In the wake of Juventus snapping up Cristiano Ronaldo for a tenth of his buy-out figure, Inter Milan are now looking to tempt Luka Modric, having also just taken his Croatia team-mate Sime Vrsaljko to the San Siro. It's fair to say that Serie A is feeling a lot better about itself these days, as if determined for a return to the era when no footballer believed he had made it until he had succeeded in Italy. That was back in the 80s and 90s, when Italian clubs earned more than the rest from TV revenue, when LaLiga was nothing like what it is today and when the splendid isolationism of the English meant any player from abroad was viewed with suspicion in their league, with the likes of Ossie Ardiles and Ricky Villa rare exceptions.
Having let Cristiano go on the cheap, Pérez demands Modric's buy-out
Now, a bit like Russia under Vladimir Putin - who clearly wants to rebuild the old empire, be it by fair means (the World Cup) or foul (Crimea) - Calcio is back. Juventus whisked Cristiano away for a song by taking full advantage of the discord between the Portuguese star and Real president Florentino Pérez, who couldn't stand each other. Given the sums being demanded, and handed over, for downright second-rate players nowadays, the Bianconeri got an absolute bargain. Even if he is 33. Now Inter are going after Modric, and Pérez's only response is to quote the midfielder's 750-million-euro release clause - a stance that places further question marks over his sale of Cristiano. Why, if the pair are as good as the same age?
Modric either wants more money - or genuinely wants out...
If the Inter talk has spread like this, it's because Modric has allowed it to. And if he has allowed it to, it's for one of two reasons: either he wants more money, with the tax office putting the squeeze on players in a way it didn't use to (and doesn't in Italy right now) or he's been invaded by the same uneasiness as Zinedine Zidane and Cristiano, who left because there was something they didn't like. Now 32, he's been a fine servant, has proved one of José Mourinho's few successful buys (even a stopped clock is right twice a day), and has just been named the World Cup's best player. He deserves more than to see his president point to his buy-out fee like a shopkeeper absent-mindedly motioning towards the price in the shop window.