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Silvio Berlusconi can deal with Lionel Messi

Politician offers AC Milan tactical advice

icon messinowords20 February ~ Supporters of Italian politician Silvio Berlusconi have a chirpy song for rallies, with a chorus that chimes "Meno male che Silvio c'è" (Thank God Silvio Exists). AC Milan may even be whistling it on the way to Wednesday's Champions League match at San Siro against Barcelona after the club owner revealed how to stop Lionel Messi. The answer, it turns out, is to get a marker to keep tabs on him. And, if that doesn't work, use two men.

"A special tactic is needed against Barcelona," Berlusconi told one of his Mediaset TV channels. "Messi should be stopped by man-marking, which can be done by one person or sometimes two." Genius.

Milan coach Massimiliano Allegri, who is used to his boss badmouthing his tactics, has not promised to put Berlusconi's wise words into action, however, because he said he does not see Barcelona as a one-man show. That may not matter too much to the three-time Italian prime minister, as his comments probably had as much to do with hogging the limelight days before an election to decide whether he gets a fourth crack at government, as they did with football.

Milan endured a tough start to the season after selling Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Thiago Silva to Paris Saint-Germain in the summer. They gradually improved and have been revitalised by the arrival of Mario Balotelli (a move linked to the election; Berlusconi's main political rival, centre-left leader Pier Luigi Bersani, mocked it by saying he was in talks to sign Messi for the local team of his home town, Bettola). The Italy forward has scored four goals in three games since moving from Manchester City and, even though he is cup-tied in Europe, his arrival has lifted spirits.

Mathieu Flamini, one of the players Berlusconi said should mark Messi, fellow midfielder Antonio Nocerino and forward Robinho are unfit for the game. But Stephan El Shaarawy, a 20-year-old Italy striker with Egyptian roots, who is Milan's top scorer with 15 Serie A goals this season, should be able to play after a knee knock. "We are facing the best team in the world but I do not accept the way everyone has been making us out to be the sacrificial lambs over the last two weeks," Allegri said at the pre-match press conference. "Unless the rules change, we'll start the match on level terms." Paul Virgo

On the subject...

Comment on 20-02-2013 13:15:30 by geobra #764795
I loathe Berlusconi the politician and playboy, and some of his ideas about football are decidedly odd, especially with regard to Ronaldinho. However, credit where credit is due. He saw something in the then unknown Arrigo Sacchi that nobody else saw, which led eventually to a massive reduction in the use of catenaccio in Italian football and an increase in the number of goals scored. If Italy's goals per game ratio now bears comparison with England, Spain and Germany Berlusconi and Sacchi must take some of the credit for unshackling the chains.

For all his manifold faults in other fields, in football Berlusconi has sometimes been something of a visionary.
Comment on 20-02-2013 17:47:43 by Pietro Paolo Virdis #764910
You really think that Berlusconi bought the club and then singlehandedly started to bring in staff and players? You don't think he had advisors much more fit for such decisions?
It's not like he's made a media empire because he's an expert at TV-studio production
Comment on 20-02-2013 18:59:06 by geobra #764937
My comment was limited to Arrigo Sacchi. I arrived in Italy the year he became coach of Milan. I have always understood that in the previous season Berlusconi was so impressed by the play of Sacchi's (then) Serie B Parma in knocking Milan out of Coppa Italia that he earmarked him as Milan's next coach. Quite possibly his advisers thought he was mad, but he was proved right because it is not an exaggeration to say that Sacchi revolutionised Italian football. They say that soon after he arrived, he showed the players a video of Parma playing and told them that that was how he wanted them to play. He had never played professionally himself, or coached in Serie A, so at first the players treated it as a joke. But, backed by Berlusconi, he persisted and we all know the results.

This does not mean that I am not hoping with all my heart that Berlusconi gets hammered in Sunday's general election.
Comment on 20-02-2013 19:19:52 by ursus arctos #764944
Though I very much share geobra's feelings about Berlusconi as a politician, I do also think that he does deserve the major part of the credit for hiring Sacchi and giving him the "big club" platform that allowed him to reach the pinnacle of the game.

At the same time, I think that early success (like so much else) helped convince Berlusconi that he was indeed a football genius, which delusion was instrumental in many of the club's subsequent travails (including, but by no means limited to, Sacchi's second term).

Given the unbounded nature of his ego, it's perfectly possible that Berlusconi would have made all of those same mistakes had the Sacchi experiment failed, but I'm convinced that its success did buy him some initial football credibility (which is, of course, long gone).
Comment on 20-02-2013 22:03:41 by geobra #765019
An excellent performance tonight by Milan against a hugely disappointing and one-paced Barcelona. Every now and then Italian football shows that there's still some life in it. Whether coach Allegri took Berlusconi's advice I wouldn't know, but Messi was as ineffective as I've ever seen him. If he played in Italy I doubt that he would get anywhere near to 91 goals in a calendar year. His display also backed the theory that Maradona was better than him, because I think that he would at least have imposed himself on the game, something which Messi never did this evening.

It may not have been pretty, but tactically Milan won hands down.
Comment on 21-02-2013 16:12:50 by JimDavis #765361
geobra - you don't think that if he played against that type of defensive system every week, Messi would quickly work out how to beat it just as regularly as he does in Spain?
Comment on 22-02-2013 08:53:54 by geobra #765658
JimDavis - what I think is that the evidence is piling up that when competent teams construct a web in front of their goalkeeper, Barcelona are in difficulty because they don't have a plan B. Inter in 2010, Chelsea, and now Milan. In all these games they tried to go through a brick wall instead of round it with inevitable results. On Wednesday they made 805 accurate passes and had about 70% possession but managed just one weak shot on target. That must mean something.

As for why this doesn't happen in Spain, I don't know, but I would guess that most teams just write off their games against Barcelona and concentrate on the other 36 (or 34 if you include Real). But in a straight knock out or even in a 4-team group you can't do that.

The odd thing is that Abate, Mexes, Zapata and Costant constitute the weakest Milan defence in at least 25 years.

And my answer to your question is that even in Italy Messi would get a lot of goals, but not nearly as many as in Spain. But we'll never know unless he comes to play here, which he won't.
Comment on 22-02-2013 20:19:27 by geobra #765936
In 9 games against Italian clubs so far, Messi has scored three goals, all of them penalties.

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