Sunday, January 15, 2012

Zac Lee Rigg: Milan and Inter take derby rivalry from transfer tussles to the field

The teams very publicly vied for the signature of Carlos Tevez. Milan vice president Adriano Galliani ate lunch with Tevez and Kia Joorabchian in Brazil, a picture of which splashed the front page of La Gazzetta dello Sport. Inter owner Massimo Moratti talked into voice recorders about how his club's intentions were "not a joke."

By Thursday, Inter's finishing on the transfer market looked as wayward as on the pitch (Inter's top scorer this season, Diego Milito, has as many league goals as Antonio Nocerino: six). Galliani, along with Joorabchian and a Milan lawyer, met with Manchester City officials in London to finish a loan deal with a mandatory summer purchase priced at over 20 million euros.

Moratti admitted he'd lost. "That's soccer," he said.

Meanwhile, Milan prepared to make room by selling Alexandre Pato to Paris Saint-Germain. The trustworthy AFP even released the financial details: 28 million euros up front, seven million in add-ons and a yearly wage of another seven million euros for Pato.

But then Galliani took a phone call in London.

Within an hour, Pato released a statement on the Milan website claiming he would stay. "Milan is my home," he said. Galliani told reporters the deal for Tevez was dead.

Milan president Silvio Berlusconi quickly took credit for the decision.

"I have decided to keep Pato because he's a great talent," Berlusconi said. "I was not convinced by the operation from the financial and technical points of view. I made this decision by myself."

The last sentence was an attempt to ward off rumors that his daughter, Barbara, who is dating Pato and sits on the Milan board, whispered in anyone's ear. It certainly wasn't Massimiliano Allegri's choice. The Milan coach has frequently left Pato on the bench (Gazzetta reports that is where the Brazilian will start the derby) and has struggled to cohere Pato and star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Allegri was recently called out in the press by the 22-year-old for not communicating well enough.

But Milan made sure not to estrange the coach who brought back the title after a seven year drought, signing him to a contract extension Friday which will last through the 2013-14 season.

Milan's two giant clubs warmed up for Sunday's derby by tussling off the field. If the Tevez saga is anything to go by, the match just may end up a frustrating draw.

So Pato's staying and Allegri's staying. For the time being, that leaves the one guy who didn't want to stay, Tevez, stuck.

Moratti hedged on Inter's newly opened chances, saying the club would look into resurrecting a deal after the derby Sunday. It's possible Inter only entered negotiations to drive up the price. Economically mismanaged, the Nerazzurri will struggle to meet the upcoming financial fair play regulations and have sold a striker for mega-money each of the past three summers (Ibrahimovic, Mario Balotelli, Samuel Eto'o). It was always a stretch that Inter could afford the hefty transfer fee and Tevez's inflated wages.

Man City first team coach David Platt suggested Tevez could stay through to the summer.

Even the long-term future of Pato is in doubt. The skeptical quickly drew parallels with Kaka's departure, sold to Real Madrid just six months after Milan tried to pawn him to Man City. What's more clear is that Pato staying has more immediate benefits, at least in regards to the derby.

Tevez hasn't played a competitive fixture since Sept. 21, a Carling Cup match against Birmingham City, and is undoubtedly rusty, if not unfit. In contrast to the time it would take for Tevez to settle, Pato scored 43 seconds into the last match against Inter. He has a goal in each of the last three derby meetings.(...)More.

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