So the whitewash did not happen, at least in the first instance, but given they have three days to appeal against the rulings, there is still plenty of time for AC Milan, Fiorentina, Juventus and Lazio to use their political persuasions and to rattle closets to see what skeletons rattle and emerge. The punishments issued to the four Italian clubs accused and found guilty of match fixing seem punitive, albeit without seeing all of the evidence it is hard to judge whether they are fair. Of one thing we can be certain and that is without doubt, this one is not over yet. Over the weekend, I would expect Lazio and Fiorentina to definitely appeal against the points deduction and relegation, particularly the former who have only recently returned to Serie A, albeit by apparently foul means. Juve have indicated that relegation to Serie B would be an “acceptable punishment”. Presumably they entered into some sort of plea – bargaining beforehand as it is a curious procedure to have the defendants declare what they would be happy as a result of admitting culpability. Milan have kept their own counsel thus far but may well attempt to reduce their penalty in some way.
Of the punishments, AC Milan were the only one of the four to escape relegation but they start next season with a 15 point deduction so for at least five weeks they will prop up the table – hardly a problem for them. Fiorentina and Lazio will be down a division with 12 and 7 point deductions for starters, neither of which should prevent them resurfacing in Serie A the season after next. However, Juve are on a 30 point deduction. Realistically this means they will have to get the equivalent of around 90 points in a normal season to gain promotion. Should they manage to hold onto the majority of their players, it would appear to be a huge task but not beyond them. None of the four will be on the list submitted by the Italian FA to UEFA for clubs participating in European Competition next season.
In addition to this, the back-to-back titles won by Juventus no longer exist. I have not seen mention of whom they have been handed to but given that Milan finished second, it is unlikely to be them. Could it be that Internazionale will end their long wait for a title, not so much by the backdoor more through the workings of a mysterious benefactor.
So what of the players? In most cases, the media frenzy will go into overdrive but I would be surprised if any of the Milanese left as a direct result of this verdict. After all, one season without European football is not the end of their world but it is possible that it could send some over the edge. It is also a useful verdict from their point of view as it gives Milan a little breathing space to find Shevchenko’s replacement without the added pressure of the Champions League. In the club’s eyes it may be an opportune moment to cash in on Kaka with Madrid his likely destination. Were Gattuso to become available, then I would strongly urge Arsene to move for him – he would form quite a formidable partnership with Fabregas in midfield. Yes, displacing Gilberto.
Juve though have the most to lose. Basing this purely on media comments made by the players, etc. – and we know how reliable they can be – I would expect Vieira, Thuram, Cannavaro, Ibrahimovic, Zambrotta, Camourensi and Trezeguet to move on. Buffon is by no means certain to leave although I would not be surprised to see him move to Internazionale or Roma. I would be absolutely delighted if he moved to Artsenal. No disrespect to Jens but this guy is arguably the best in the world and has another eight or nine years left in his career. Zambrotta could of course cause Ashley Cole to eat some humble pie by pitching up at Chelsea or Madrid. Perhaps he could even move to North London?
There could be a trio of experienced centre-halves with Nesta, Cannavaro and Thuram deciding that time in not on their side, although in Nesta’s case that would seem to be premature. Cannavaro could certainly be a good signing whilst Thuram would at 34, be a signing for a season of regular football with another as a “filler”.
Time will tell where any of these players will decide that their loyalties lie and in the eyes of the press, no doubt they will have all of their destinations decided by tomorrow morning, Sunday at the latest