Silvio Berlusconi has come out with far more shocking pronouncements down the years. Speaking to reporters on Saturday, the Milan owner merely said that he was open to the idea of replacing their under-fire manager Massimiliano Allegri with Pep Guardiola should the opportunity arise. As revelations go, this was right up there with news that Skee-Lo hopes to grow a few inches.
Context, though, was everything. This was not a casual aside but a planned press briefing, conducted at the team's Milanello training base a day before one of their most important games of the season – at home to Juventus. Dropping in by helicopter for the second time in a week, Berlusconi was supposed to be there to provide his team with a motivational pep talk, not to call his manager's position into question.
Most remarkably, he had already outlined the same thoughts to Allegri himself. "Guardiola? Who wouldn't want him? We have even spoken about it with Allegri," Berlusconi said. "If [appointing Guardiola] was possible we would look into it. Anyone would try to do so if they were presented with such an opportunity … For now we have Allegri. [But] for the future we are having a look."
What the incumbent was supposed to make of such words was anyone's guess. Pressed on the owner's comments later the same day, Allegri cut an uncomfortable figure. "I don't like talking about the things that the president and I have said to each other," he said. "You are giving me questions that I do not want to and cannot answer."
Allegri has been having a lot of conversations with Berlusconi lately, though the fact that he is having any at all may come as a relief. When his phone buzzed shortly before midnight on 11 November, the manager could have been excused for thinking that his relationship with the club was about to come to an end.
Berlusconi had returned that day from a holiday in Kenya, landing to the news that his team had been thumped 3-1 at home by Fiorentina. Twelve games into the season, Milan sat only five points clear of the relegation zone. He and the team's vice-president, Adriano Galliani, sat together for some time discussing their options before agreeing to stick with Allegri – for the time-being.
That night Galliani asked the owner – free of his former political commitments – to renew his involvement with the club. Berlusconi agreed, making his first appearance at Milanello for over a year on 16 November. He spoke to the players ahead of their fixtures away to Napoli and Anderlecht, and his words seemed to have the desired effect. Milan secured a creditable 2-2 draw in Naples, then won in Belgium to secure their passage to the Champions League knockout stage.
Ahead of Sunday's game against Juventus, though, Berlusconi felt that even greater involvement was required. As well as discussing Guardiola with the press on Saturday, the owner also let it be known that he had advised Allegri to deploy Kevin-Prince Boateng as a false nine up front against Juve. A day later, the manager would oblige.
There was a time when Allegri might not have been so accommodating. When he first took the job back in 2010, Allegri famously acquiesced to Berlusconi's demands that he start combing his hair before TV interviews but resisted the owner's repeated calls for him to make room in his starting XI for a struggling Ronaldinho. The Brazilian was sold in the next transfer window.
But after the club's worst start to a season in many decades, Allegri was no longer in position to argue. Thankfully for him, this move would prove a resounding success. Boateng has been among the most disappointing players for Milan through the first part of this season, but on Sunday he interpreted his role perfectly – alternating constantly with Robinho on the right of a 4-3-3 to deny Juve's defenders their usual points of reference.
With Giorgio Chiellini missing, Juventus's backline seemed more vulnerable than usual – but then so did the rest of their team. Although neither side truly dominated a scrappy encounter, Milan's midfield trio of Riccardo Montolivo, Antonio Nocerino and Nigel de Jong more than held their own against Andrea Pirlo, Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio. Montolivo, handed the captaincy in Christian Abbiati's absence, responded with one of his best performances in a Milan shirt.
The Rossoneri created more than their opponents, but there was no overwhelming sense that they were about to break the deadlock before the officiating crew intervened. Half an hour into the game, Antonio Nocerino met a Boateng cross from the right with a firm header which was blocked in mid-air by Mauricio Isla. The Juventus player had his arms raised in the box, but in reality the ball had struck only his ribcage.
Seen in real-time, it was easy to understand the referee's mistake. In Gazzetta dello Sport, Luigi Garlando explained the situation with an analogy: "Isla did not shoot anyone, but the referee had found him with a pistol in his hands."
For many Milan fans, this was nothing more than a case of sweet revenge. Their non-existent penalty had been awarded at the same end of the pitch where nine months earlier officials had failed to spot Sulley Muntari's "ghost goal" in this same fixture. That incident had cost them a 2-0 lead in a game that would eventually finish 1-1.
That was a potentially defining moment in last season's title race, with Milan eventually finishing only four points behind Juve in the standings. The situation was rather different this time around. Heading into Sunday's game, Milan trailed Juventus by 17 points.
And yet there was no such gulf on the field. After Robinho slotted home the spot-kick in unconvincing fashion, Milan never looked likely to surrender their initiative. Juventus would fashion two real goalscoring chances before the end – Sebastian Giovinco narrowly misjudging a bicycle kick after 63 minutes, then Mirko Vucinic seeing a shot blocked on the line by Kévin Constant – but each arrived as isolated incidents rather than as a consequence of overwhelming pressure.
That Milan had been deserving victors was noted by several Juventus players at the end. "The penalty should not have stood, but we did not lose because of that incident," said Gigi Buffon. "We had an hour to get the goal back and we didn't manage it. Tonight we deserved to lose. We were missing something and it showed."
Juventus had indeed seemed flat and despite denials from Angelo Alessio – filling in for Antonio Conte on the touchline during the manager's suspension – the suspicion that they were paying for their midweek exertions against Chelsea was hard to shake. Certainly their domestic form has taken a significant hit one way or another, Juve having picked up only four points since their unbeaten run came to an end against Inter earlier this month.
For Milan, meanwhile, the mood has been transformed in the space of a fortnight – from a deep despair after the Fiorentina defeat to a new-found optimism. Suddenly it was easy to make light of the week's events. "I had the pastry chef at Milanello prepare me a panettone, so I would be sure of getting to eat it [before I got fired]," joked Allegri – referencing the traditional Milanese Christmas cake.
Allegri conceded that the penalty should not have been given, though with the caveat that he had thought it looked like the right decision until he saw the replays on TV. Informed of the former comment, Galliani quipped: "Guardiola would not have said that".
As satisfying as this win was, though, all parties will know that there is still a long way to go for this team to get back to where it believes it belongs, towards the top end of the table. The more immediate question is not whether Guardiola will one day be in charge of this team, but whether Berlusconi himself will continue to take on a greater role.
Many observers expected Milan to lose all of their last three fixtures, yet since Berlusconi first dropped in on training their fortunes have undeniably turned. Rather than replacing the manager, Berlusconi may be concluding that he would prefer to do the job himself.
The weekend began in Serie A with the Derby di Sicilia, and it was a doozy. Fabrizio Miccoli opened the scoring with his 100th Serie A goal, but the day belonged also to Josip Ilicic, who scored two excellently taken goals to remind us of the talent he undoubtedly possesses but doesn't always seem to live up to. Strangely this was a fixture that Catania have tended to dominate since they returned to the top flight in 2006, despite the fact that up until last year they were always behind their rivals in the table. Perhaps now that the tables have turned, with Catania aiming for Europe and Palermo focused on survival, their respective derby fortunes will also be reversed.
Wesley Sneijder's future at Inter is in doubt after the club's technical director Marco Branca said that the player will not feature in the first team until they have received a response from him on their request to reduce his wages. The Dutchman is the highest-paid member of the first-team squad, and with Andrea Stramaccioni's team doing well in his absence, it is clear that he is no longer indispensable.
This was the week when Zdenek Zeman returned to his old stomping ground – Roma travelling to face the Pescara team which he led to promotion from Serie B last year (or at least what is left of it after the summer departures of Marco Verratti, Lorenzo Insigne, Ciro Immobile et al). With the Giallorossi both scoring and conceding freely, and their hosts boasting the second-worst defence in the division, of course the only logical thing to expect was … a 1-0 away win. Reporters hailed it as the birth of Zeman 2.0, the manager adopting a new, more cautious approach and ending the game with just one forward – Francesco Totti – on the pitch. I'll hold judgement, but that is now two clean sheets in a row for Roma, which feels like some sort of progress.
Fiorentina's run of consecutive wins came to an end at five this weekend, but for many observers their 2-2 draw at Torino offered even greater evidence of this team's growing stature. A team that was already without Stevan Jovetic through injury and David Pizarro through suspension also lost Luca Toni and Alberto Aquilani during the course of this game, but still succeeded in twice coming from behind to snatch a point.
Results: Palermo 3-1 Catania, Atalanta 0-1 Genoa, Torino 2-2 Fiorentina, Chievo 0-0 Siena, Sampdoria 1-0 Bologna, Pescara 0-1 Roma, Milan 1-0 Juventus, Cagliari v Napoli, Parma v Inter (both Monday night), Lazio v Udinese (Tuesday)