelsea and Bayern," said Galliani after the draw was made today at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland.

"They are literally dominating the English and German championships respectively.

"We do have a good record against them," he admitted. "But obviously, we’re talking about a great club and a great side. I can’t exactly call this a good draw for us.

"It’s a shame that one of us must go out at the last 16 stage, but that’s the luck of the draw for you."

Bayern Munich await Milan
16.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Juventus and Inter will be happy with the draw for the last 16 of the Champions League, but Milan have been handed a real test against Bayern Munich.

Despite topping their group, the Rossoneri have arguably been given one of the toughest opponents in the form of the German champions.

Juventus, who won and lost against Bayern in the first phase, face another Bundesliga outfit after Werder Bremen were paired with the Old Lady.

Werder, who went through with Barcelona and at the expense of Udinese, will be favourable opponents for the Bianconeri.

Inter officials will be smiling too after the Nerazzurri were pitted against Dutch side Ajax Amsterdam.

Having all topped their respective groups, the Italian sides will play their first legs away from home.

The trio of Italian clubs will be happy to have avoided the big dangers in the draw – Chelsea and Real Madrid.

The English champions face Barcelona in a re-match of last season’s controversial Champions League tie, while Real meet the Blues' London rivals Arsenal.

The fixtures will take place on February 28/29 and March 7/8.

Full draw: Chelsea - Barcelona; Real Madrid - Arsenal; Werder Bremen - Juventus; Bayern Munich - Milan; PSV Eindhoven - Lyon; Ajax - Inter; Benfica - Liverpool; Rangers - Villarreal.

CL Draw (Live)
16.12 || webmaster

Chelsea vs. FC Barcelona
Real Madrid vs. Arsenal
Werder Bremen vs. Juventus
Bayern Munchen vs. AC Milan
PSV Eindhoven vs. Lyon
Ajax Amsterdam vs. Internazionale Milano
Benfica vs. Liverpool
Glasgow Rangers vs. Villareal

Dida: I’m staying at Milan
15.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

After receiving a glowing endorsement from Adriano Galliani, Milan goalkeeper Dida has said that he wants to stay at the San Siro.

The Brazilian has had a decidedly unconvincing start to the season this term, where a series of nervous displays have led critics to question his position as the Rossoneri’s premier shot-stopper.

Reports this week have suggested that Milan are lining up a bid for Inter’s Francesco Toldo, given that he is out of contract at the end of the season.

However, Milan Vice-President Galliani had only words of support for Brazil’s No 1 custodian.

"We will prolong his contract," he said. "He may not be in his best form at present but we have every faith in him. He can drop by the office and sign until 2007 whenever he wants."

Dida, by all accounts, is said to be hugely appreciative of the confidence placed in him by the Milan director and today said that he has every intention of remaining with the club.

"My plan is to stay at Milan," he said. "This is where I want to remain and where I hope to keep doing well."

Milan’s current No 2 is Zeljko Kalac after they surprisingly agreed to loan Christian Abbiati, an Italian international, to Juventus in the summer.

Maldini waves goodbye to 2005
15.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan’s defensive crisis has deepened with the news that Paolo Maldini will be out until the New Year with his persistent leg injury.

Maldini has been plagued by the nagging muscular problem for several weeks now and, with no sign of it improving, medical staff have opted to give him a month off to aid a full recovery.

Milan, who currently lie fourth in the table, have already all but given up on the title race and so want their captain fit again in time for their assault on the Champions League.

The news comes as a blow to the Rossoneri, though, who are already suffering from the injury-induced absences of Marcos Cafu and Billy Costacurta. They must also make do without Alessandro Nesta – who is suspended for their next match against Messina.

It is no coincidence, though, that the injured party are the three oldest players in the side and Maldini’s condition has only served to highlight Milan’s desperate need for defenders – a priority that Vice-President Adriano Galliani and sporting director Ariedo Brieda are said to be working on.

It seems that Jonathan Zebina will be making his way over to the San Siro from Juventus in the summer, but Sao Paulo’s Diego Lugano may now be a January arrival.

Kaladze still has Scudetto hopes
14.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Kakha Kaladze is happy to have taken on a new central defensive role for his club and insists Milan are not out of the Scudetto race.

“I am happy to have, at least in part, proved my worth in that position,” said the Georgian international after switching to the middle for the derby following injuries to Paolo Maldini, Marcos Cafu and Alessandro Nesta.

That 3-2 defeat to rivals Inter has left them floundering 11 points adrift of leaders Juventus and patron Silvio Berlusconi publicly stated their Scudetto hopes were over.

“We lost a game that we did not deserve to leave empty-handed,” assured Kaladze. “The Nerazzurri certainly weren’t better on the night. I can’t be happy when that’s the situation, regardless of my own performance at the moment.”

Milan are now in fourth place and are expected to focus their attention on to the Champions League for the rest of this season.

“It’s a strange time for us and I can’t understand why the results aren’t going our way, as we don’t seem to be struggling during the games. We also played well on Sunday evening, especially when we had more of the possession in the second half. These off periods happen in football and you can’t be consistent all the time.”

The biggest problems have been at the back, and especially on set-pieces, where two of Inter’s three goals on Sunday were created.

“We have conceded goals when man-marking and in a zone system this year, so I don’t think a change of tactic would solve the problem. It’s purely one of concentration and we are working hard in training to get over it.”

Nonetheless, Kaladze maintains some hope for the future and what would be an incredible comeback for Carlo Ancelotti’s men.

“We have to look forward and start from scratch on Sunday against Messina,” concluded the former Dynamo Kiev man. “If someone thinks we’re going to give up, then they’re very wrong. All we can do is focus on winning every game and then work out the final table when we get there.”

Zaccardo pens Palermo deal
14.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Cristian Zaccardo has extended his stay at Palermo quashing speculation linking him with a move to Milan or Juventus.

Zaccardo, who moved to the Stadio Barbera from Bologna in 2004, has enjoyed a successful spell with the Sicilian outfit, where his performances have been rewarded by several call-ups to Marcello Lippi’s Italy team.

Indeed it was the 23-year-old’s winning goal against Slovenia that took the Azzurri through to the World Cup Finals in Germany, where he is hoping to establish himself in the right-back role.

Despite recent claims by Palermo owner Maurizio Zamparini that he would be willing to sell his Italy stars, after a series of indifferent recent performances from them, it seems that Zaccardo has escaped any such fate.

"In 21 official matches we have only lost three times," said sporting director Rino Foschi, highlighting the efforts of the Rosanero rearguard.

Zaccardo, like fellow teammates and recently-capped internationals Fabio Grosso and Andrea Barzagli, has been linked with a move away from the island, with Juventus and Milan among the potential suitors.

Reports have specified that Zamparini would be willing to offload one of his Azzurri stars to Juve in a part-exchange deal for their young goalkeeper Antonio Mirante, who is currently on loan to Siena.

However, Foschi revealed that the clubs have some way to go before agreeing a price. "Zamparini asked to buy Mirante," explained the Rosanero director. "But, as usual, Luciano Moggi wanted double the amount offered."

Milan weigh up Toldo option
13.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

With goalkeeper Dida suffering a slump in form, Milan are considering making a move for out-of-favour Inter shot-stopper Francesco Toldo.

Dida’s performance levels have taken a dip ever since last year’s Champions League quarter-final match against Inter, during which the Brazilian was struck by a firework launched from the crowd.

Where in the past he has been the modicum of assurance between the posts, doubt and indecision has begun to afflict the South American’s game.

Sunday was a case in point, when he spilled a relatively straightforward free-kick into the path of Obafemi Martins, who scored Inter’s second goal with ease.

It is thought that, with Milan having already given up on the title race, Dida may be rested in favour of reserve ‘keeper Zeljko Kalac, who, so far, has only played in the Coppa Italia win over Brescia.

Should Kalac, who signed a three-year deal in the summer, fail to impress in the next few weeks, Milan are considering signing Toldo in the summer.

The former Italy goalkeeper has lost his place to Julio Cesar at Inter and has been linked with a loan move to Palermo and Benfica in January.

Should his performances on loan impress Rossoneri scouts, the former Fiorentina guardian would be available for free in June.

In addition to Toldo, the San Siro outfit are also said to be monitoring the progress of Livorno ‘keeper Marco Amelia.

The 23-year-old has kept nine clean sheets this season and has received glowing reports from Livorno Coach and former Rossoneri midfielder Roberto Donadoni.

Berlusconi gives up on title
12.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan chief Silvio Berlusconi has made the surprise announcement that his side’s title race is already over. "The Champions League is our only remaining chance now," he said.

Milan have slipped to fourth place in Serie A and are now lying 11 points behind League leaders Juventus and, following their Milan derby defeat at the San Siro on Sunday night, Berlusconi declared that the gap is too great to bridge.

"The Champions League is our only remaining chance now," he said. "Juve are far ahead and there’s not much difference between being eight points or 11 points behind."

Such defeatist talk is a great surprise from the normally confident Milan owner, whose side were just two points behind the Bianconeri after beating them on October 29.

"I was tempted to run out on to the pitch myself," joked the Italian Premier, who also laughed off any suggestion of Coach Carlo Ancelotti being dismissed after three defeats in four Serie A matches.

"You win some, you lose some," he added. "Obviously, it’s better to win than lose, but when it happens there’s no point in making a drama out of it."

Striker Andriy Shevchenko was more positive about his side’s title chances, though, two weeks before the Christmas break.

"As far as the Scudetto race is concerned I’m still optimistic," he said. "We’re thinking about winning the next two matches to round off the year with six more points. Hopefully, things will start to go awry in Turin during 2006."

Milan entertain Messina next weekend, before Ancelotti takes his men to high-flying Livorno who are bossed by Rossoneri legend Roberto Donadoni.

Crespo has Italian desire
12.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Chelsea striker Hernan Crespo has declared his desire to return to Italian football, it has emerged today.

Crespo is finding first-team opportunities hard to come by with the Stamford Bridge outfit, who are nevertheless dominating the Premiership with a 12-point lead.

Despite the Blues’ success, though, the Argentine marksman has struggled to settle during his second English spell.

"I would like to return to Italian football," Crespo told Sky Italia. "I’d like to go back to Serie A because Italian football is made for me."

The quicksilver forward, who - after a slow start - enjoyed a successful spell at Milan last season culminating in his Champions League Final brace, is clearly still homesick but has a while yet to run on his £94,000-a-week contract.

"I still have two years to run on my current deal," added the unhappy hitman. "But we will see.

"Carlo Ancelotti will always be my favourite Coach even if I were to join another club."

What Chelsea boss José Mourinho makes of these latest comments remains to be seen.

But even if the Portuguese tactician were to consider offloading the South American, in line with owner Roman Abramovich’s claims that the squad needs to be lighter, there are few clubs who will be prepared to meet his lofty wage demands.

Veron defends "man's game"
12.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Inter’s Juan Sebastian Veron hailed his side’s Milan derby win and defended his aggressive altercation with Kaka. "It’s a man’s game," he said.

Veron was delighted with the Nerazzurri’s 3-2 victory – a result that moved them into second place with Fiorentina – and confirms his unstinting belief in his side’s ability.

Alluding to off-field problems which have sidetracked Inter over recent months, the former Lazio and Chelsea midfielder said that this derby win will boost confidence and help Roberto Mancini’s men challenge Juventus, who are 10 points ahead of them in Serie A.

"It’s a win that stands us in good stead now and which will unite the squad as well as improve our League standing," he said.

"We knew that we were capable of doing well even after a bad start to the season and this is confirmation."

The Little Witch was one of Inter’s best players on the night and contributed to his side’s win with a particularly impressive first-half performance, but matters almost got out of hand after the break when he squared up to Kaka and almost made contact with his head.

"These things happen," said the 32-year-old. "Football is a man’s game and certain things sometimes occur, especially in the fraught atmosphere of a derby."

While Inter’s season has been given a huge boost by Sunday night’s win, Milan have slipped to fourth place following their third League defeat in four matches.

Ancelotti dissects derby defeat
12.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan Coach Carlo Ancelotti has looked to explain the reasons behind his side’s 3-2 loss to Inter on Sunday night.

The Rossoneri twice came from behind to level the encounter, before an injury time header from Adriano condemned them to their fourth League loss in just 15 games.

Ancelotti, whose side are now fourth and 11 points behind Juventus, insists a variety of factors contributed to tonight’s defeat.

"We lost because of the usual one unlucky incident," stated the former Roma and Milan midfielder.

"We struggled but got back into the game, thanks to a second half display in which there was velocity and quantity.

"The first half was disappointing for us. We tried to play too many vertical balls and therefore never had control of the game."

Today’s loss, given the three goals conceded, will provide further ammunition to those who believe Milan’s ageing rearguard is the real problem behind their dip in fortunes.

"I would say that we gave little away again in terms of play, then there was also that first penalty which wasn’t a penalty. Let’s say that referee Domenico Messina didn’t put in a great performance."

Fingers were also pointed at goalkeeper Dida, who is not looking like the awesome shot-stopper of the past few seasons – a fact Ancelotti seemed to accept.

"We have been used to some great performances and he could have done better with the Martins goal, but he can’t always produce miracles," stated Ancelotti.

"Christian Vieri? I put him on with 15 minutes left during the moment of our most intense pressure. He is good in the air and that could have been useful."

We deserved victory, say Inter
12.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Inter boss Roberto Mancini and match winner Adriano insist that the Nerazzurri deserved their first derby victory in three years.

It had looked as if the points would be shared following a thrilling match until Adriano grabbed his second in injury time to ensure a 3-2 victory.

"The team played well and merited the win," stated boss Mancini. "We deserved to win this derby encounter."

Mancini, who is now also celebrating his first derby success, was particularly content with how his team reacted to conceding a second equaliser on 83 minutes.

"We did start to lose our way as they did create some difficulty for us with a few crosses, but I really liked the reaction after Jaap Stam’s goal," he underlined.

"I must say that all of the team did really well to come back from that blow."

Inter are now in joint second, but they are still a massive 10 points away from Juventus – a lead Mancio accepts they deserve.

"They should be in that position, but there are still plenty of games left and I believe in a fight-back," he said.

"Our objective for now is to win every game until the half-way stage of the season and then assess our situation."

Adriano was particularly happy with the triumph given his difficulties at times so far this season.

"We played well from the start of the first half and we deserved the win," explained the South American. "We were really motivated today and we just want to continue like this from now on.

"I must thank my teammates who have been a great help to me this week. I’m happy but the season isn’t over yet."

Adriano also mirrored his Coach’s comments when it came to discussing the possibility of catching Juventus.

"We hope to close the gap and overtake them even if we know it will be tough," he noted. "Yet if we play like this then we can do it."

Bayern liken Juve to the Mafia
12.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

(note: this isn't related to Milan, but it's always a pleasure to read such things)

Juventus’ transfer policy has been blasted by Bayern Munich chief Karl-Heinz Rummenigge. "They are like the Mafia," he moaned.

The German made the sensational statement on Sunday, where he picked out Luciano Moggi (pictured) for particular criticism.

The Bianconeri director general is widely regarded as one of the best in the business, but the Italian seems to have annoyed the former Inter player.

"I no longer want anything to do with their director general Luciano Moggi," he told the Bild newspaper.

"They are not gentleman at Juventus, they are like the Mafia."

You don’t have to be a genius to figure out why the German legend is so upset, given recent transfer speculation.

Juventus already signed Robert Kovac on a free transfer from Bayern last summer and a repeat is on the cards.

French right-back Willy Sagnol will be out of contract at the end of term and he too seems almost certain to be heading for Turin.

Sagnol, who is expected to replace Jonathan Zebina at the club next season, is set to confirm his Delle Alpi switch in January.

Rummenigge has indicated that he in unhappy with the way Juventus allegedly haven’t respected FIFA rules with regard to players who are coming to the end of their contracts.

Internazionale 3:2 AC Milan - match report
11.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Scorers: Adriano (I) pen 23, 92, Shevchenko (M) pen 38, Martins (I) 59, Stam (M) 83

An injury time goal from Adriano has given Inter a memorable 3-2 victory over Milan in the derby. It had looked like a late Jaap Stam goal would see the game end 2-2 after the Nerazzurri had twice surrendered the lead. However, Adriano hit the winner which sees Inter move into joint second with Fiorentina, leaving Milan behind in fourth!

With Juventus collecting another victory to maintain their unbelievable pace at the top of the table earlier on Sunday, both San Siro Coaches knew that anything less than a victory would severely affect their slim chances of catching the Old Lady in the title race.

With that in mind, Roberto Mancini decided to field a more traditional 4-4-2 with Adriano and Obafemi Martins in attack, rather than go for a 4-2-3-1 system. Juan Veron was given the keys to the midfield, while Walter Samuel was selected in defence alongside Ivan Cordoba.

Milan responded with their typical offensive line-up, even if their defence was much changed given the absences of Marcos Cafu and Paolo Maldini. Jaap Stam started on the right, while Kakha Kaladze – who suffered a nasty blow after just four minutes in a challenge with Martins – was moved from the left into the centre. Serginho started as full-back.

Inter, whose fans used the pre-match countdown to remind the Rossoneri faithful of their Champions League collapse to Liverpool, started the game more brightly. Dejan Stankovic, Martins and Adriano had early opportunities before the Nerazzurri were awarded a penalty amid much controversy.

Martins made a move in between Stam and Nesta before falling to the ground, closely followed by the defender who, according to referee Messina, handled the ball. Adriano kept his head to put the ball to Dida’s left. Inter 1 Milan 0.

Milan were struggling to respond with any real potency until the man in black levelled things up with another much-talked about spot-kick decision. A Pirlo free-kick struck the head of Cambiasso, before also making contact with Stankovic’s arm. Despite Inter’s protests, Shevchenko sent Julio Cesar the wrong way with the inside of his right foot. Inter 1 Milan 1.

That incident seemed to add spark to an already intense derby, one high in passion but low in scoring opportunities. Gilardino suffered a cut lip after clashing with Walter Samuel just minutes before the break, while Nesta and Cordoba were lucky to survive the half after they weren’t booked for challenges which could have resulted in a second yellow card each.

There were no changes to the teams immediately after the half-time oranges, but Ancelotti did opt to replace an under-the-weather Nesta for Dario Simic in the 53rd minute. Before then, Gilardino made his presence felt in the Inter defence by just failing to get on the end of a 47th minute Stam cross and then testing out his dribbling skills on Cordoba, Samuel and Favalli.

Serginho threatened to give Milan the lead on 57 with the aid of a free-kick. His effort floated over the wall but finished wide of Julio Cesar’s right-hand post. Inter responded with a dead-ball situation of their own just two minutes later, but with very different consequences – one which saw the San Siro erupt with delight.

With the ball centrally placed around 30 yards from goal, Adriano thought he’d have a go. Dida, his Brazilian colleague, managed to stop his effort but the rebound fell kindly and Martins was the quickest to react as he rippled the net to give Mancio’s boys the lead. Inter 2 Milan 1.

Ancelotti’s men came forward in search of the equaliser and came desperately close in the 68th minute. Kaka rifled in a shot with his delightful right-foot which beat Julio Cesar but, thanks also to a deflection, the ball struck the post.

Milan were understandably attacking with more intent and there was no surprise when Christian Vieri, who controversially joined Milan from Inter on a free transfer in the summer, came on with 15 minutes remaining.

Inter responded with a more defensive switch as Luis Figo, a wide midfielder, was replaced by Argentina stopper Nicolas Burdisso. Unfortunately for Mancini, an increase in numbers at the back wasn’t enough to keep out Milan. Pirlo floated in a perfect free-kick which saw Stam out-jump Adriano and Stankovic to head home an equaliser. Inter 2 Milan 2.

Game over? No way. With 92 minutes on the clock, Milan again showed their vulnerability at set-pieces as Adriano got on the end of a corner to give Inter a famous victory. Inter 3 Milan 2.

Inter: Julio Cesar; J Zanetti, Cordoba, Samuel, Favalli; Figo (Burdisso 81), Cambiasso, Veron, Stankovic; Adriano, Martins (Cruz 85)

Milan: Dida; Stam, Nesta (Simic 53), Kaladze; Serginho; Gattuso (Jankulovski 71), Pirlo, Seedorf; Kaka; Gilardino (Vieri 75), Shevchenko

Ref: Messina

Ancelotti feels derby pressure
11.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti realises that failure to win the derby will wreck the Scudetto hopes of Milan or Inter, so there is tremendous psychological pressure on both sides.

“We cannot afford to make calculations on various results. A setback would make closing the gap on Juventus even more difficult, so this is a game that puts a great deal of psychological pressure on both teams,” warned the Rossoneri boss.

Juve are already eight points clear at the top of the table and could further extend that advantage this weekend, as they face a relatively simple home task against Cagliari.

Ancelotti’s men have been stuttering in Serie A of late and their 2-1 defeat at Chievo last week has placed Inter as the favourites for the first time in several seasons.

Both outfits have injury worries, as Paolo Maldini, Marcos Cafu, Alvaro Recoba and Marco Materazzi are sidelined, but former Inter star Christian Vieri could make his mark on his old club.

“I have a few doubts on how to replace Maldini. As for Vieri, he will take centre stage for Milan before the end of the season and I hope he can begin on Sunday night.”

The Nerazzurri haven’t won a derby match since March 2002, when Vieri was on the scoresheet, but Ancelotti is not sticking by superstition.

“This is more or less the same Inter side we faced last season in Serie A and the Champions League. They are a solid team with a good defensive set-up and Adriano is finding his form again. We must try to give them the same problems we’ve created for these players over the last couple of years.”

Kaka caused controversy this week by suggesting that Ancelotti would’ve either resigned or been fired had they not qualified for the second round of the Champions League.

“We were at a crossroads against Schalke and took the right path,” assured the Coach. “My warm celebrations with Vice-President Adriano Galliani were down to our relief at qualifying, not in any way reflecting some imaginary difficulty I’m having in finishing the season. If there was some misunderstanding with the players about that, it’s purely because they’ve read too many newspapers. My rapport with the club is solid.”

Maldini misses Milan derby
10.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Paolo Maldini and Marcos Cafu have been ruled out of Sunday’s San Siro showdown by injury, but Christian Vieri is in the Milan squad.

There were doubts over the Rossoneri captain after he limped off during the 2-1 defeat at Chievo last weekend.

Maldini is suffering from a left thigh problem, while Brazilian international Cafu has been sidelined for several weeks. Both veterans will be in the stands for the Sunday night clash with local rivals Inter.

“We have a few injury worries in defence, but apart from that our morale is high and we really want to play this derby,” said Coach Carlo Ancelotti.

This will force major changes to the Milan back four, where Jaap Stam is expected to move into central defence and former Inter man Dario Simic slots in at right-back. Serginho should maintain his place on the left.

There were doubts over whether Vieri, who made a shock move across the city in the summer, would be a part of this game, but he is in the squad.

Milan squad: Dida, Kalac; Kaladze, Marzoratti, Nesta, Jankulovski, Simic, Stam; Gattuso, Kaka', Pirlo, Rui Costa, Seedorf, Serginho, Vogel; Gilardino, Inzaghi, Shevchenko, Vieri

Internazionale vs. AC Milan - match preview
10.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti and Roberto Mancini will both approach Sunday’s clash at the San Siro with a degree of trepidation. Mancini has spent a large part of the season under pressure and following the Rossoneri’s shock defeat at the hands of Chievo last weekend, Ancelotti is also under intense scrutiny.

Although both sides’ title chances already look remote, the battle for second place could not be more important. There will also be the personal battle between Brazil’s two top goalkeepers in the form of Julio Cesar for Inter and Dida for Milan. Last season’s two derby days only produced one goal – the first finished goalless, Milan won the other 1-0 – and with so much at stake and such quality in goal, a tight encounter is likely.

Pre-season expectation was intense amongst the Inter faithful but the Nerazzurri struggled to find consistency early in the season. However, Mancini’s men had won their last four matches against Parma, Artmedia Bratislava, Messina and Ascoli – before the draw with Rangers – and are starting to play with confidence.

The defensive frailty shown against Roma, Palermo and Sampdoria has eased and with it has the pressure on Mancini. Adriano scored the winner against Ascoli and was on target against Rangers. He has the ability to menace Milan’s ageing defence, but the Inter boss can only hope that he is in the right frame of mind.

Ancelotti was left to rue an uncharacteristically error-ridden performance last weekend but called for his side to show their usual aggression against their city rivals. The Milan boss also promised that the Rossoneri would overcome their two big challenges this week. After a tense 3-2 win over Schalke ensured Champions League progress, he can only hope that his squad have enough in the tank to ensure a successful seven days.

Paolo Maldini is a major doubt for Milan but Clarence Seedorf is set to return. Christian Vieri is unlikely to feature against his former side. Mancini will be without Alvaro Recoba who sustained an injury against Ascoli and possibly Marco Materazzi who limped off against Rangers.

Inter (probable): Julio Cesar; J Zanetti, Cordoba, Materazzi, Favalli; Figo, Veron, Cambiasso, Stankovic; Martins, Adriano

Milan (probable): Dida; Simic, Stam, Nesta, Kaladze; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf, Kaka; Gilardino, Shevchenko

Mancini doesn't fear Milan
10.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Inter are looking for their first derby win in three years, but Roberto Mancini maintains they don’t fear Milan, even if Alvaro Recoba and Marco Materazzi are injured.

“It’s important to win this match so that we don’t lose more ground on leaders Juventus,” insisted the Coach.

“Milan remain the favourites because they are two points above us in the standings right now. Current form and status often means nothing in the derby, as it’s a 90-minute season all in itself. The last four encounters have been very balanced and decided by one or two incidents, so either side could’ve won them. It’ll be crucial to play with concentration, focus and a relaxed state of mind.”

This is all lined up to be one of the tightest Milan derbies in decades, though the beneficiary could well be the Bianconeri.

“I don’t think that a defeat will rule either of us out of the Scudetto race. Juve will slow down sooner or later and drop points where they least expect it, as no team is invincible. All we can do is focus on our own situation and winning every game.”

Alvaro Recoba, Marco Materazzi and Ze Maria are out of this match due to an injury, so Obafemi Martins is expected to partner Adriano upfront.

“It’s a shame that we’re missing these players who were on fine form, but Inter have a vast squad and we have the quality to replace them. Luis Figo can be given more of a free role behind the strikers, although he does tend to cut in when he starts out on the right anyway.”

Although Christian Vieri is the most eagerly-awaited Milan player, the most likely danger is set to come from Andriy Shevchenko and Kaka.

“There are great champions in both squads and I think the Rossoneri should be just as concerned about facing us. We have no reason to fear anyone. Vieri is one of their stars and, if he plays, we’ll have to pay close attention to him just as much as any other.”

Inter squad: 1 Francesco Toldo, 12 Julio Cesar Soares; 2 Ivan Ramiro Cordoba, 3 Nicolas Burdisso, 4 Javier Zanetti, 11 Sinisa Mihajlovic, 16 Giuseppe Favalli, 25 Walter Samuel, 33 Pierre Wome; 5 Dejan Stankovic, 6 Cristiano Zanetti, 7 Luis Figo , 8 David Pizarro, 14 Juan Sebastian Veron, 19 Esteban Cambiasso; 9 Julio Ricardo Cruz, 10 Adriano, 30 Obafemi Martins

Figo fired up for derby debut
10.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Luis Figo is fired up ahead of his first Milan derby and admits it will be a uniquely passionate and intense experience.

“It’s true that I have played in many derby games in Spain, but this will be my first Italian taste of a local rivalry,” he told the official Inter website.

“We haven’t discussed this tie between ourselves very much, but there’s no need to talk up a clash that is known throughout the world. Football is experienced with great intensity in Italy and you can really sense how much the fans want this victory.”

The former Barcelona star famously had a pig’s head thrown at him during a derby match when he was playing for Real Madrid and doesn’t expect a similar reception at the San Siro on Sunday evening, but he does believe it will be a key moment in the Nerazzurri’s season.

“I don’t know who plays the better football out of Inter and Milan, but the only thing that counts now is the win. It doesn’t matter if we achieve those points through entertaining play or sheer character, but I hope all the fans will be happy with the result we achieve at the final whistle.”

A victory would enable Inter to leapfrog past Milan into second place and achieve their first Derby della Madonnina celebration since March 2002.

“Our objective is to win and we can achieve that if we do what we’re capable of,” added patron Massimo Moratti. “Psychologically we are a little more confident than Milan going into the game, but it all depends on the individual performances. I would’ve picked Alvaro Recoba for potential Man of the Match, but he’s not 100 per cent fit, so I’ll go for Adriano instead.”

Sheva: Anything can happen!
10.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Andriy Shevchenko believes this will be the most open Derby della Madonnina in decades and that all bets are off on Sunday night.

“There are no favourites for this match,” said the Milan hitman. “I don’t think that we are in any way inferior to Inter, despite the fact our results haven’t been brilliant lately. The Nerazzurri are a strong and ambitious squad, while we are a more complete team who have already proved their worth by winning the Scudetto, Champions League and Coppa Italia.”

Roberto Mancini’s Inter have been climbing up the standings over the past month with a string of victories and a win on Sunday evening would allow them to leapfrog their rivals into second place.

“The derby is a very important and unpredictable tie, but if we lose then we won’t be out of the Scudetto race,” insisted Shevchenko. “Above all, it will not be a war. We’ll all be playing to win and there is fun to be had.”

Inter have not beaten Milan in all competitions since March 2002, when Christian Vieri scored the only goal. The Rossoneri have won seven and drawn three, but much of the credit goes to Shevchenko, who has scored 13 goals in derby clashes.

“The lead-up to this match is very nervous, as it is certainly not a game like any other. We feel confident, but all we can say is: May the best team win.”

Shevchenko's Ukraine will take on Spain, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia in Group H for the 2006 World Cup Finals.

Kaka hoping for happy "away" day
9.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

With the build-up to the Milan derby gathering pace, Kaka has revealed his intention to break his away goal drought against Inter on Sunday.

Much has been made of Milan’s recent slump in form. Two defeats in three Serie A matches is hardly the ideal preparation for the game those in Lombardy refer to as ‘la partitissima’ - ‘the match of matches’.

Inter, by contrast, have been sneaking up on the rails after three wins over the same period and, as Roberto Mancini predicted three weeks ago, the Nerazzurri have now made up ground on their arch rivals – a fact that Kaka and Co are all too aware of.

"Inter are playing well," agreed the Brazilian. "They have come back to life and are enjoying a good spell in the title race and in Europe."

A fourth straight win would see Mancini’s men leapfrog Milan and move into second place and it is this possibility that has focused the minds of Kaka’s colleagues at Milanello.

"It’s a derby and that’s what makes it all the more scary," admitted the attacking midfielder. "Inter could even overtake us, but that is what is giving us that extra motivation."

There are fears among Milan fans that their arduous European campaign - which saw them narrowly defeat Schalke 04 to qualify for the next round of the Champions League on Tuesday night - has taken its toll on Carlo Ancelotti’s side, but Kaka insists that this fixture makes you forget tired legs.

"I don’t think that tiredness comes into it," he said. "When you play in a derby it fires you up more and you forget everything else."

Kaka is enjoying another fine season in Milan colours, although one area in need of improvement is his poor scoring record away from home.

The 23-year-old has yet to hit the target on the road this season, but will be hoping that with this ‘away’ match taking place at the San Siro, he won’t have any problems on that score.

"I haven’t scored away from home yet but I don’t think about it," he claimed. "Hopefully, I can break that duck on Sunday when I’ll be playing at ‘home’ against the Nerazzurri."

Pirlo explains free-kick secret
8.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan’s free-kick specialist Andrea Pirlo has revealed why he is so lethal from dead-ball situations.

Pirlo is widely recognised as one of the best in Italy and illustrated why with a real beauty against Schalke 04 in the Champions League on Tuesday night.

Now Pirlo, who has also netted in similar fashion during recent wins over Juventus and Lecce, has explained the secret behind his success.

"I have always been fascinated with the dead-ball aspect of the game, ever since I was a child," he said. "I would practice all of the time with mixed results."

However, Pirlo has developed into a specialist also thanks to his spell alongside the legendary Roberto Baggio at Brescia.

"He took free-kicks like no other," continued the Italian international. "I just used to stand there in training and study him for days. I think I learnt something in the end."

Nevertheless, Pirlo has also varied his style after watching the way Lyon and Brazil midfielder Juninho strikes his free-kicks.

"I’ve been inspired by Juninho," he continued. "I saw the way he makes contact with the ball and copied him.

"I spoke to Coach Carlo Ancelotti one day with the idea of striking the ball with the three small toes of my foot.

"It is also important to place the ball in a certain way."

Some players like to make contact with the air valve of the ball, which increases the chances of movement through the air.

Kaka: My goals saved Ancelotti
7.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Despite Milan’s claims to the contrary, Kaka reveals that Carlo Ancelotti would’ve quit if they’d been eliminated from the Champions League.

“There was pressure on Ancelotti and he could’ve gone if there was a defeat against Schalke,” explained the Brazilian on Sky Italia television.

Kaka scored a brace in that 3-2 victory after Andrea Pirlo’s free kick to ensure their safe passage into the final 16. Vice-President Adriano Galliani assured there was a pact with Ancelotti to stick together, but the player paints a very different picture.

“We beat Schalke for us and for Ancelotti. None of us within the team wanted him to leave, as he is a great Coach and a good man,” he added.

The Rossoneri were accused of underestimating opponents in what are on paper easier tasks, such as the 2-1 defeat at Chievo last week.

“Ancelotti told us that we cannot keep playing one game at the top of our potential, another OK and then a really bad performance. He asked us to find some consistency, to talk less and concentrate more. He also said we should smile less on the pitch, but for us Brazilians that isn’t an easy request. We’d like to smile all the time!”

Kaka has once again proved decisive in the Champions League and admits he realises how important that brace against Schalke was.

“I feel good because I know that my goals helped Milan to qualify and it therefore feels like a very special day for me. I always thank God for the chances He has given me.”

Galliani: If Carlo goes, I go!
7.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti has received a ringing endorsement regarding his future by Adriano Galliani. "If he goes, I go," said the Rossoneri chief.

Defeat to Chievo at the weekend prompted speculation that Ancelotti’s future was hanging in the balance and dependent on success against Schalke 04 last night.

With Real Madrid in the market for a new Coach, the tactician had been one of the names linked with a move to the Bernebeu, but Galliani has moved to quash any thoughts of Carletto leaving the San Siro hotseat.

"We knew that this match was a crucial point in the season," said Galliani after the 3-2 win over the Bundesliga outfit, a result which secured safe passage to the knock-out stages of the Champions League.

"But we didn’t fail. Let it be clear that as I am chief executive officer of Milan, Carlo won’t be going to any Real Madrid – he’ll stay here."

Galliani then went on to reveal the depth of their friendship and the fact that they have struck up a remarkable personal agreement which will keep them together – whatever the future may bring.

"Carlo and I have a pact – if they send one of us away then the other will follow," continued the Milan official.

"In other words, we’ll leave together. Carlo and I are inseparable and will remain united for better or for worse."

Ancelotti: We're alive and kicking!
7.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti and Kaka hope to take their nervous energy through to the derby and insist Milan are “alive and kicking!”

“Milan have proved they’re alive and well,” said the Coach after their 3-2 win over Schalke 04. “We will make our mark on the competition again this season. I agree that we tend to lose focus in games that seem easier on paper, so we must work on that and find consistency in every match.”

Despite being unsure as to whether they were going to qualify at all, the Rossoneri ended up topping Group H ahead of PSV Eindhoven. Schalke go into the UEFA Cup and Fenerbahce are out of Europe.

“I think that topping the Group means you’ve deserved something, although this competition is increasingly tight. The important thing is to be in the draw!”

There was a lot of tension at San Siro this evening and Milan kept allowing Schalke back into the running.

“It’s normal to be tense when everything is riding on one game,” added Ancelotti. “Paradoxically, we were more relaxed on the 2-1 than the 3-2, as Schalke were pouring forward in the final minutes. Overall we deserved the victory and had plenty of opportunities, though the Germans are a great side and it was never going to be easy.”

Kaka scored a brace to send the Rossoneri through to the next round and was a constant thorn in Schalke’s side. “We deserved this celebration after everything people have said about us over the last few days. We got through a tough Group and can now prepare for the derby,” said the Brazilian.

He had been furious after the first leg in Germany after he was repeatedly kicked and elbowed by Christian Poulsen, claiming “this is not football.”

“It was a great game and I am pleased with my performance. I am happy to have helped Milan to win, but now we need to keep calm and improve. It was the right way to respond to players like Poulsen – with good football.”

Kaka has a good scoring record against Inter and all eyes will be on him for the derby on Sunday night, especially as Milan’s Scudetto hopes could be revived or destroyed altogether. “Everyone prepares in their own way and we are all charged up, as I imagine Inter’s players will be. We can only wait and see what happens on Sunday.”

Vice-President Adriano Galliani was in the stands and insisted this five-goal thriller should see Milan praised for their attacking verve rather than bemoaned for their defensive frailties.

“It was a nervous night, but we are certainly one of the most entertaining teams in Europe. I am close to Ancelotti, in sickness and in health. As long as I am here, the Coach will remain at Milan.”

They will be seeds in Friday’s Champions League draw for the knockout round and could pick some giants of the sport.

“I hope we pick either Chelsea or Real Madrid. Don’t forget I celebrated when we drew Deportivo La Coruna a few years ago and we all know how that went. We knew this was a crucial moment in our campaign and, although we may get distracted in long competitions, we tend to be the best Italian team in Europe with our recent record.”

AC Milan 3:2 Schalke 04 - match report
6.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Scorers: Pirlo 42 (M), Poulsen 44 (S), Kaka 52, 60 (M), Lincoln 66 (S)

Kaka's brace sealed a five-goal thriller against Schalke as Milan squeezed through to the knockout round of the Champions League.

This was the most important match of the season for Carlo Ancelotti, as defeat would send his team hurtling out of the Champions League at the first stage and possibly cost the Coach his job. The Rossoneri were buoyed by their 4-0 demolition of Fenerbahce - all the goals coming from a record-setting Andriy Shevchenko - but defeat at Chievo on Saturday saw their Scudetto hopes crumble.

Ancelotti surprisingly chose Pippo Inzaghi to partner Shevchenko upfront, while Jaap Stam was at right-back for the injured Marcos Cafu. These two teams played out a very entertaining 2-2 draw in Germany and both sides had a good chance of qualifying, but had to watch out for PSV Eindhoven. There was also a worrying element for superstitious supporters, as referee Mejuto Gonzalez was also in charge during the ill-fated Final against Istanbul in May.

Andrea Pirlo gave the ball away to Lincoln and Kevin Kuranyi blasted over the bar, while at the other end a strange looping Gennaro Gattuso header from the edge of the box nearly caught Rost off-guard.

Gattuso proved decisive with a crunching tackle on Altintop after a Schalke counter-attack had left Stam and Serginho stranded. Goalkeeper Rost was under pressure on 19 minutes, beating away a Shevchenko strike and then trying to control a wayward Christian Poulsen backpass with Kaka lurking.

Shevchenko burst into the box and fell under pressure from a defender, but the referee rightly waved away penalty appeals, as contact was minimal. Moments later, Pirlo's fierce drive from the edge of the box took a deflection off Kaka and Rost hurt his arm in a desperate challenge for the loose ball with Shevchenko.

A free kick was floated into the area where Krystajic's half-volley struck the side-netting, although there was a dubious contact in the centre between Alessandro Nesta and Kuranyi.

Milan seemed to be distracted and gave the ball away repeatedly. Even captain Paolo Maldini's misplaced pass was intercepted by Altintop, whose angled drive was just past the far post.

Krstajic did brilliantly to intercept Kaka's through ball to Inzaghi, who would've been clear on goal after the Brazilian's surge forward. Maldini was a doubt for this game with injury and limped off after 30 minutes. Dario Simic took the right-back role and moved Stam into the centre.

Inzaghi was dangerous around the penalty spot when he gathered the ball with his back to goal, but he lost his balance while trying to turn between two defenders and the chance went begging.

Kaka drilled well wide from distance and Lincoln let himself fall under the slightest contact from Alessandro Nesta's hand. Rodriguez required another crucial intervention to prevent Inzaghi getting on the end of Kaka's through ball, as the Schalke defence needed to be on its toes with the Italian international around.

The deadlock was eventually broken - as it has so many times this season - by a Pirlo free kick. The midfielder curled in an effort from 25 metres that dipped mercilessly into the top near corner of the net.

Equally predictably, Milan conceded moments later from a set-piece. Lincoln's free kick was floated to the back post, where Christian Poulsen was allowed to nod in from four yards. Nesta mistimed his jump and Dida was hesitant.

As PSV were beating Fenerbahce 1-0 at half-time, Schalke needed a victory and threw on striker Gerald Asamoah for defensive midfielder Ernst. The substitute had a great chance four minutes after coming on, as his chest and volley was pushed out at the near post by Dida, but he had used his arm to control the ball.

Rodriguez took the ball off Inzaghi's foot as he was lining up a shot just inside the area, but Lincoln took advantage of another error and had his shot smothered by Dida after skipping past two defenders.

However, Milan restored their lead soon after with a well-worked team effort. Shevchenko charged through the centre on the counter-attack and rolled across for Kaka, whose fierce but precise angled drive went through Rodriguez's legs and into the far corner.

A Stam rocket from 30 metres was over the bar, but Inzaghi tested Rost with a great volley on Serginho's cross with the inside of his left foot.

Kaka hit the back of the net for a second time on 57 minutes, but the referee disallowed it for Inzaghi's foul on Rodriguez.

The tension was rising and both Gattuso and Kobiashvili were booked for an argument.

Milan made it 3-1 in frankly chaotic circumstances. Schalke lost the ball in midfield and Inzaghi sprung the offside trap. He passed across for the totally unmarked Shevchenko, who slipped and completely mis-hit the ball, but it went back towards Kaka for a more accurate finish.

Kuranyi imitated Shevchenko moments later, as he was left clear on goal on Altintop's cut back only to slice it well wide of the target from six yards. Krstajic could be in serious trouble, as he was caught on camera - and spotted by the linesman - spitting at an opponent.

Schalke were fortunate to get back into the game, as a free kick was charged down and Lincoln's shot took a massive deflection off Shevchenko to lift it above a helpless Dida.

Inzaghi was stopped clear on goal for a debatable offside decision, then Kaka cut back for Shevchenko and his low strike was well saved.

Simic and Krstaijc clashed heads and the Milan defender came off worst, having to be replaced by Kakha Kaladze. The Georgian took central defensive duties, switching Stam to right-back again.

Rost only parried a Pirlo strike and was lucky that it ricocheted back into his arms off a Schalke player.

Schalke went for the final push with two strikers in the last six minutes of normal play - Ebbe Sand and Larsen - while Alberto Gilardino took over from Inzaghi.

It was a very tense finale with the Germans pouring forward and at the final whistle a scuffle broke out between Gattuso and Rafinha. The midfielder had to be held back by Seedorf after shouting right in Poulsen's face and eventually went under the Milan end to celebrate this hard-fought qualification.

Milan: Dida; Stam, Nesta, Maldini (Simic 30) (Kaladze 78), Serginho; Gattuso, Pirlo, Seedorf; Kakà; Shevchenko, Inzaghi (Gilardino 84)

Schalke 04: Rost; Rafinha, Bordon, Rodriguez (Larsen 84), Krstajic; Poulsen, Ernst (Asamoah 46); Altintop, Lincoln, Kobiashvili; Kuranyi (Sand 84)

Ref: Mejuto Gonzalez (Spa)

Vieri voted Serie A's worst player
6.12 || webmaster

Source: Reuters (UK)

ROME, Dec 6 (Reuters) - AC Milan striker Christian Vieri has been voted the worst footballer in Serie A to win the 2005 Golden Flop award.

The 32-year-old striker was awarded the prize based on the votes of listeners to radio programme Catersport, which is produced by state broadcaster RAI.

He proved the runaway winner, receiving 2,992 votes, three times more than Inter Milan midfielder Santiago Solari, in second place.

Vieri controversially switched from Inter Milan to city rivals AC Milan during the close season after he was squeezed out of a regular first-team berth by the strike partnership of Adriano and Obafemi Martins

Life, however, has proved no easier at AC Milan, where he has scored just twice in 12 appearances this season and found himself third in the pecking order behind Andriy Shevchenko and Alberto Gilardino.

Previous Golden Flop winners include former Juventus defender Nicola Legrottaglie and Brazilian World Cup champion Rivaldo, who won the prize in 2003 during a stint at AC Milan.

Real ponder Capello & Ancelotti
6.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Real Madrid market man Ernesto Bronzetti insists that any move for Fabio Capello or Carlo Ancelotti would be made in the proper manner.

The Spanish giants have been linked with both tacticians following the dismissal of Vanderlei Luxemburgo on Sunday night.

Bronzetti has admitted that Capello and Ancelotti are on the short-list, but he insists Real would make contact with Juventus or Milan first regarding an approach for their employees.

"The President has already made it clear that he admires Jose Mourinho (Chelsea), Rafa Benitez (Liverpool), Capello and Ancelotti," he told the GRT agency on Tuesday.

"He hasn’t made a decision yet, but if he did opt for Capello or Ancelotti then he would first make contact with Juve or Milan. That is his style."

Bronzetti, who confirmed that Fernando Hierro would replace Arrigo Sacchi as the club’s new technical director, is also famed for his work on the transfer market.

"Real need a defender and a midfielder," he noted before also passing comment on possible January moves in the peninsula.

He revealed that Fiorentina will sign two new men, while he suggested that Roma could be about to sell Antonio Cassano.

"As far as I know, Fiorentina have signed (Spartak Moscow defender) Nemanja Vidic and (Ternana midfielder) Luis Jimenez," he stated.

"I don’t expect anything significant to happen in the New Year though, even if Inter could do something about getting Cassano as they will lose Obafemi Martins for two months."

The striker will be a part of Nigeria’s squad for the African Cup of Nations.

Kaka fired up for German "final"
6.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan ace Kaka has no illusions about tonight’s Champions League showdown with Schalke. "It’s a final," he said.

Milan are top of Group E but are level on points with tonight’s opponents and just one point ahead of PSV Eindhoven, who could qualify for the last 16 instead of Ancelotti’s men should the Rossoneri fall to the Germans.

The Italians are desperate to make amends for last year’s nightmare in Istanbul which saw them somehow allow a 3-0 half-time lead over Liverpool slip and, unthinkably, lose the Champions League Final in remarkable circumstances.

But only by avoiding defeat to Schalke at the San Siro will they evade more European disillusionment.

"It will be like another final," said Kaka. "If we don’t win this one, we won’t reach the real one in May."

Milan will need to improve on their recent dip in form which has seen them lose two out of their last three matches - the latter a shock 2-1 reverse at the hands of Chievo – if they are to get the better of an obdurate Schalke outfit.

Kaka has only recently recovered from an injury that ruled him out of his side’s League win over Lecce and prevented him from starting in Verona.

But the Brazilian is eager to put one over the German side who marked him out of the game when they fought out a 2-2 draw in Gelsenkirchen earlier on in the competition.

"I feel a lot better after a week of treatment," added Milan’s No 22. "I’m ready for the man-marking now. This time it’ll be different."

Italian sides monitor Lyon case
6.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Italian clubs are watching with interest as Lyon are poised to sue FIFA for damages over the injury sustained by defender Eric Abidal while on international duty.

In what would be a landmark case, with ramifications for football clubs throughout the world, French daily l’Equipe reports that Lyon President Jean-Michel Aulas has presented a dossier to the club highlighting their stance, which will be made official in a Press conference tomorrow.

Aulas will be accompanied by lawyers Jean-Louis Dupont and Joseph Aguera as well as Thomas Kurth, the director general of G14 - the group of 18 of Europe’s major clubs - whereupon Lyon’s intentions to take action will be made official.

Aulas is also said to have the full support of the UCPF - the council of French Football clubs - in the matter.

Unlike Charleroi, the Belgian club who chose the commercial courts to rule on a similar incident involving Moroccan player Abdelmajid Oulmers, Lyon intend to drag FIFA through the Tribunal de Grande Instance (TGI), the French equivalent of the High Court.

Lyon are the first European side to take action on a problem that has been causing increasing friction between clubs and countries, and success for them would trigger an avalanche of similar legal cases by other clubs, including those in Italy.

Juventus and Inter have been particularly vocal over losing highly-paid players through injury sustained while on international duty – especially seemingly meaningless friendlies.

France’s recent match against Costa Rica, which was played in Martinique to raise money for the 152 victims of a plane crash in Venezuela in August, caused great rancour among European club bosses, who viewed the long-distance fundraiser as ill-timed and unnecessary.

Juve, whose Patrick Vieira and Lilian Thuram have also been injured while on duty for Les Bleus recently, will be watching events with close interest and may well be the next club to follow in Lyon’s legal footsteps.

Ancelotti expects a "great" Milan
5.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Coach Carlo Ancelotti has assured the Milan faithful that his side will beat Schalke in the Champions League on Tuesday.

The Rossoneri need to bounce back from their shock 2-1 defeat against Chievo on Saturday with a positive result against the Bundesliga outfit.

"What matters is that Milan always play at their best in the big games and that will be the case on Tuesday," stated the tactician.

"I do not feel under pressure and I have total confidence that my team will deliver."

Although Milan only need a draw - with a scoreline below 3-3 - to qualify for the knockout stages, Ancelotti will be determined that his side show the same reaction to defeat as they did after losing to Fiorentina when they hammered Fenerbahce 4-0.

"I hope that my team reacts in the same way, actually I’m sure of it," continued the former Parma boss.

"Nevertheless, I would argue that it is Juventus’ incredible pace which is highlighting our small problems because we have the same number of points as this time last season.

"The only difference is that Juve are now eight points clear of us, rather than just the four which were separating us 12 months ago."

The Italian outfit were held to a 2-2 draw in Germany in the previous group game and Ancelotti expects his opponents to attack.

"Schalke basically play in the same way as we do and their offensive movement will be evident as they need to win at all costs," he added. "The pressure is certainly more on them than us."

Milan have just the one injury worry heading into the game and that is legendary captain Paolo Maldini.

But despite picking up a knock in Verona, he has refused to rule himself out of the match until further analysis.

"I'm feeling a bit better but there won't be any decision made before Tuesday afternoon," he revealed.

Brazilian full-back Serginho is fully fit again and he should start on the left, with Jaap Stam and Alessandro Nesta making up the back four.

Andriy Shevchenko is likely to be partnered by Alberto Gilardino in attack, even if Pippo Inzaghi may get the nod at the last minute.

Milan (probable): Dida; Stam, Nesta, Maldini (Costacurta), Serginho; Gattuso, Seedorf, Pirlo; Kaka; Shevchenko, Gilardino (Inzaghi)

Milan looking at Chivu
5.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan are ready to make a bid for Roma’s Cristian Chivu as early as January in order to cure their ailing defensive problems.

The Rossoneri rearguard has been a suspect area for some time and the defeat to Chievo on Saturday highlighted their fragility at the back.

Reports on Monday suggest that the club, who have already conceded 15 goals in 14 games, are looking to solve their slackness at the back with the acquisition of Chivu.

The Romanian has been linked with numerous clubs such as Inter, Juventus and Milan since his Giallorossi side lost their ability to challenge for major honours.

Now whispers in the peninsula claim that the San Siro giants are prepared to offer cash and the services of either Dario Simic or Kakha Kaladze.

However, there is also the possibility that Milan could swap goalkeeper Christian Abbiati – currently on loan at Juventus – for the versatile stopper.

Despite today’s rumours, a summer move would seem to be the most likely time for Chivu to move on if his club decide to cash in on the former Ajax man.

Unfortunately, though, time waits for no man and the 2-1 reverse at the Stadio Bentegodi revealed a few creaking bones in the midst of the visitors’ rearguard.

Paolo Maldini’s knees are beginning to betray him at last and he, like the 33-year-old Jaap Stam and the 35-year-old Marcos Cafu, can no longer be expected to play at full-back in these, their advancing years.

Billy Costacurta is nearly 40, Kaladze has been the modicum of inconsistency and Alessandro Nesta has found himself having to put out too many fires on his own.

Chievo loss stuns Ancelotti
5.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan boss Carlo Ancelotti admits he has no explanation for his side’s surprise reverse at Chievo.

The Rossoneri were expected to collect a victory which would keep the pressure on leaders Juventus, but lost 2-1 at the Stadio Bentegodi on Saturday.

Despite taking the lead through Kakha Kaladze, the San Siro giants were punished for not making the game safe.

"Our collapse can’t be explained," Ancelotti said on Monday. "There isn’t a problem with the defence or the attack, everyone was affected.

"We seemed to lose the aggressiveness which has shone out in our previous games.

"We are making a few mistakes and our errors are proving costly. We need to stay calm now and try to work out what has happened.

"It’s a little odd because we actually took the lead after starting the game very well. We lacked balance and the strength to defend our advantage."

Milan are now eight points behind Juve, but Ancelotti is primarily concerned about the Champions League visit of Schalke.

"Our minds are now focused on Tuesday," he said. "We shouldn’t think about drawing and are convinced that the importance of the game will see us perform with the right amount of tension."

Milan need a win or a draw – so long as it isn’t 3-3 or higher – to qualify for the knockout stages of the European Cup.

Milan legend Albertini retires
5.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Demetrio Albertini has announced his retirement from professional football after failing to find a new club.

The midfielder has been without a side since he was released by Barcelona in the summer and has today confirmed he has hung up his boots.

"After many years in which I have given my life to this sport, I have decided to leave football," the 34-year-old stated.

"After a lot of victories and defeats which have helped to form my character, I need new stimuli and objectives, which I will target with the great passion which has always accompanied me."

Albertini was born in Besana Brianza on August 23, 1971 and was a successful product of the Milan youth system.

He spent 14 years with the Italian gaints, between 1989 and 2002, where he scored 21 goals in 293 games.

It was with the Rossoneri that he collected five League titles, one European Cup, two European Super Cups and three Italian Super Cups.

Albertini left Milan in 2002 when he joined Atletico Madrid for a season, before moving back to Italy with Lazio.

The former Italian international, who won 79 caps with two goals, then signed for Atalanta prior to his January switch to Barca and the Nou Camp.

Albertini, who rejected a recent offer from former teammate Roberto Donadoni to play for Livorno, plans to stay in football though as he is set to pursue a coaching career. "It’s inevitable," he concluded.

It’s not over yet, says Moggi
5.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Juventus director general Luciano Moggi insists the championship race is not over despite his club’s commanding lead at the top of the table.

The Bianconeri are now eight points clear of their closest rivals, following an amazing 13 wins from 14 games, but the official insists there is still plenty to play for.

"You really can’t say that the Scudetto race is over," stated the transfer guru. "We haven’t killed the championship.

"All I can say is that we are satisfied with what we are doing, but the road ahead is still a long one."

Juventus extended their lead over Milan from five to eight points at the weekend, thanks to the Rossoneri’s loss at Chievo and their victory in Florence.

"The result rewarded our performance," added Moggi after the Viola struck the woodwork on three occasions.

"We won a game against a very good Fiorentina to demonstrate that the whole team is in good condition."

Christian Abbiati was again handed the gloves in goal after Gigi Buffon admitted he wasn’t totally ready to return in Serie A following injury.

But Moggi has reassured fans that the world’s best ‘keeper will soon be back in between the sticks at the Stadio Delle Alpi.

"In the space of one or two games, he will also be in the peak of his condition like the rest of the side," he concluded.

Mancini thanks Chievo
4.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Roberto Mancini and Dejan Stankovic have thanked Chievo for beating Milan and opening up the Scudetto race, as a derby win will put Inter ahead of their rivals.

“The Rossoneri result earlier today certainly gave us extra motivation,” noted the Coach after their 1-0 victory over Ascoli. “Nonetheless, that gift would’ve been futile without our own win. We’re still lagging behind in the table and must focus on our own path.”

With the derby next Sunday evening and Milan facing a crucial Champions League tie against Schalke 04 in-between, a victory would allow Inter to overtake their rivals.

“You can see that we really want to do well and are geared up for the derby,” added Stankovic. “It will be the most balanced meeting with Milan for years and, with Juventus visiting Fiorentina as well, we believe Inter can get back into the Scudetto race.”

However, Mancini was not entirely happy with the hard-fought 1-0 win over Ascoli this evening.

“I think that a game like this should be sealed up a lot earlier and you certainly shouldn’t have to suffer until the final whistle. We needed more goals and I wasn’t content with some aspects of our play, as you can’t create 10 or 12 opportunities and only score one.”

Ascoli may have emerged empty-handed, but Coach Massimo Silva was pleased with the overall performance.

“The important thing was to stay in contention until the end. It was a difficult game, though we did better than anyone expected.”

Ancelotti berates sluggish Milan
3.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti has berated Milan for their lack of aggression and admits that Chievo deserved the victory.

“We struggled to keep up with Chievo’s pace and aggression,” conceded the Coach after today’s surprise 2-1 result at the Stadio Bentegodi. “We met with a team that wanted this win more than we did and consequently we couldn’t keep control of the game.”

The Rossoneri’s problems seem to be in defence, where distractions are proving increasingly costly of late.

“I think the entire team should learn to cover more, not just the defence, and that was particularly clear with the equaliser. That goal came on the stroke of half-time and certainly hit our confidence.”

Milan have now lost two of their last three Serie A matches and must earn at least a draw against Schalke 04 on Tuesday to qualify for the knockout rounds of the Champions League, then take on Inter next Sunday.

“We have to take it one game at a time,” warned Ancelotti. “We must recover mentally and physically for Tuesday’s tie and only after the final whistle can we think about the derby. Paolo Maldini felt a slight muscular problem during the first half and I hope he can recover in time for the Schalke test.”

Chievo striker Sergio Pellissier took his seasonal tally up to five with the opener at the Bentegodi and relished this surprise win.

“We are giving everything we’ve got and even have luck on our side, but our objective is to avoid relegation,” insisted the forward. “We won against a great squad and today was a dream come true for me, especially as I scored in a victory. It’s normal that if Milan attack then they’ll leave space at the back, which is what we thrive on.”

Chievo 2:1 AC Milan - match report
3.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Scorers: Kaladze 22 (M), Pellissier 45 (C), Tiribocchi 81 (C)

Milan's title hopes are in tatters after Chievo fought back for a shock 2-1 victory at the Stadio Bentegodi - the Rossoneri's second defeat in three rounds.

The Flying Donkeys were unbeaten in nine games when they welcomed Carlo Ancelotti's men, who have been stuttering in Serie A of late with defeat at Fiorentina and a 94th-minute winner against Lecce. Without Marcos Cafu, Clarence Seedorf or Kaka, Manuel Rui Costa and Marek Jankulovski were given rare starts.

Chievo had the first real chance when Amauri's glancing header set Sergio Pellissier running and his right-foot strike skimmed the upright.

An Amauri strike and long-range Andriy Shevchenko effort were well saved by the two goalkeepers, while Alessandro Nesta's intervention kept out Pellissier and an Andrea Pirlo drive was off target.

The Rossoneri broke the deadlock after 22 minutes, as Pirlo's free kick found Kakha Kaladze for a header. Although Lorenzo Squizzi performed a great one-handed save, he couldn't stop the Georgian turning in the loose ball. Kaladze was the 11th Milan player to hit the back of the net this season.

It was almost 2-0 soon after, as Rui Costa's taut cross from the right took a deflection off Davide Mandelli and nearly left the goalkeeper stranded.

Kaldze turned provider on the half-hour mark with a perfect low cross that Shevchenko merely had to toe-poke in at the back post, but he was perhaps a little to secure and incredibly missed the ball from a yard!

There was chaos at the other end of the field, as the defence assumed the ball was going out, but Daniele Franceschini put it back into the centre and forced Dida into a tough save. The move continued and Marco Malago's powerful strike from the edge of the box slammed the base of the upright with Dida beaten.

Chievo were putting on more pressure towards half-time and in stoppages they grabbed an equaliser. Kaladze allowed Pellissier to spring the offside trap on Malago's flick and the Flying Donkey slammed in his fifth goal of the season from six yards.

Maldini was rested for the second half in favour of Dario Simic, who moved Jaap Stam into central defence. Sammarco drilled wide of the target, while Rui Costa's effort was deflected round the post.

Kaka made his comeback after suffering a hip injury in the Champions League last week and replaced Rui Costa, while Pippo Inzaghi took over from Shevchenko.

Pellissier's pace caused horrible problems and Alessandro Nesta was booked for a sliding tackle on the Chievo man. At the other end, a hopeful Kaka attempt was blocked at full stretch.

The home side threw on Nigerian teenager Victor Nsofor Obinna, who has been linked with a January move to Milan's rivals Inter.

Inzaghi's shot was charged down and Gennaro Gattuso blasted the loose ball just past the post, but Chievo again went close to a winner. Amauri sprinted between three defenders and had his effort smothered, but the Brazilian could perhaps have passed to the unmarked Obinna.

Amauri injured himself during that move and made way for Simone Tiribocchi. It proved a decisive moment, as within 90 seconds the substitute had given Chievo the lead. He combined with Obinna to cut the defence in two and curled a fantastic right-foot shot into the far corner - past the outstretched hand of Dida.

It could even have been 3-1, as Dida flew to palm ex-Milan midfielder Federico Giunti's free kick round the post.

Inzaghi scored a decisive goal in stoppages last week and nearly repeated the trick, but Squizzi used his frame to smother the close-range effort.

Chievo: Squizzi; Malagò, Mandelli, Scurto, Lanna; Semioli, Sammarco, Giunti, Franceschini; Amauri (Tiribocchi 80), Pellissier (Obinna 74)

Milan: Dida; Stam, Nesta, Maldini (Simic 46), Kaladze; Gattuso, Pirlo, Jankulovski; Rui Costa (Kaka 64); Shevchenko (Inzaghi 68), Gilardino

Ref: Pieri

Baggio agent reveals Juve-Milan row
3.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Roberto Baggio’s agent has revealed that the controversial 1990 move to Juventus came after a deal had already been struck with Milan.

“That move was the masterpiece of my professional career, but it was also the worst personal mistake I could’ve made,” explained Antonio Caliendo on Sky Italia television.

Il Divin Codino made the sensational switch from Fiorentina to arch rivals Juventus in the summer of 1990, sparking riots in the Tuscan streets, but it turns out they weren’t the only people to be aggrieved.

“I have never revealed this before, but at the time when Baggio moved to Juve, he was essentially already a Milan player on a handshake deal. The new Bianconeri management led by Luca Cordero di Montezemolo came in and reached an agreement with Fiorentina President Pontello, as they had a privileged relationship.”

Baggio, who shot to international fame during the 1990 World Cup, never made it a secret that he was unhappy with the Turin switch.

“Roby came to me and said: ‘Antonio, you don’t understand the situation here. You can do anything you like in Florence, but if I join Juventus, they’re going to lynch me!’ The Viola fanbase certainly reacted angrily – it was like a revolution for a few days.”

However, the Milan involvement was kept quiet up until now and Baggio’s career could’ve taken a very different path.

“I told Pontello that I already had a verbal agreement with Milan President Silvio Berlusconi and that for me it was worth more than 50 signed contracts. The day after, Berlusconi called me in and thanked me for my stance on the matter, but had to give in. I think it was a battle between Berlusconi and Juve’s Gianni Agnelli to get the greatest new Italian talent and I wanted to take Roberto into the big time. I’m not sure I was up to such a huge task.”

Baggio stayed at Juventus for five years, but eventually did wear the Milan jersey from 1995 to ’97, going on to play for Bologna, Inter and Brescia before retiring in 2004.

Flying Donkeys invite Milan attack
3.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Chievo Coach Bepi Pillon has warned Milan that they will use the counter-attack tactic for all it’s worth at the Stadio Bentegodi this afternoon.

“The Rossoneri should be careful when taking on this Chievo side, as it has changed a lot since the start of the season,” said the Verona-based boss.

“This is a more mature team that is unbeaten in eight games and has the third best defensive record in Serie A.”

The Flying Donkeys have picked up some impressive results of late and believe Milan’s eagerness to win – and close the gap on leaders Juventus – could be their downfall.

“It is true that we tend to struggle on home turf, but that’s mainly when we’re taking on defensive line-ups who are fighting against relegation. Milan will come here to impose their style of play and that allows us more room to hit them on the break.”

As Carlo Ancelotti’s men only managed to beat little Lecce at the 94th minute last week, it could be another tricky encounter for them at the Stadio Bentegodi this afternoon.

Pillon will again count on Lorenzo Squizzi in goal due to Alberto Fontana’s injury, while Sergio Pellissier is expected to partner Amauri upfront.

Ancelotti wary of Chievo
3.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Carlo Ancelotti is without Marcos Cafu and Clarence Seedorf for today’s trip to Chievo and warns Milan not to fall into their customary lapses of concentration.

“I need to see a focused side, as too often we have found ourselves having to fight back after easily avoided mistakes,” pointed out the Coach.

The Rossoneri are five points adrift of leaders Juventus and have stuttered in recent Serie A games, losing 3-1 at Fiorentina and only beating bottom of the table Lecce with a last-gasp goal from Pippo Inzaghi. Another costly distraction is just the sort of incident Chievo could pounce on.

“We’ll face a side that is maintaining the same approach that has stood it in good stead since it reached Serie A. The Coaches may change, but the results do not and they’re doing even better than last year with a classic 4-4-2 system. I’m glad, as Bepi Pillon is a friend and a great professional.”

This is a crunch period in Milan’s campaign, as over the next week they will take on Chievo, Schalke 04 in a decisive Champions League tie and the derby with Inter.

“We would’ve preferred to have our European qualification sewn up by now, but it was a difficult Group and it’s only normal it should go down to the wire.

Following the midweek 3-1 Coppa Italia win over Brescia, Ancelotti is forced to reshuffle his squad once again to ensure tiredness doesn’t set in during this tour de force, while Seedorf has flown home on a personal matter. To make matters worse, both Inzaghi and Manuel Rui Costa have confirmed their dissatisfaction at sitting on the bench.

“Cafu, Seedorf and Massimo Ambrosini are out, while Kaka is also a doubt. Inzaghi told me he wants to play, as did Andriy Shevchenko, Alberto Gilardino and Christian Vieri. I tell them all that they are right to have that desire. Rui Costa is also correct in thinking of himself as a first team player.”

The Portuguese veteran has impressed in his last three games, covering for the injured Kaka against Fenerbahce, Lecce and Brescia.

“Last season I used Rui as a replacement for Andrea Pirlo because he has the same characteristics and above all the quality to take on that deep role. This year I have Johan Vogel in that position, so he’s more likely to play in Kaka’s slot or somewhere else in midfield.”

Ancelotti also confirmed his earlier assertion that Milan are a better side than Juventus this year. “The Bianconeri have greater consistency, but they never reach the quality of our football.”

Milan squad: Dida, Fiori, Kalac; Costacurta, Kaladze, Maldini, Marzoratti, Nesta, Jankulovski, Simic, Stam; Gattuso, Kaka, Pirlo, Rui Costa, Vogel; Gilardino, Inzaghi, Shevchenko, Vieri

Helguera rejects Italian option
1.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Ivan Helguera will not be moving to Italy next season after he signed a contract extension with Real Madrid.

The Spanish midfielder had been linked with moves to both Milan and Juventus seeing as his previous contract was set to expire in the summer.

However, the former Roma stopper has now agreed terms with the capital club until June 2009.

The international, who can also play in defence, will reportedly net just under £3m a season before tax.

"I’m very happy because I have been here for some time and I will stay until 2009," said the player who made nine appearances for the Giallorossi in 1997-98.

"It is an honour for me to be a part of this squad and team."

Helguera’s decision to put pen to paper came just hours after goalkeeper Iker Casillas, once linked with a switch to Inter, took the same step.

Rui Costa considered Milan exit
1.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Manuel Rui Costa has revealed that he has considered leaving Milan after being left out of the team so often. "I have thought about moving elsewhere," he admitted on Thursday.

Rui Costa scored for the Rossoneri in their 3-1 win over Brescia in the Italian Cup on Tuesday night, but refused to celebrate his wonderful strike.

With a muted reaction similar to that of Christian Vieri when he was at odds with Inter last year, he simply trotted back to the half-way line without so much as a flicker of a smile.

The impression was that the Portuguese midfielder is so fed up with being a bit-part player at the San Siro that he couldn’t even muster the enthusiasm to show any pleasure in scoring – but the former Fiorentina favourite denies any such feeling.

"I’m used to scoring more often than I have been," explained the 33-year-old. "So I thought that celebrating might jinx me – I decided not to celebrate."

Rui Costa is now in his fifth season at Milan and insists that he is happy with his game at the moment.

He also hinted at Coach Carlo Ancelotti that he should keep him in the side as he is improving with every appearance.

"I’m playing well at the moment," he added. "It helps that I’m getting match fit with every game."

However, the stylish playmaker knows that he will not be given the chance to play as regularly as he would like and this has given him cause for concern.

"I have thought about moving elsewhere," he admitted. "Everybody who doesn’t play too often thinks about it."

Having considered his options, though, Milan’s No 10 has concluded that a move elsewhere would effectively finish any last hopes of winning a big trophy such as the Scudetto or the Champions League.

"Everyone wants to play," he said. "Nobody likes to be out of the team. But I weighed up my desire to play with the chance to win things that are impossible to win if I moved. So, I’m hoping to convince the Coach to play me."

Milan win Lugano chase
1.12 || webmaster

Source: Football Italia

Milan have beaten off heated competition for the right to buy Sao Paulo's Diego Lugano.

The latter is currently considered the best defender in the Brazilian League and has been identified as the new blood required to revive the Rossoneri’s creaking rearguard.

The 24-year-old has replaced Paolo Montero at the heart of Uruguay’s defence and had been specifically singled out by Real Madrid Coach Vanderlei Luxembourgo as the man to solve the Spanish giants’ problems at the back.

Inter, too, had been chasing the elegant stopper and are said to have made an offer to buy his registration.

Milan, though, thanks to excellent relations with the club from which they bought Kaka, have stolen a march on their city rivals, by offering £2.7m for the ownership of the player.

Whether or not Carlo Ancelotti wants to recruit him as early as this January or rather wait until the summer – and the departure of Jaap Stam and Billy Costacurta – remains to be seen.

However, the acquisition of Lugano represents the first brick in sporting director Ariedo Braida’s defensive reconstruction campaign.

Braida has also cast an eye over Felipe of Udinese over recent weeks, but with Lugano now set to arrive at the San Siro, the greater experience of Andrea Barzagli of Palermo and Chievo’s Davide Mandelli is more likely to be of interest.





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