THE EURO FILES: Serie A is played in court as much as on the pitch

THE EURO FILES: Serie A never changes – it is played in court as much as on the pitch, with Juventus’ 15-point deduction revoked pending a new trial… while Italy’s weak authorities are giving racists the last laugh

  • Juventus had their 15-point deduction revoked pending a new trial into their case
  • Joaquin shows that trophies doesn’t always measure the worth of a player
  • Juventus’ partial stadium closure for racism at Romelu Lukaku was overturned

If Juventus beat leaders Napoli in Serie A on Sunday, they will be 13 points behind them. Last week they were 31 points behind, but these things happen when the season is played out in the courts as well as on the pitch.

Thursday’s decision from Italy’s highest sports court within the Italian Olympic Committee overruled the decision from the Italian Football Federation in January to dock Juventus 15 points. And it’s not over yet.

The case has been sent back to the Italian Football Federation’s appeals court to make their decision again.

A nine-point deduction instead of the original 15-point ruling, considered excessive, is one possible outcome. But this new decision could come as late as June and may see Juve start next season on minus nine, leaving their position this season unaffected. It’s chaos.

Even if there are no more points taken away this season, they will still have to scrap to finish in the top four with Lazio, Roma, AC Milan and Inter Milan all in the running.

Juventus rocketed back up the league after their 15-point deduction was overturned

However, they now await a further court case to discover if they could still face punishment

Juve’s next game will potentially be their hardest. They host Napoli, who thrashed them 5-1 at the Stadio Diego Armando Maradona at the start of the year and are desperate to get their midweek Champions League disappointment, which saw them knocked out in the quarter-finals by Milan, out of their system.

In an emotional social media post addressed to the fans, Napoli winger Khvicha Kvaratskhelia said: ‘It is hard for me to see your eyes full of tears, realising I couldn’t bring you happiness. There are many matches ahead, so the dream goes on.’

Napoli’s dream is to wrap up their first title since 1990 and they will want to do so as soon as possible. 

Four to watch this weekend

Real Madrid v Celta Vigo

La Liga. Saturday, 8pm KO. LIVE on ITV4 from 7.30pm.

Lazio v Torino

Serie A. Saturday, 5pm KO. LIVE on BT Sport 3 from 5pm.

Barcelona v Atletico Madrid

La Liga. Sunday, 3.15pm KO. LIVE on Viaplay from 3pm.

Juventus v Napoli

Serie A. Sunday, 7.45pm. LIVE on BT Sport 1 from 7.45pm.

Juventus’ dreams have been scaled down to just making it into next season’s Champions League and their struggle to do it will split the country, as always.

‘About half of Italy loves Juve and the other half hates them,’ says Toni Padilla, author of Unico Grande Amore, a study of the country’s football culture.

Such emotions became more entrenched when accusations of false accounting, transfer market manipulation and misleading financial statements led to the points punishment and bans for Andrea Agnelli and 11 other Juve executives, including the now former Tottenham director of football Fabio Paratici.

The accusation that Juve declared transfer fees for players and squad-wide pay cuts which suited their Financial Fair Play numbers but that never really existed still hangs in the air, as do the doubts over how exactly they remunerated Cristiano Ronaldo.

They are also the one Italian club who have stayed on the sinking ship that is the European Super League, despite many of their fans being against the idea.

The club are desperate to play in the Champions League, the competition they want to scrap. 

Winning the Europa League would take them there. But after Thursday’s ruling the path via Serie A is very much open again, at least until the next gavel falls.

Trophies not a measure of Joaquin’s worth 

It is an easy metric to measure a player’s career when he retires – how many trophies did he win?

Spanish winger Joaquin announced his retirement on Wednesday and reminded everyone that it sometimes doesn’t come close to really measuring a player’s worth.

The 41-year-old will call it quits after 23 years in the game but have just three Spanish Cup winners’ medals to show for it. 

He played only 38 Champions League games, never won a league title, and dropped out of the Spain squad just as they were about to win three straight major tournaments between 2008 and 2012.

But he played for the club he grew up supporting, Real Betis, had an adventure abroad at Fiorentina, represented his country and played 615 games in Spain’s top division.

Joaquin announced that his legendary career will come to an end after the current season 

He played with a smile and provoked millions of them with his football.

In a press conference that lasted two hours on Thursday, Joaquin shed a tear when he recalled calling his father as a kid to give him the good news that Betis wanted to sign him. ‘Dad, we’ve done it,’ he told him.

He would later stand up Jose Mourinho, no-showing for a meeting with Chelsea because he wanted to stay at his hometown club for as long as they could afford him.

His three major medals will fit in a shoebox. But the sense that he still squeezed every drop out of his career is huge.

Italy’s weak authorities still giving racists the last laugh

It seems none of the big European leagues have less desire to eradicate racism than Serie A. 

Juventus’ Allianz Stadium will be fully open for Sunday’s game against Napoli despite the original decision to close part of the South End because of the racist abuse aimed, from there, at Romelu Lukaku in the recent Italian Cup semi-final first leg with Inter.

Lukaku was sent off for a second booking after putting his finger to his lips in front of the Juve fans. That suspension was never lifted, but the partial ground closure was revoked.

It isn’t just governing bodies that allow perpetrators immunity. Police in Naples looked on passively this week as Napoli fans directed monkey chants at AC Milan’s Rafael Leao ahead of Tuesday’s Champions League quarter-final second leg. 

Leao’s performance helped Milan through but that doesn’t mean he has the ‘last laugh’. That is still going to the racists, for as long as sanctions are weak and easily overturned.

Juventus were handed a partial stadium closure for Sunday’s clash with Napoli after fans racially abused Romelu Lukaku – only for that punishment to since be revoked

Rafael Leao was also subject to racial abuse ahead of AC Milan’s victory over Napoli

Schedule favours Man City 

You wouldn’t quite call it the first goal in the tie between Manchester City and Real Madrid, but the Spanish club’s schedule ahead of the first leg on May 9 favours Pep Guardiola’s team.

Real Madrid play the Spanish Cup final on the Saturday before their Tuesday meeting at the Santiago Bernabeu.

It was scheduled for the week before, but a trade fair in Seville, where it is being played, has pushed it back, right on top of the first leg of Madrid’s Champions League semi-final.

The 10pm kick-off against Osasuna will not allow for too much rotation from Carlo Ancelotti, who will also be missing the suspended Eder Militao in that first game against City – while his replacement David Alaba has been given two weeks to recover from a small calf tear. 

Details will decide the meeting of arguably the best two sides in Europe – and so far the details are favouring City.

Carlo Ancelotti’s Real Madrid are at a disadvantage going into their first-leg with Man City

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