Milan tread water in sadly shallow summer
Summer in Italy has been akin to the opening scene in Sexy Beast Ã¢ÂÂ the one in which Ray Winstone is lying in the pool, turning as red as a lobster, only for his idyllic life to be interrupted by a falling boulder.
Well, Serie Aaaaargh! has been doing the floating-in-the-pool bit for a while, waiting for the inevitable big splash that shatters the pre-season lethargy Ã¢ÂÂ only to be left bobbing and bored.
As the gentle breezes of July give way to the broiling furnace of August, there has been little to encourage even the most passionate of football followers to lift a weary head from the sun-lounger.
"Where is everybody?"
OK, Zlatan Ibrahimovic grabbed the chance to kiss another club badge and continue his Swede dreams of finally gaining some respect in the Champions League, but there has been little more than a shrug at his departure.
There had been some scurrilous suggestions that the player had bombarded Massimo Moratti with a SMS campaign to hurry through his transfer to Barcelona. Ã¢ÂÂRelease meÃ¢ÂÂ¦Ã¢ÂÂ and Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂll rebelÃ¢ÂÂ¦Ã¢ÂÂ were among the reported ditties coming from IbraÃ¢ÂÂs overused wrist.
However, according to Moratti, itÃ¢ÂÂs all complete rubbish, as was an alleged Jose Mourinho one-word text to his striker: Ã¢ÂÂTraitor.Ã¢ÂÂ
Incoming Ibra swappee Samuel EtoÃ¢ÂÂo looks to have settled into life at Inter in fine style, and his partnership with Diego Milito promises a pasta-truck load of goals.
The latter was on the mark against Monaco on Friday and the pair should be in tandem in the Super Cup against Lazio on Saturday.
And when Inter return from their Chinese jaunt, Wesley Sneijder might just be wearing the black and blue if the Real Madrid midfielder agrees to a year-long loan deal.
With the Deco move seeming dead in the water, thereÃ¢ÂÂs a distinct lack of creativity behind the front two; the Dutchman could provide that spark, playing either in the space between the midfield and attack or on the right of a three-man attack.
The press have tried to drum up interest in Antonio Cassano joining the champions but by all accounts Mourinho is not too keen on the Ã¢ÂÂBari BawlerÃ¢ÂÂ and his comic pants.
"Er, no thanks"
But anything is possible in the stultifying summer. Just ask Juventus, who were cock-a-hoop at beating Real Madrid at the weekend and equally unconcerned at drawing with Aston Villa despite missing a hatful of chances.
New coach Ciro Ferrara has really got his charges fired up and the coach will want to keep that momentum going into the Serie A campaign, which sees the Old Lady travel to AS Roma on the second weekend.
While Juve and Inter are looking forward to getting down to the serious business at the end of the month, AC Milan must be dreading the new season in the manner of most kids at the thought of the first day at school.
New boy Leonardo has had a torrid time of it of late, having been forced to criss-cross the USA, losing along the way to Chelsea and Inter, and then having hardly any time to pack a fresh pair of socks before facing Bayern Munich in their own back yard.
The players have spent more time in airport departure lounges than out on the training pitch Ã¢ÂÂ and it shows: four defeats and two draws has been a poor return and a major morale mauler.
The Rossoneri will be gathering their bags once again when they take on Benfica in Lisbon at the weekend and thereÃ¢ÂÂs another money-spinner to be played in Madrid against Real on the 25th Ã¢ÂÂ a nice little warm-up before facing Inter in the derby four days later.
It seems as if the Milan hierarchy are milking the brand for all it is worth Ã¢ÂÂ and to reinvest in what? Luis Fabiano? Klaas Jan Huntelaar?
No wonder season-ticket sales have barely topped the 20,000 mark, while Inter have already broken the 40,000 barrier.
Down the years, Milan fans have become accustomed to Silvio Berlusconi pulling a crowd-pleaser out of the hat: Ronaldinho last summer, David Beckham in January.
However, for once the aging lothario seems unwilling to dish the dosh, and instead Andrea Pirlo will be the latest prime asset to be sold off as soon as Chelsea come back with a half-decent offer.
Berlusconi claims he now prefers to be surrounded by the younger generation in all facets of his life and has told Leo to muster up some youthful vigour before he is tempted back to the San Siro.
For some unfortunate souls the summer has just got even hotter.
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