THANKS INTER, BUT 'THIS IS THE WAY IT WAS'

While nothing should ever detract from the amazing achievements of Jose Mourinho's Inter, it is equally nonsensical to deny the advantages afforded to the Nerazzurri in the immediate aftermath of the original Calciopoli trials of 2006. Adam Digby on why Serie A may be beginning a new era.

As the verdicts of the Calciopoli trial rocked Serie A to its very core, it was described by many as 'Year Zero' for Italian football, but in truth it never was. With a previously dominant Juventus - stripped of so many top players and their entire management structure - sent to Serie B and Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio starting from negative points totals it was more like One Million Years B.C.

There are many views of what happened five years ago and, with the Italian 'justice' system being as it is, there is every chance we will have retrials, further revelations and alterations of punishments for years to come. Yet, purely from a footballing perspective, seeing a team other than Inter winning the title draws a neat line under that particular era and the real race can now begin.

It finally seems Italian football may have reached a starting point at which all the competitors are on equal footing, although as ever some are more equal than others. Almost every team in the league - and certainly the major protagonists - are all at various stages of rebuilding and with only three Champions League places from next season the battle at the top seems set to be more interesting than any time since the mid-1990's, when the league was widely viewed as Europe's best.

Milan Vice-President Adriano Galliani perhaps assessed his own side most accurately when claiming the newly crowned champions won the league courtesy of their superior moves in the January transfer window. The arrival of Antonio Cassano and Mark van Bommel plugged immediate gaps, whilst Urby Emanuelson and Dídac Vilà provide interesting options for the future.

Alongside serial title-winner Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Alexandre Pato, Thiago Silva and Ignazio Abate, these players will form a nucleus of talent on which the Rossoneri will look to build for the future, and they will undoubtedly be complimented by the retention of a number of the clubs veterans. Almost every one of the remaining players from the 2007 Champions League win is out of contract, but many will remain. The experience of men like Christian Abbiati, Alessandro Nesta and Clarence Seedorf will not just be tossed aside as President Silvio Berlusconi will undoubtedly demand another European triumph in the not too distant future.

Their deposed cross-city cousins lag some way behind in the rebuilding proscess and Massimo Moratti has a number of major decisions to make this summer, not least of which will centre around the confirmation of his Brazilain 'I-never-wanted-to-be-a-coach' coach Leonardo. With an aging squad and a crippling wage bill the Beneamata have a long road to recovery ahead of them.

Sides like Napoli, Udinese and Lazio, all likely to be in European competition, will face the arduous task of holding on to the talent they have already, with men like Marek Hamsik, Alexis Sanchez and Stephan Lichtsteiner all widely tipped to move on this summer. The three clubs have glaring weaknesses to address before they can think to repeat the remarkable campaigns they have enjoyed this term, even before any exodus of talent.

That they are so high up the table has been as much an indicator of the issues at two perennial giants - Roma and Juventus - as it is a reflection of their good seasons. Both the traditional contenders have had disappointing years, but the pair are in similar positions which give their fans more reason than most for being optimistic.

Plans for a new stadium and an expected overhaul of the playing squad are forefront among the priorities of new Roma owners, led by Thomas Di Benedetto. Juve themselves move into their new home in time for next season, by which time Director General Beppe Marotta will be expected to have added some genuine quality to a squad he transformed over this past year.

With Fiorentina and Palermo also in a constant state of change - with numerous talented players at their disposal - the landscape of the league could be very different when Massimiliano Allegri's side open next season with the Tricolore shield attached to their new retro shirts.

Rather than attempt tenuous links to a film that was released not long after England last won the World Cupr, it is another celluloid classic that springs to mind. Instead of using some odd imagery of Moratti as a giant Archelon landing on Calcio's metaphorical beach (not that it would be great a strain on anyone's imagination), it is The Shawshank Redemption that most comes to mind as scenes of Milan's title triumph played out at Rome's Stadio Olmpico this past weekend.

Italian football has, to paraphrase Morgan Freeman, 'crawled through a river of shit and come out clean on the other side', and covered it up using treble-winners Inter as its own distracting Raquel Welch poster.

Adam is a freelance Italian football writer. Follow him on Twitter @Adz77.

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