Our Italian correspondent Steve Mitchell looks at how the different Serie A team will be spending their summers

It’s only just over six weeks since Milan were crowned champions of Italy but thoughts are already turning to the new campaign as the peninsula’s premier clubs prepare for pre-season training. Over the past month or so, the Italian sports dailies have been dominated by transfer speculation and pictures of Serie A’s superstar players relaxing on exotic beaches with their gorgeous wives and girlfriends.

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Ronaldinho was at one point the greatest footballer on the planet. Stefan Kelly wonders if he’ll ever be that player again.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better return to the Brazilian league,” … “The focus is on winning the title, it’s a trophy I haven’t won it yet.”

These were the words used by the samba star upon his return to his homeland in the colours of Flamengo, Ronaldinho is clearly a man who does not lack ambition. However, his ambitions are not transferring to realities on the pitch at the Engenhao at the moment.

When using the phrase “be the same” I am not referring to the world-player of the year Ronaldinho but the player who can entice with his willingness, audaciousness and ability to mesmerize. It’s safe to say he hit the zenith of his career a long time ago, back in the days of linking up with Deco and Eto’o at Barca, but the rate at which it is collapsing is far too radical for a player of his quality. At the time of Pep Guardiola’s arrival, his off the pitch antics, poor performances and frequent injuries forced him to become the shadow of the man he previously was, this resulted in a switch to the San Siro.

At Milan he was a completely different player and was eventually shunned out to players like Pirlo and Seedorf amongst a,lot of younger talent, the San Siro was never going to be the place for him and therefore never was.

His profile remained extremely high throughout world football even after his move away from Barca. He remained one of Nike’s biggest assets and still managed to feature in their fabulous advert for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, this featured him using his talismanic skills to dance around defenders. It made him look like a god but the sad part of that story was that Dunga ended up not selecting the man dubbed “Player of the Decade”.

The following season at Milan was disappointing to say the least, in fact you could call it an absolute disaster for the Brazilian. His difficult adaptation to Italian football shone through, scoring 1 goal in 11 games and clearly lacking the pace that once made him so dangerous. Another move was needed for the once inhibited playmaker and the only way was down. Words can’t describe how happy I was when he decided to avoid a big-money move to Blackburn, watching him struggling to keep up with the pace and strength of the Premier League would depress me, in some ways it will forever make me remember Ronaldinho at his best when I think of the man. Instead he opted for the more romantic option, a homecoming to the nation that loved him for his samba style trickery and brashness, Brazil. He joined Flamengo after hometown club Gremio had to withdraw from the race for his signature as they lacked the necessary funds.

At the time of writing Ronaldinho has played 4 games, out of 8 shots has scored twice, and has laid on one assist

However, these are not telling half the story. Earlier this year Flamengo won the Rio State Championship aka the Carioca and to say Ronaldinho was disappointing would be an understatement, he seemed constantly uninspired and nowhere near living up to the inevitable hype surrounding him.

It’s fair to say Flamengo’s start to the Brasileirao has been an eventful one. Thiago Neves is quickly becoming one of the most exciting players in the league and fans also mourned as Dejan “Rambo” (or “Pet”) Petkovic played his last game for Fla. Most importantly though to the fans and journalists alike, Ronaldinho has risen from the dead and seems to be, for the first time in years, brace yourself.. playing well.

His scintillating performance during Fla’s 4-0 crushing of Avai displayed to the world how he still has the potential the world saw at PSG all those years ago. Scoring one and setting up one, he undoubtedly made all the headlines. This looks like it might have not been a once-off performance as the next week, he once again looked inspired against Bahia and scored once more for the black and red of Flamengo.

It may be that we will have to wait for his retirement farewell game before we see him in the colours of Brazil again but signs of Ronaldinho redeeming himself don’t look too far away and I don’t think anyone wouldn’t want that to happen.

If you enjoyed Stefan’s article why not follow him on twitter – or visit his website The Midfield Diamond



Tonight was a very emotional night in Lille. The Champions managed to see off Rennes 3-2 – Moussa Sow with his third hat-trick of the season which saw the Senegalese striker pick up the Trophee du Meilleur Buteur for Ligue 1’s top scorer. Near the end of the game midfielder Yohan Cabaye was replaced by Stephane Dumont. This wasn’t due to a bad performance or a tactical decision it was a chance for Cabaye to say his goodbyes.

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This week Andrew is joined by Adam Digby, Adam Bate and Paolo Bandini for a Serie A podcast special.

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First of all…watch this!


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Resident Italian football writer Steve Mitchell has delightfully written about his weekend watching football in lovely Calcio…enjoy!

“I will pick you up on my scooter around 10am” explained my friend in Rome, Nando.  Nando is the owner of the Ultra Bar and was to be my tour guide prior to the Roma v Milan game on Saturday night.

I have been to the Eternal City to watch football on numerous occasions but this weekend was to be a celebration of my visit to one of the world’s most beautiful locations. Nando arrived dead on 10 and a few minutes later we were zipping around the tourists outside of the Coliseum on route to meet another one of my good friends Roberto, who also runs a bar in via Tuscolana, a district outside of the tourist trap where the true inhabitants of the city live.

Roberto grew up standing on the Curva Sud at the Stadio Olimpico and within half an hour of my arrival, some of his old acquaintances joined us for beer and pizza on a beautiful sunny day. We were then invited to lunch at a restaurant nearby where one of the guys was the head chef and after demolishing around six courses of traditional Roman cooking, I hopped back on Nando’s scooter to spend the afternoon at the Ultra Bar.

As the match approached, the effects of my long lunch were easing and after Roberto and friends arrived we headed to the Olimpico for the evening’s main event. The Curva Sud was full and with Milan bringing over 10 thousand fans to the capital the atmosphere was incredible. The game will not live long in the memory, a 0-0 draw enough to give the visitors their 18th scudetto but I had to prepare myself for another festival of culinary delights at a renowned pizzeria, in the San Lorenzo district of the city.

More friends arrived and as the clock hit 12.30am, we embarked on another mammoth eating session. Franco, one of the “Vecchia Guardia” or (old guard) a name given to the Roma ultras that are now too old to cause mayhem, presented me with a sweatshirt from the group and a fabulous book containing pictures of the days when the CUCS (Commando Ultra Curva Sud) were the most feared supporter group in Italy. After we said our goodbye’s with a couple of shots of Grappa, I finally returned to my hotel around 3 in anticipation of part two of my calcio weekend.

Sunday morning saw me heading out to Latina, around 60 kilometres outside of Rome to see a promotion party after the club were crowned champions of Lega Pro C2 section C the previous week. Latina fans have a reputation in the peninsula for being predominantly right wing in their outlook, this is no surprise seeing as the city was founded by Benito Mussolini in 1932. More surprising is that it is twinned with Birkenhead here in the UK. As I arrived in the city on a blisteringly hot day, the early signs were not good as I waited an hour at the train station for a bus to take me to the stadium.

Finally a bus arrived and as I explained to the driver where I wanted to go he gave me a look as if to say “this guy is crazy, all the way from the UK to see this lot!” As we hit the city centre, he very kindly pointed out were I should leave his bus and after around a five minute walk I could see the match-day traders setting up their stalls amongst a sea of blue and black, the clubs colours. Immediately my arrival caused a stir and two supporters carrying a huge flag asked me why I was there. After I explained to them they were ecstatic and demanded I take a photograph of them for my article of which I obliged.

My Italian was being severely tested by now and my next mission was to acquire a ticket for the game. Luckily the biglietteria or ticket office was right outside the main entrance and after handing over my passport I was presented with a ticket for the Curva Nord for the grand sum of 5 euros by a young girl who was severely impressed by my visit. Unfortunately I was not as impressed by her spelling as my name on the ticket looked like something you had to unravel on the Countdown Conundrum.

With kick-off still 90 minutes away, I clocked a bar over the street from the ground and proceeded to sink a couple of beers at lightening pace to get in the mood for what was to be a huge celebration. As bombs and firecrackers were let off in the street the carnival atmosphere continued all the way to the stadium and once I took my place amongst the hardcore supporters on the Curva, I was invited to join in the party by waving a flag and bouncing up and down at regular intervals.

In unforgiving heat, the hosts were two up in quarter of an hour to keep the atmosphere at fever pitch. Latina’s main rivals are Frosinone, and next season it may just be that the two will go head to head in the third tier of Italian football as the Gialloblu (Yellow Blues) look set to be relegated from Serie B. During the second-half, a micro light hovered over the stadium and then incredibly unleashed a plume of yellow and blue smoke as it circled the arena. The home fans were livid but nothing could spoil this day.

The game ended in a 3-0 win for the champions and the Latina players did what all Italian players do after the last game of the season, throw all their kit into the crowd and bounce around in just their underpants. A fire hose was then taken by one member of the playing staff and the Curva was sprayed with water but nobody really cared as the cool water was most welcome. As I headed back to the bar for post match refreshments, I still had one thing to do and that was to swap my Oxford United pennant that I had in my bag for a souvenir of my visit. Within 10 minutes the exchange had been made and I am now a proud owner of a Latina Calcio scarf.

It was a weary Englishman who returned to the capital on Sunday evening but the memories of the weekend will remain for a long time. The contrast between the two games could not have been greater but as ever when you visit this wonderful country, the welcome and hospitality are the same wherever you go.




It would be a travesty if we discussed our favourite Champions League finals on the podcast without having a look and providing you good people with links to watch these moments in history. So what better way to start your Friday, check out these superb games.

First up  -  Brent Atema picked FC Porto 3 AS Monaco 0 as his favourite final. The Jose Mourinho legacy continues before the move to his beloved Chelsea. Monaco can’t keep the fairytale going.

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This week I am joined by Gav Stone and Ethan Dean Richards as we
discuss the four Champions League games this week. Milan v Tottenham,
Valencia v Schalke, Roma v Shakhtar Donetsk and Arsenal v Barcelona.

There is also an interview with Daniel Richardson from Britski Belasli
about the ADO den Haag and the Eredivisie.

Hope you enjoy the pod, comments, suggestions and just general feedback are encouraged. For iTunes of to download go here

Episode 26 – gibfootballshow podcast by gibfootballshow


Only 5 games left in Serie A and things couldn’t be closer at the top, 4 points seperate the top 3, and 5 points seperating the 4 teams chasing that elusive last Champions League place and that’s what I will be concentrating on.  AS Roma’s 1-0 win away at Bari thanks to Marko Vucinic’s goal saw the Capital club take the top spot in Serie A, Inter Milan’s 2-2 draw at Fiorentina saw them slip from the top spot for the first time since Matchday 7. This gave A.C Milan the chance to pull within 1 point of Inter and 2 points off top spot, however they struggled against Catania at Home and Boriellio’s 80th minute goal saved a point for the Rossoneri.

Of the 3 teams Milan have the toughest run in, having to face Sampdoria, Palermo, Fiorentina, Genoa and Juventus all 4 teams still fighting for a place in European competition next season, and to make things worse for Leonardo’s men, only 1 of those games (Juventus) is at the San Siro, for me this rules Milan out of the title race, however they are safe for a 3rd spot, miracles can happen though, I can see them picking up 8 points from 15 and finishing on 72 points.

The race between Roma and Inter however is alot tighter, Inter a slight advantage with 3 home game to Roma’s 2, however Roma’s next game is the Rome Derby against Lazio so it will feel like a home fixture in venue, maybe not in atmosphere though. After tthat Roma have a home game against Sampdoria which will not be easy as Del Neri’s men are in the hunt for a Champions League qualifier place,  a trip to high flying Parma is next having a great season back in Serie A and finding themselves only 5 points away from Juventus in that last Europa League spot, Cagliari then travel to the Stadio Olympico and on the last day Roma travel to Verona to take on Chievo in which the Marcantonio Bentegodi stadium could be the scene for great triumph or disappointment.

Inter have a slight advantage in that apart from Juventus’s visit to the San Siro on Friday night (16th) none of Inter’s 4 remaining opponents are trying to qualify for Europe so the quality of team isn’t as high, this is balanced up with 3 of the teams, Siena, Lazio and Atalanta are all fighting for their lives at the bottom of the table and there is nothing more dangerous than a team fighting for their place in Serie A, Inter i’m sure however will feel strong enough to overpower these teams. Home games against Atalanta and Chievo should be 3 points each the destination of the title will be decided on Inter and Roma’s away performances.

My opinion is Inter will win 4 of the last 5 games and pip Roma to the title by 1 point, of course as with every league anything can happen, and with only 1 point seperating the teams, there will be a number of twists and turns I’m sure, as I’m sure will be the chase for the last Champions League place, Palermo sit in 4 th place right now, their games remaining include a visit from Milan and finishes with 3 away games at Siena, Sampdoria then Atalanta, that 2nd last games against Sampdoria will be an absolute huge fixture, with Sampdoria only in 5th place due to goal difference, it could come down to that game to decide 4th place. Before the crunch match with Palermo, Sampdoria have the small task of taking on Milan and Roma and finish with a very hard match when Napoli come to town.

Napoli themselves are 5 points off Palermo at the moment so with a good run, they could be in contention when they have to travel to Sampdoria on the last day they’re run in is slightly favourable Home games against Cagliari and Atalanta and away trips to Bari and Chievo, Napoli have the players capable of winning all 5 games, but they can be eratic and could lose them all too.

The last team trying to fight their way into the Champions League is no other than the “Old Lady” Juventus a very up and down season could be salvaged by a late run into that 4th spot, it’s not going to be easy though, the 5 games left starts and ends with trips to Milan, Inter tonight and Milan on the 16th of May in the middle they have home games against Bari and Parma and an away game against dangerous home side Catania. Juve’s away form has not been good at all, but again on their day they could beat all 5 teams, in my eyes however this will not happen, I am predicting 2 wins from 5 for Juve.

So after all 5 games have completed what are my predictions:

1. Inter Milan – 80 pts – Champions League Group
2. AS Roma – 79 pts – Champions League Group
3. A.C Milan – 72 pts - Champions League Group

4. Sampdoria – 64 pts -  - Champions League Play-offs
5. Palermo – 62 pts – Europa League Play-offs
6. Napoli – 59 pts – Europa League 3rd round qf
7. Juventus – 59 pts

Inter to pip the title from Roma, Sampdoria to take that last Champions League place, and the biggest shock would be Juventus missing out on all European competition.

Of course now that I’ve put my predictions on here, I will be completely wrong and it’ll be all change, should be an exciting climax to the season.