July 20th, 2024

Inter, Napoli, Lazio and Fiorentina gear up for revamped Italian Super Cup in Saudi Arabia

By Daniella Matar, The Associated Press on January 17, 2024.

MILAN (AP) – Inter Milan, Napoli, Lazio and Fiorentina are ready to “take the money and run” – in the words of one head coach – as they travel to Saudi Arabia for a revamped Italian Super Cup that for some has lost relevancy.

The new four-team tournament in Riyadh copies the Spanish format and sees Serie A champion Napoli play Italian Cup runner-up Fiorentina on Thursday, with Italian Cup winner Inter taking on Serie A runner-up Lazio the following day.

The winners of both matches will meet in the final on Monday.

“Everyone knows what I think, that this tournament is about anything other than sport,” Lazio coach Maurizio Sarri said. “You take the money and run. We take all that we can in this short-sighted manner. We go around the world begging for money.

“With all the problems that there are with crowded fixture lists, we then also set up a four-team Super Cup. If modern football is this type of evolution, then I am glad to be old-fashioned.”

The Super Cup used to be a one-off match between the Serie A champion and the Italian Cup winner and was held just before the new season started and attention turned to more serious matters.

The curtain-raiser traditionally took place at the home of the Serie A champion and was a nice day out for the fans. But for much of the past decade it has been switched to the winter and played outside Italy, generating money for Italian soccer but largely ignoring the supporters of the teams involved.

This season it has been changed to include the runners-up from the Italian league and cup and will be played in the Saudi capital – just over a week after the Spanish Super Cup was held in the same city.

The winner of the new tournament will receive eight million euros ($8,7 million), while five million ($5.4 million) will go to the runner-up. The other two teams will each get 1.6 million ($1.74 million).

But all four teams have much bigger ambitions this season – and plenty of matches still to play.

Inter currently leads Serie A but is only two points above Juventus and could find itself trailing when it returns from Riyadh, with the Bianconeri playing two matches – against Lecce and Empoli – before Simone Inzaghi’s team resumes domestic action.

Fiorentina, Lazio and Napoli are also vying to qualify for next season’s Champions League in an ever-tightening battle for fourth place in Serie A.

All four teams are also still involved in European competition. Lazio, Napoli and Inter – last season’s runner-up – have advanced to the Champions League round of 16, while Fiorentina has reached the same stage of the European Conference League.

Moreover, Lazio are Fiorentina are also in the Italian Cup semifinals.

“The Super Cup is a trophy used by a coach to say he won something, it doesn’t help the club to grow,” Sarri said.

“I would like to win something that helps the club too. Having said all of that, we are going to travel 6,000 kilometers (3,700 miles), so we’ll do our best.”

While Sarri is dismissive of the competition and the teams will be keen not to overexert their players – or worse, lose them to injury – with matches coming thick and fast, others have their eyes more set on the prize.

Fiorentina has not won a trophy for more than two decades, since it lifted the Italian Cup in 2001.

“It is satisfying for everyone, we are playing for an important trophy alongside three big teams who are more accustomed to this kind of competition,” Fiorentina coach Vincenzo Italiano said.

“Lazio has won a lot in recent years, Inter too, Napoli is the champion of Italy, so we are really happy to be there “¦ we’re preparing for it with great pride and great joy.”

The Spanish Super Cup has been played as a four-team mid-season event in Saudi Arabia since 2020. Real Madrid beat Barcelona in the final of the Spanish competition in Riyadh on Sunday.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/Soccer

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