After another dismal performance previewing the Copa Libertadores quarter-finals Ã¢ÂÂ with three misses out of four Ã¢ÂÂ I humbly excused myself from trying to forecast the tournament's semi-finals.IÃ¢ÂÂm sure you, faithful reader, noticed it and even though this silence spared you a good crack at my expense IÃ¢ÂÂm confident you understood and supported my decision. Thank you.The good news is that during this break I saved enough energy for one last oracular blog before the final. So donÃ¢ÂÂt forget to return here on June 25 on the eve of the first leg when IÃ¢ÂÂll announce the upcoming Libertadores champ. Just donÃ¢ÂÂt let your bookie know.Anyway, back to business.LDU have sealed their ticket to the final. The Ecuatorians advanced on away goals after a goalless draw in the second-leg Ã¢ÂÂ after tieing the first game 1-1 Ã¢ÂÂ against America in Quito.
Jose Mourinho did not disappoint and compelling stuff it was too.As charm offensives go he was pretty irresistible, wooing the massed ranks of press and television crews with an excellent command of Italian and relaxed style of a man sitting at the top table of world football.They had come to hail the new saviour of Italian football and while the local hacks were all deferential in their long-winded questions, the man from the Guardian played the perfect fall-guy.A no-nonsense Ã¢ÂÂare you going to raid Chelsea for players?Ã¢ÂÂ was met with a Ã¢ÂÂdo you think I am going to answer that?Ã¢ÂÂ Adding: Ã¢ÂÂI am not an idiot.Ã¢ÂÂHowever, to the gasps and hoots of the locals the pay-off line was delivered in local Milanese dialect. Ã¢ÂÂNon sono una pirla.Ã¢ÂÂ Ã¢ÂÂPirlaÃ¢ÂÂ meaning Ã¢ÂÂidiotÃ¢ÂÂ or something a touch stronger.Certainly Mourinho and Inter are nobodyÃ¢ÂÂs fools and this was a well choreographed affair.
When RamÃÂ³n CalderÃÂ³n pledged last week that his personal goal for next season was to open his presidential trap an awful lot less, La Liga Loca's face fell faster than Jesus Navas being handed a suitcase and a round-the-world airline ticket. That's because every time the Real Madrid president opens his gob something ludicrous, pointless or FIFA sanction-inviting inevitably tumbles out. And that's a comedy gold mine for this deeply unimaginative blog to tap. CalderÃÂ³n's latest crazy plan is to retire Raul's number seven shirt when the striker hangs up his boots. But only as a mark of respect, of course, and not as a cheap populist gesture proving once again that the Bernabeu bigwig simply doesn't get 'it'.
Today is Republic Day in Italy Ã¢ÂÂ a chance to commemorate the birth of a new nation and, more importantly, a Monday off for everyone.Everyone expect those Inter minions who have to organise the press conference to finally unveil Jose Mourinho.ItÃ¢ÂÂs the biggest draw not only in Milan but all over the country. Like Juventus, Inter have fans the length and breath of the peninsula and they canÃ¢ÂÂt wait for the Special One to take over if a straw poll of those enjoying the bank holiday weekend in the sunshine on the island of Lipari is anything to go by.Situated off the northern coast of Sicily, Lipari is the largest of the Aeolian Islands - as far away from the hustle and pollution of Milan as you can get, but just as Nerazzurri mad.There are only about 9,000 inhabitants on this idyllic retreat but a large portion proclaim their love for the black and blues and are all for the changes afoot away up in the misty, damp north.In the bars around the pretty harbour of Marina Corta on Sunday morning the general consensus was that Roberto Mancini had been the favoured son who fell out with dad because he couldnÃ¢ÂÂt grow up and dad had to find a man for a manÃ¢ÂÂs job.All very macho and Sicilian but, lo and behold, didnÃ¢ÂÂt Massimo Moratti come out with pretty much the same thing when he gave a quick sound bite to the press later that afternoon.Ã¢ÂÂI like Mourinho because of his professionalism and his experience, and with him in charge there will be less suffering and success will be much easier,Ã¢ÂÂ were his exact words.However, the inference was that Mancini had not been professional: telling the world he was resigning; or experienced: all that in-fighting with the players.Ã¢ÂÂMourinho will whip them into shape,Ã¢ÂÂ seemed to be the party line from the die-hards. There was a time in Italy, not so long ago, when footballers were truly revered but thatÃ¢ÂÂs no more, especially for the old codgers who you feel wouldnÃ¢ÂÂt be too dismayed if a certain Mr. Mussolini was still around.Maybe a change of demographic would yield some sympathy for Mancio and certainly for the young generation there were mixed feelings at his departure.Ã¢ÂÂHeÃ¢ÂÂs won us the last two titles and heÃ¢ÂÂs stuck it to Juventus,Ã¢ÂÂ was one comment on his lasting legacy. However, it was forwards and onwards and whether their new heroes would be Deco, Lampard and EtoÃ¢ÂÂo.It took the female folk to get right to the heart of the matter as they gazed on those smouldering eyes and grey locks, in a Saturday edition of Gazzetta dello Sport, at the Portuguese chap on a photo op with Moratti in Paris.Ã¢ÂÂHe looks like someone who knows what he wants and knows how to get it,Ã¢ÂÂ was the gist of their longing.Maybe dear old Massimo had been thinking the very same thing.