Showman Berlusconi has the last laugh

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Silvio Berlusconi has been written off on numerous occasions lately, but just when it seemed as if his demise was imminent the laughing cavalier has, well, had the last laugh.

He was certainly chortling away on Sunday evening as he strolled out of the San Siro after watching AC Milan produce their best 45 minutes of football since they tore Manchester United to shreds in the Champions League some four years ago.

Ever the showman, Berlusconi was more than willing to play to the gallery although he had certainly not forgotten that only a few months ago the fans were calling for him to step aside if he was not willing to dip into the transfer market.

With reporters hanging on his every word on how he had brought off the transfer coup of the year in landing Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the diminutive leader of the country was interrupted in full flow by a group of ultras who had gathered to offer words of praise for a change.

The chief in staff accepted them graciously before reminding them that they were entitled to celebrate all they liked or complain as much as they wanted, but there is only one person who was actually dipping into his pocket at the end of the day.

And with a regal wave of the hand the Silvio Show was over and the sound-bite was soon flashing across the late news bulletins – of the media magnet’s television stations of course - along with a new slimish-looking Ronaldinho who was in element against a Lecce side whose coach Luigi De Canio fielded two youth-team players in defence.

The new boys paid the price in a 4-0 thumping and suddenly season tickets for the Rossoneri are going through the roof while Ibra number 11 shirts are flying off the shelves.

Well, any good news is always welcomed on an opening weekend where there were only 15 goals and by the looks of it a few players have not yet recovered from their World Cup hangovers.

None of those unfortunates who played a major part in Italy minor contribution to the finals in South Africa started the new campaign on the front-foot - apart from maybe Giorgio Chiellini.

Andrea Pirlo and Giampaolo Pazzini cannot be considered as their playing time was minimal, but Daniele De Rossi, Claudio Marchisio and Simone Pepe were visibly suffering at the weekend.

De Rossi, in particular, was completely out of sorts in AS Roma’s goalless draw against newly-promoted Cesena and the midfielder cut a forlorn figure when he was substituted midway through the second half.

Both Marchisio and Pepe looked well off international class as Juventus began the campaign with a defeat Bari which brought only resigned shakes of the head from their long-suffering fans and a baffling aside from Luigi Del Neri that the team were on the right road – to mid-table obscurity it would seem.

There were shades of South Africa in Florence where Edinson Cavani was awarded a goal for Napoli even though replays clearly showed the ball had bounced off the underside of the bar and hit the line.

The “phantom goal” again raised calls for goalline technology which Gazzetta dello Sport has been punting for all its worth since Frank Lampard’s effort was ruled out in the summer.  

There was also a phantom of sorts on the Bologna bench during the Monday night game against Inter.

Franco Colomba should have been taking his place there in charge of the home side but was relieved of his duties over the weekend because he had been pestering the new club owner Sergio Porcedda for something called ‘new players’.

As is generally the case when a team is left to its own devices it produces a positive result – and fortunately for Bologna the defending champions had not shaken off their European Super Cup defeat.

Having being suitable chasten in Monte Carlo, the Nerazzurri once again looked heavy-legged in a goalless draw. However, each of their last three seasons have started with a point so maybe it is an omen of things to come.

Of course just when we get started again along comes a break weekend for the Euro 2012 qualifiers but for now it is Milan and their chirpy president who are all smiles.

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