Cristiano Ronaldo vs Fabio Quagliarella & A Race For The Champions League

After a busy week on and off the field, this week’s edition of 10 Things is here to help you catch up with the happenings in the world of Italian football over the last seven days.

1.Torino Mark Superga Anniversary

It has now been 70 years since Il Grande Torino perished at Superga, one of Italian football’s greatest ever teams lost in a tragic plane crash back in 1949. The club marked the anniversary in traditional manner, with fans, players, and officials making the long walk up the hill to the ancient basilica on Saturday evening.

The city’s most iconic landmark — the Mole Antonelliana — was lit up in Torino’s colors and with their club badge, too, while the entire Calcio world stopped to pay their own tributes to this truly special side.

FloFC’s own Chloe Beresford discussed just what Il Grande Torino meant to the sport on the peninsula in this previous article, while the current incarnation of the Granata fought for a well-earned point against crosstown rivals Juventus on Friday evening.

2. Cristiano Ronaldo Defies Gravity 

Torino deserve huge credit for the 1-1 draw at Juventus Stadium, a result that kept their dream of a top-four finish alive for at least another week. It was richly deserved too given their form in recent weeks, but, after taking a surprising lead through Sasa Lukic, they were then pegged back by the Bianconeri. 

The Juve goal scorer was no surprise, Cristiano Ronaldo leaping to nod home a cross from the left flank. But the effort to make the finish was simply stunning as the five-time Ballon d’Or towered above every Toro defender, hanging in the air to meet Leonardo Spinazzola’s ball with exceptional athleticism.

3. Fabio Quagliarella Scores Yet Again

If Ronaldo’s superb goal on Friday evening gave him hope of becoming Serie A’s leading scorer, those hopes were dashed on Sunday when Fabio Quagliarella twice found the back of the net for Sampdoria.

Those goals put the 36-year-old — whose previous-best haul was the 19 he scored last term — to 25 for 2018-19. Quagliarella is therefore three goals clear of Atalanta’s Duvan Zapata, with Ronaldo one further back on 21 with just three games left to play, while his brace earned the Blucerchiati a 3-3 draw with Parma.

4. The First Rule of Fight Club Is...

As they prepare for this weekend’s meeting with Sassuolo, a Torino training session saw a fight almost break out between Tomas Rincon and Salvatore Sirigu. The former is suspended for the next match for accumulating too many yellow cards, but he seemed to antagonize his teammate, prompting the Italian goalkeeper.

Sirigu tried to try get ahold of the midfielder before other players dragged him away, when he then threw his shirt and gloves and shirt to the ground. However, according to Rincon there is nothing to worry about, insisting in a social media post that it is a regular occurance at the training ground.

“For those who don’t know, Salva and I argue like that every week, but it stays between us,” he wrote on Instagram. “The only difference was this time someone was filming it. As I’m suspended for this week’s game, I wanted to participate in some way to helping prepare the team by raising the adrenaline and focus level!”

5. Antonio Mirante Asks AS Roma “What if?”

Signed following a string of moderately impressive displays at last summer’s World Cup, Robin Olsen was an unmitigated disaster for AS Roma. The Sweden international was never able to replicate his form in Russia to the Italian capital, making mistakes that routinely cost his new club points.

They also ultimately played a role in costing Eusebio Di Francesco his job as coach, and his replacement seemed determined not to make that same error in judgement. Claudio Ranieri immediately favored Antonio Mirante over the Malmo native, and his choice has been rewarded.

While Olsen managed just four clean sheets in 27 league appearances, Mirante had three in April alone. His saves have helped bring Roma back into Champions League contention, not least of all the effort which denied Antonio Sanabria’s stoppage-time penalty to secure a draw with Genoa last weekend. 

Now, what if he’d played all season?

6. Roma Stadium Causes More Problems

When James Pallotta bought Roma back in 2012, one of the first things he insisted upon was a new, purpose-built stadium for the club. Ever since, he has found the route to building one tied up in infinite amounts of red tape, culminating in an online outburst earlier this week.

“Stadium Update: Sent senior stadium staff from Boston to Rome hoping to make progress but city officials were too busy to meet,” Pallotta wrote on Twitter. “Maybe new stadium, big investment & lots of new jobs in Rome is not that important. If fans want a new stadium, they need to demand action.”

Clearly frustrated, he has failed to win over the supporters, however, with a banner appearing at the Giallorossi training ground on Wednesday night. Reading “a thousand dreams and a flat refusal of your project. Get out!” it is unlikely to improve the atmosphere around Roma for the duration of the campaign. 

7. AC Milan Win But…

Having struggled in recent weeks, AC Milan got their fight for a Champions League berth back on track this week, running out 2-0 winners over relegation-threatened Bologna. However, even that result was not without incident, midfielder Tiemoue Bakayoko seemingly refusing to enter the game when Gennaro Gattuso wanted to use him as a second-half substitute.

Jose Mauri was sent on instead and, given that the entire Milan squad had been locked in a training retreat for five days largely because of indiscipline, it is hard to see this ending well for the Chelsea loanee.

“I waited seven or eight minutes, and he hadn’t even put his shin-pads on,” Gattuso said in an interview with Sky Italia shortly afterward. “I’ve told many coaches to get stuffed in my career, it ended there. We’ll see, it’s all about respect.

“We have other priorities right now. We’ll see at the end of the season, like a school report, who behaved well and badly. Anyone can insult me on the touchline, but we’ll meet in a room eye-to-eye and see. I want to sort this out in the dressing room and talk in my language, which I cannot do on television. So we have to focus on the victory and not waste time on other issues.”

8. Keita Balde Injured In Prank?

As bad as that is for Milan, things hardly seem better on the other side of San Siro at the moment either. A recent slump has seen a clutch of teams catch up to the Nerazzurri, their once firm grip on third place now down to a single point as their rivals close in fast on Luciano Spalletti’s struggling side. 

Worse still is a story that Keita Balde’s recent injury was caused by a TV show prank. According to La Gazzetta dello Sport, the forward was locked in a hotel and forced to run away by hosts of satirical TV programme Le Iene back in February, his “escape” leading to a thigh strain which sidelined the 24-year-old for around six weeks. 

Unsurprisingly, the pink paper insists Keita’s loan from AS Monaco will not be extended in the summer…

9. A Look At What You Could’ve Won

Having fired Tottenham past Ajax in the Champions League with a sensational hat trick, Lucas Moura perhaps had Juve fans wondering if they too should’ve beaten the Dutch side in the previous round. However, it seems Napoli are the real losers, with the player’s father revealing they missed out on signing his son 18 months ago.

“Before he joined Tottenham, in January 2018 there was also talk of Lucas Moura going to Napoli,” he told Radio Marte. “Napoli were interested in him and there was even a meeting, but Tottenham were already ahead in the negotiations. That’s why he went there.”

10. Palermo Sold… Again!

In this week’s installment of “only in Italy,” we bring you news of Palermo. On the brink of promotion back to Serie A, it has been a turbulent campaign for the Sicilian club after they were initially sold to a group of English investors nearly five months ago.

That appeared to be the end of Maurizio Zamparini’s time in charge after a London-based company bought the club for a symbolic” fee of €10, simultaneously taking on debts believed to be almost €20 million. 

However, that takeover lasted roughly six weeks as the sale fell through and Daniela De Angeli – an associate of Zamparini – took charge in February. Yet last week it was announced that the club had been sold again as Italian firm The Arkus Network bought Palermo and quickly set about making changes. 

He fired Roberto Stellone and made under-19 boss Giuseppe Scurto the new coach, only to then announce that Delio Rossi would assume control immediately. With four matches remaining on the schedule, Palermo are in position to qualify for the playoffs, but they seemingly cannot get out of their own way. 

The more things change...

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