Pre-season? Yes! Friendly? No!

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After a week or so of pre-season friendlies, which were anything but the usual summer kick-around, it was good to see some positive performances from Italian clubs over the weekend.

The general rule at this time of year is: put in a good hour or so and then ring the changes, no diving into tackles, no pressure on the referee and handshakes all round at the full-time whistle.

Unfortunately, Cagliari and Bastia had not received that memo turning their match into Fight Club - and a standing count for both sides as the contest was suspended with twenty minutes to go.

Catania and Greek side Iraklis then took the pitch on Friday for their own summer dust-up which also failed make it to the final whistle while Brescia’s game against another Greek team Larissa had its moments but at least went the full ninety minutes.

Italian clubs – at the higher level anyway – rarely if ever get involved in full-on brawls preferring to stick to gesticulating widely with threats that are never followed through.

Of course for the likes Serie A’s aristocracy there is no need to meet assorted Greeks or Corsicans in August, when there are money-spinning tournaments to be played throughout Europe as well as the obligatory trip across the Atlantic to the USA.

Inter, AC Milan and AS Roma were all in action over the weekend in such diverse locations of Paris, London and Baltimore.

Rafa Benitez has based his Inter squad in Rocky’s hometown of Philadelphia for a week’s training and certainly the Nerazzurri looked punchy as they took Manchester City apart thanks in part to Patrick Vieria demonstrating that he is still all elbows when it comes to aerial challenges.

A routine if feisty run-out against ten-men was just the way the Spaniard would have wanted to start a tour that will take in further games in Toronto and Dallas before the end of the week.

There are more pressing concerns back home where the club will want to move Mario Balotelli and Douglas Maicon on as quickly as possible: tidy sums of €30 million for the former and €28 million for the latter have been agreed in principle and now it is up the player’s respective agents to wring as much out of City and Real Madrid in terms of salary.

The search will be on for replacements and although Dirk Kuyt has been earmarked to take over from Balotelli, replacing Maicon will be no easy matter: Javier Zanetti could well find himself returning to the position where he started out his career, making way for imminent arrival Javier Mascherano in midfield.

AC Milan would love to be in a position to negotiate a few key moves and new coach Massimiliano Allergi will have a very clear idea where the squad needs strengthening after a competitive weekend in London.

The Rossoneri came away from the Emirates Cup with draws against Arsenal and Lyon but plenty of question-marks over the strength and depth of players at his disposal.

The club have made it clear that only by selling will funds become free for high-profile signings – and with this unlikely the names doing the rounds are either free agents such as Manuele Blasi or of the low-cost variety such as Andrea Lazzari of Cagliari and Mahamadou Diarra from Real Madrid.

Roma, for their part, have been ticking over nicely in pre-season and like Milan picked up two draws over the weekend – this time in Paris against Bordeaux and tournament hosts Paris St Germain.

In what was close to a regular starting XI, the Giallorossi were in complete control against PSG but Claudio Ranieri’s side fell into their old failings when it comes to closing out games, as Francesco Totti missed a penalty he was forced to retake, and the Romans then conceded an equaliser six minutes into added time.

Of course, with three weeks to go before the start of the season the sparring will continue but let’s hope the gloves don’t come off again.

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