Serie A returns, even if some South American stars don't

The dangers of a mid-winter break have been laid bare in Italy: it allows players to swan off to warmer climes and there is a good chance they won’t come back.

This has been particularly relevant when it comes to South Americans and especially those with an axe to grind who happen to play for AS Roma.

Both Adriano and David Pizarro failed to report back for training at the end of December, the former citing bureaucratic and/or personal reasons; the latter a more mundane troublesome knee twinge.

There is no doubt Adriano would love to kick back in Brazil, having spent a torrid time in the Eternal City making little or no attempt it seems to get fit, starting for Claudio Ranieri‘s side only twice.

However, in the last game before the break at AC Milan, he demonstrated that an overweight striker can cause problems for the opposition by holding the ball and falling over when the thought of having to move arises – and it looks as if he will have to force his frame back into one of those snug airline seats for a flight back to Italy in order to see out the next six months on the bench.

The same fate may not await Pizarro, who has fallen out of favour completely with Ranieri and may well circumnavigate Italy completely and head straight to Russia and his old coach Luciano Spalletti at Zenit St. Petersburg.

Ronaldinho took advantage of Milan’s kind offer of an all expenses paid few days in Dubai before jetting back to Brazil to mull over the tempting offers from Gremio, Flamengo and, errrm, Blackburn Rovers.

Sun, sea and limitless good times and never having to wear a woolly hat again are what Dinho craves so it isn’t too difficult to see his future lays in the home of sun and samba, not (David) Dunn and (Christopher) Samba .

It is hard to believe that Massimiliano Allegri actually got his own way and Silvio Berlusconi was shredding a farewell tear for his favourite party boy, but in the next breath was once again all ‘wink, wink’ and ‘nudge, nudge’ when Antonio Cassano turned up at his doorstep.

The Rossoneri president - looking as if he had enjoyed a hearty holiday period of over-indulgence - met up with the game’s biggest comfort eater yesterday to impart a few words on wisdom on living the life of a sportsman and never, never speaking back to the man who pays your wages.

The Bari Bawler blushed demurely towards the man who has done it all and lived not to tell any tales and will now take Ron’s place at chugging around the training pitch in a fruitless bid to get fit by March.

In the meantime, the rest of the league has its collective sights set on putting the league leaders in their place when Serie A shakes off the last of the New Year excess and gets back to business on Thursday.

The knives are already out for Leonardo who starts his time in charge of Inter against the team-of-the-moment Napoli, with seemingly most of the country hoping he falls on his face believing that he has become a little too suave for his own good i.e. charming his way from one big club to another.

The dashing Leo’s switch of allegiance across town has left a bad taste amongst both sets of Milanese followers while in the wider sense, the likes of Walter Mazzarri, Luigi Del Neri and Delio Rossi have come up the hard way through the coaching ranks and are more deserving of their moment of glory.

Certainly, on current form Napoli - who hold joint-second spot with Lazio - could be a good punt for the title, and tellingly all their South Americans were back on time to resume training.

With the most open title race in recent times set to heat up who would want to miss it?