Clueless Italian football hits rock bottom
The sun is still shining and people are going about their daily business, but the world of Italian football has come to a grinding halt.
Not one team through to the last eight of the Champions League is nothing short of an absolute disaster. And Jose Mourinho is totally off the mark: Italy is hurting and anyone who really cares for the state of the game is not crowing that Inter, Juventus and Roma are Euro also-rans.
It reflects badly on a country who for so long were the masters of a continent, but now have been left behind by the new world order.
This is truly a country for old men and nothing brought that home more clearly than seeing those young, fresh-faced Arsenal pups dancing around the Stadio Olimpico after Max Tonetto lost his nerve and attempted to launch the ball towards the Roman hills.
Francesco Totti cut a desolate figure in the centre of the pitch as he witnessed his dream of reaching the final in the same stadium die on the vine.
Roman gladiator he may be, but how many more times can he be patched up and sent out for another fruitless skirmish?
Totti and Aquilani: underachievers?
How many more times are Juve going to hope for another moment of magic from Alex Del PieroÃ¢ÂÂs ageing legs, or Inter to call on one last effort from Javier Zanetti to drive them forward again?
Where is the new generation to give hope?
Sebastian Giovinco hasnÃ¢ÂÂt progressed at all this season, swinging those little legs back and forth on the bench. Roma midfielder Alberto Aquilani is almost 25 and still considered a promising player.
Mario Balotelli is allowed to believe his own hype and struts around the pitch oblivious to the fact that he is involved in a team game Ã¢ÂÂ heÃ¢ÂÂs only 18 but he ended up being replaced by 36-year-old Luis Figo, who most at Old Trafford probably thought had retired years ago.
Inter put all they could into their ultimately futile visit to Manchester, and while some may harp on about Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Adriano hitting the woodwork, when it mattered most the English could rely on their big names to step up and deliver.
For Chelsea at Juventus it was Didier Drogba; for Manchester United against Inter it was Cristiano Ronaldo.
Drogba offers Tiago cold comfort
RomaÃ¢ÂÂs exit was probably the most disappointing.
Not because it was on penalties in the same stadium where they suffered spot-kick agony against Liverpool 25 years ago, but because of the three Serie A sides facing English teams, their opponents were the weakest Ã¢ÂÂ although that tag must now be taken in context.
ItÃ¢ÂÂs a long road from here to some sort of redemption, and there are few signposts to direct Serie A back to the summit of European football.
Mourinho has claimed he will present his employers with a dossier on where Inter need to go to land the holy grail.
Age and mentality are factors but conditioning is another problem area: English teams play more games per season, but their teams didnÃ¢ÂÂt limp into these ties in the manner of ItalyÃ¢ÂÂs sicknotes.
Having hit rock bottom the only way is up, or is it? Can Italian football fall any further?
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