Tuesday, July 5, 2011

What If??

Had all of the evidence in the mother-of-all-match-fixing-scandals been reviewed in a timely manner back in 2006, Milan could very well have been relegated that year. With the recent news in the Calciopoli trial and associated appeals and verdicts, I wanted to take a moment to consider what might have been….


Let’s start with Milan’s entire squad at the end of the ’06 season: Dida, Kalac, Fiori, Cafu, Maldini, Kaladze, Costacurta, Nesta, Simic, Jankulovski, Stam, Astori, Marzorati, Gattuso, Vogel, Seedorf, Pirlo, Kak√°, Ambrosini, Serginho, Shevchenko, Inzaghi, Tomasson, Vieri, Amoroso, Gilardino. How many of these players would have stayed to play in Serie B? How many of them could we have afforded to keep? Granted we sold Sheva at the end of the season anyway, but how many could we have held onto?

Don’t be too sure about your answers. Consider Juve’s squad and who stayed and who left and why. It is a tough question to ask yourself as a player: is loyalty to my team more important than my career? If I stay, how sure am I that I will be back in Serie A the following year? And can I afford to miss out on 2 years of European competition guaranteed? Will I still be called up to my National Team if I play in Serie B?

All of these questions would have had to be answered by all of those players. I am willing to bet that there would have been some players leave faster than you would think. And then the club would have had to figure out how to pay the ones who stayed, while filling in the gaps with Serie B or young players. Oh, and how to get back up to Serie A, ideally in one season. And then how to stay...

Another example of relegation-gone-badly can be seen in the squad of 1980. Milan were convicted of match-fixing, in a scandal all their own, and relegated to Serie B for the ’80-’81 season. While they were able to promote back up for the ‘81-‘82 season, they ended up getting relegated again, finishing 3rd to last in the table. Having spent another season in Serie B, they were able to come back and finish in the top 10 for the next couple of years, but it wasn’t until Berlusconi came and bought the club in 1986 that they started to be successful again.

Speaking of Berlusconi, while were are trying to guess what might have happened, what would have happened to Milan in the Calciopoli scandal if we weren’t owned by such a powerful man?



Well, let’s take a look at what did happen. When the verdict was first released, the recommendation was that Juventus, Milan, Fiorentina, and Lazio all be relegated. Then it was announced that Juve, Fiorentina, and Lazio would all be relegated with additional points penalties applies to their Serie B season. Milan would have a 44 point deduction from their ’05-’06 season taking them down from 2nd place to mid table, out of European contention.

All of these verdicts were appealed, which led to the following: Juventus were relegated, with their ’06-’07 points deduction dropping from 30 to 17 and their last two Scudetti stripped; Fiorentina had 30 points taken from their ’05-’06 campaign dropping them from 4th to 9th as well as 19 points deducted for the next season; Lazio had 30 points taken from their ’05-’06 season, dropping them from 6th to 16th, and also started the next season with an 11 point deduction. Milan? Milan’s deduction for the ’05-’06 season dropped from 44 points to 30 points: just enough to put them in Champion’s League qualification. For the ’06-’07 season, Milan’s deduction went from 15 down to only 8 points.

Considering Milan went on to win the Champions League that year, despite the fact that they could have been playing in Serie B, it is normal to infer that having Silvio Berlusconi as an owner can come in handy sometimes. Although he couldn’t quite out-evil Moratti on the other side of town.

Imaginary Scudetto

Moratti has been crying innocent on Inter’s behalf since Calciopoli first broke. He was the mastermind behind all of the wiretaps, in the first place. But when you cry so loudly, people are going to start to wonder. In a very rushed trial back in ’06, Inter was exonerated of any wrongdoing. But tapes finally surfaced proving what everyone else suspected - that Inter were as guilty as everyone else. And I mean just about everyone else.

Now, the courts are saying that the statute of limitations has expired and Inter cannot be tried for its part in the scandal. But that works out well for a lot of teams, actually, Milan included. The new evidence shows that  based on precedents, Milan should have been relegated, along with Inter, and that perhaps Juve should not have been. And while I think Inter, having been awarded one Scudetto and having won 4 Scudetti at the expense of all of Serie A, should be duly punished, if they are punished, it means we should be punished a little more, too.

The moral of this story? There are no morals. It’s a match-fixing scandal, no one wins. But we can only hope that we avoid any further punishment and be grateful that we have been as successful as we have been since the scandal broke. I would like to think about what if Italian football actually learned from all of this, but there is already a new scandal on the horizon, and this one goes even further - drugging the opposition players' water bottles.

So I will instead turn to reality: we won the Scudetto this year. And the Champions League in 2007. We probably wouldn’t have done that without a little assistance from our powerful Prime Minister friend. We were implicated in a scandal that rocked Serie A and still has long reaching effects. With a little luck, the points deductions we received back then will be our only punishment for our team’s part in the affair. So we sigh in relief, thank our lucky stars, and move on. But we should never, ever forget what could have been…



This post inspired by the music of U2