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GRAHAME L. JONES / ON SOCCER

Italian teams have much to consider in transfer season

AC Milan, Inter Milan and Juventus having been making trades and weighing options, with more deals in the works.

July 19, 2009|GRAHAME L. JONES

Milan might be one of the world's great cities, but there is something it lacks.

What it needs is a really good soccer team.

Oh, sure, there is AC Milan, but everyone knows the Rossoneri are nothing more than a bauble dangling from owner Silvio Berlusconi's watch chain, a hobby for the Italian prime minister when he is not playing other, more exotic games on his Sardinian island retreat of Villa Certosa.

And, yes, there is Inter Milan, but who can take a team seriously when instead of training round-the-clock for the upcoming Serie A season the Nerazzurri players spend their time modeling new threads, as they did last week on a fashion runway in Hollywood?

No, what Milan needs is another team, a third club for fans who have grown tired of those trips to San Siro and yearn for a local club that wears neither red and black vertical stripes nor blue and black vertical stripes.

A team, for instance, like Juventus. Is it too late to talk La Vecchia Signora (the Old Lady) into abandoning its reconstruction of the Stadio delle Alpi and instead relocating from Turin to Milan?

Black and white vertical stripes can be fetching, too, and such a move would concentrate all of Italy's soccer wealth in one location, making it easier for smaller, provincial clubs such as AS Roma, Lazio, Fiorentina and Napoli -- the perennial also-rans of Serie A -- to arrange their travel schedules.

All in all, it seems a sound idea. Perhaps Inter Milan Coach Jose Mourinho could discuss it with AC Milan Coach Leonardo if the "Special One" decides to show up at the Home Depot Center tonight to watch AC Milan play the Galaxy.

Or maybe Leonardo can stick around until Tuesday night and talk to Mourinho after Internazionale -- to use the Nerazzurri's proper name -- plays Chelsea at the Rose Bowl.

Of course, both men have other things on their minds, it is true.

Mourinho, for example, is trying to figure out if swapping hulking Swedish striker and Serie A scoring champion Zlatan Ibrahimovic for Barcelona's Samuel Eto'o and Alexander Hleb will help or hurt Inter in its quest for a fifth consecutive league championship.

And Leonardo, back in Los Angeles where he won a World Cup with Brazil in 1994 despite trying to knock U.S. playmaker Tab Ramos' head off with a nastily thrown elbow, is trying to find a way to lure Brazilian striker Luis Fabiano to AC Milan to at least partially make up for the loss of Kaka, who was sold to Real Madrid for a tidy $94 million.

Leonardo also will no doubt be having a word with David Beckham this weekend, perhaps arranging the return of the Galaxy midfielder to Milan early next year or telling him to start looking elsewhere.

Kaka was not AC Milan's only loss. Defender Paolo Maldini retired after a half-century or so in red and black. Coach Carlo Ancelotti was lured away to Chelsea, and won his first game with the Blues on Saturday, beating -- drum roll here, please -- the Seattle Sounders.

Signing Fabiano, even for Sevilla's steep asking price of $28 million, would be a coup for AC Milan and a far better acquisition than Inter Milan made in acquiring Brazil national team captain and defender Lucio from Bayern Munich, or Juventus made in landing Brazilian midfielder Felipe Melo from Fiorentina.

The transfer season is far from over and more deals are in the works. Inter Milan's addition of Argentine forward Diego Milito and Brazilian midfielder Thiago Motta has strengthened it.

Juventus, which finished second last season, has splashed out $34.5 million for Brazilian playmaker Diego, who led Werder Bremen to the German Bundesliga title last season, and has also extended ancient striker Alessandro Del Piero's contract through 2011.

All of these moves have Juventus defender and Italian World Cup winner Fabio Cannavaro crowing. He especially likes the signing of Diego.

"He has the talent of a Brazilian and the mentality of a German," Cannavaro told Gazzetto della Sport. "He's an almost perfect player."

Now, before making the move to Turin, all Diego needs to do is make sure Juventus is still there. It would be embarrassing to show up only to discover that the Old Lady had hopped on a bus to Milan.

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grahame.jones@latimes.com

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(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX)

Italian soccer at a glance

Breaking down Italy's big three teams:

*--* Team Founded Coach World titles European Italian titles titles Juventus 1897 Ciro Ferrara 2 2 27 AC Milan 1899 Leonardo 4 7 17 Inter Milan 1908 Jose Mourinho 2 2 17 *--*

How they fared in 2008-09:

*--* Finish Club Played Won Lost Tied G GA Diff Points 1. Inter Milan 38 25 4 9 70 32 38 84 2. Juventus 38 21 6 11 69 37 32 74 3. AC Milan 38 22 8 8 70 35 35 74 *--*

Source: Italian Serie A

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