Thursday, January 28, 2010

Say It Ain't So Adrian

I have always thought that when life gives you a second chance you should seize it.

Think about Ebeneezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol who gets the chance to see how little the world would mourn his passing.

You would cherish every day after that experience, wouldn’t you?

And, more importantly, you would surely never make the same mistakes again.

It struck me that the same was true for Fiorentina’s errant striker Adrian Mutu, a man who has known his share of sporting turmoil – some of it self-inflicted.

He was banned from the game for taking cocaine but he served his time and looked to be completely rehabilitated.

Indeed, it seemed there was a renewed zest in his approach to enjoy the sport which had been denied him for some time.

Just one text message changed all that. “Have you seen your man Mutu has tested positive again?” it said.

I hoped the information would prove incorrect but confirmation soon followed with a news story outlining the outcome of checks following the recent Fiorentina match with Bari.

The Romanian had indeed tested positive for sibutramine, an appetite suppressant, and could face a four-year ban.

It is news which has left Fiorentina fans reeling.

The best case scenario is that there turns out to be some fault with the tests and he is cleared of any offence. But the worst case could effectively end his career.

If he did take a banned substance, it smacks of sheer stupidity given the price he already had to pay for a previous infringement.

He will have let himself, his club and his supporters down and thrown away a second chance which some people are not lucky enough to get.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Inter Milan's Great Escape: Jose Mourinho's Magic Or Just Good Fortune

From bleacher report

Inter Milan made a huge withdrawal from the Bank of Lucky on Saturday night.

Or, if you prefer, Jose Mourinho pulled off another managerial masterstroke.

Whatever your viewpoint, there is little doubt that the Milan giants completed one of the most amazing comebacks of the season to overcome Siena. The fact that they needed to produce such a performance is worthy of some reflection.

So let's work this through from back to front.

League-leading Inter defeated bottom-of-the-table Siena 4-3 with a Walter Samuel goal in injury time.

That was the equivalent of a kicker catching a winning touchdown pass or perhaps a pitcher thumping a vital home run.

The big Argentinian defender does not score many goals and those that he does are usually with his head, not a sweet turn and shot worthy of his countryman Diego Milito.

It was a finale fitting for such a crazy game.

Massimo Maccarone had given the visitors the lead only for Milito and Wesley Sneijder to turn the game on its head. That should have been the end of the story.

Instead, Albin Ekdal and Maccarone struck again to put the little Tuscan side on the brink of victory.

Jose Mourinho's famous unbeaten home record, which has lasted longer than most modern marriages, was suddenly under threat.

Inter looked tired, jaded and out of sorts. Siena were worth their win, or so it seemed.

The final minutes, however, were cruel to Alberto Malesani's side. Firstly, Sneijder curled home another beautiful free-kick to equalise. Then Samuel, put up front to help hunt an improbable winner, stuck the knife in still further.

It was a script we have seen several times before.

Mourinho loves to shove men forward in a desperate attempt to win a match, often asking his defenders to improvise an attacking role. It worked out perfectly this time.

The question is just how long can it go on working?

Inter's squad has been hurt by injuries and Sammy Eto'o heading off to the African Cup of Nations, but still they should have brushed Siena aside with ease.

But for much of the weekend's game, the side with the best attack in Italy looked unable to beat the nation's weakest defence.

Spectators were left struggling to decipher what the result actually meant.

Was it a sign of weakness that Inter nearly lost to one of the poorest sides in Serie A? Or did their never-say-die attitude send out a signal of intent to their rivals?

Maybe it was a bit of both.

The side from the San Siro have been far from convincing of late and have a tough run of matches coming up.

So far, they have shown enough resilience to maintain a healthy lead at the top of the league and the Siena game demonstrated they will not give it up easily.

Indeed, if there is a lesson to be learned, it is possibly a simple one.

If Juve and Milan are serious about taking Inter's crown they will have to show the same hunger as Mourinho's men did on Saturday night.