For Tommy Lee Jones, substitute Massimo Moratti. Tired, ageing and increasingly overmatched by the hostile world in which he operates, the Inter owner left his seat at half-time of his team's game against Atalanta on Sunday and would not return. Instead, after stopping by the changing room at half-time to offer words of encouragement to his side, he would watch the beginning of the second half on a monitor, then leave San Siro 10 minutes before the end. The game was still goalless, but Moratti was already defeated.
Proof, in the eyes of Il Giornale, that football has become "no country for Massimo Moratti". Just like Jones's character – Sheriff Ed Tom Bell – in the 2007 Coen Brothers film on whose title the newspaper was playing, Moratti had realised that the world had moved on beyond his control. Perhaps, deep down, he might even have been contemplating the possibility put to Bell by his Uncle Ellis: that he never really had the situation in hand in the first place.
"He was the white sheikh of European football," writes the newspaper's Giuseppe De Bellis. "He tried to spend his way to victory but lost anyway, and then he kept on spending and eventually won." But not any more. Sunday's game would indeed finish 0-0, meaning Inter have won just one of their last nine games in Serie A. The team who won the treble in 2010 would close the weekend level on points with Catania.
There was much more beyond the result to cause Moratti dismay. He had still been present in his seat when Diego Milito had a penalty saved – the third spot-kick that Inter have failed to convert in six attempts this season. Moratti was seen to curse on television, though the expression on his face said more than any words. His early departure meant reporters never got to hear his thoughts on the sideline shenanigans between the manager, Claudio Ranieri, and Diego Forlán.
Ranieri was quick to deny afterwards that Forlán had refused to go on as a substitute for Joel Obi midway through the second half, though his own recounting of events did not exactly dispel that impression. "I asked [Forlán] if he felt up to playing on the wing for me, and he said 'No boss. If I have to go on I would prefer to play in a different role'," said the manager. "I thanked him for that. He was honest and loyal."
If Forlán's weariness at being asked to play out of position is understandable – he has been asked to fill in out wide more than once already this season – then it is also worth remembering which player he was (nominally, at least) brought in to replace. Samuel Eto'o has always been happiest and most effective when deployed through the middle, but during Inter's treble-winning year he regularly started wide on the left, and even finished up at full-back during the frantic rearguard action against Barcelona at Camp Nou.
Although he has hardly been their worst performer this year, Forlán has become a symbol for Inter's recent follies – with directors' failure to spot that he would be cup-tied for the Champions League group stages indicative of the haphazard way in which the club is being run. And while that might be no fault of the player's own, his actions on Sunday – and indeed on Tuesday, when he reacted badly to being substituted against Marseille – will hardly reassure the team that he could yet represent money well spent.
That is increasingly a concern for Inter – who posted an €87m (£72m) loss in 2010-11 and must now contemplate the prospect of being forced to do without Champions League revenues next season at a point where Uefa's financial fair play regulations are beginning to kick in. It is hard to see how the situation will be resolved. At close to €200m a year, Inter's is the highest wage bill in Serie A and over the past five financial years their losses total €665m.
Indeed, at this point there is a serious risk that they will also miss out on the Europa League. The last time Inter failed to qualify for Europe was 1998-99: a season in which they cycled through four managers: Luigi Simoni, Mircea Lucescu, Luciano Castellini and finally Roy Hodgson. Moratti appears minded to stick with Ranieri until the end of the present campaign despite recent results, though the owner's history suggests that should never be taken for granted.
Most galling for Inter's supporters, of course, is the fact that their own fall from grace should coincide with Milan's return to the pinnacle of Italian football. Italy's only remaining Champions League representatives maintained their four-point advantage at the top of Serie A this weekend with a 2-0 win at Parma but the biggest novelty was in the stands – with their owner, Silvio Berlusconi, making his first appearance at an away game in 18 years.
"Why did I follow the team to Parma? I am getting ready to become president again," explained Berlusconi, who gave up the role when he became prime minister, but will formally reassume it at the next AGM. Others have suggested an element of superstition, too. The last away game Berlusconi had attended was a 1-0 win over Lazio in February 1994 – a match that was followed three months later with a 4-0 rout of Barcelona in the Champions League final. He would settle for a far more slender margin of victory in their imminent quarter-final.
The contrast between Berlusconi's broad grins and Moratti's drawn expression was as stark as that between their respective entourages. The Milan owner was accompanied to the game not only by Galliani but also his former minister Pietro Lunardi and the Popolo della Libertà MP Mariarosaria Rossi – a name familiar to those who stayed abreast of last year's Bunga Bunga transcripts. Moratti, by contrast, had empty seats either side of him at San Siro.
Of course, it was easy for Berlusconi to remain jolly as Zlatan Ibrahimovic converted his first-half penalty – another painful point of contrast for Inter – before helping Urby Emanuelson on the way to a brilliant second with a gloriously nonchalant dummy. Ibrahimovic is now the division's top scorer with 20 goals, on course to pick up a league winners' medal for his ninth year running. If this is indeed no country for Moratti, then it is most certainly one for the Swede.
• Lest the reference to Catania above be seen as excessively uncharitable, it is important to note that their achievements under Vincenzo Montella this season have been remarkable. The Sicilian side began the season with aims set no higher than securing their top-flight status for another season, and that appears to have been achieved with 10 games to spare after they crossed the 40 points threshold. Indeed they are level on points with Roma – albeit having played one game more. The Giallorossi remain content with Luis Enrique, and their American owners apparently committed to the long-term project, but there must be some satisfaction for Montella in having thus far matched the achievements of the team who discarded him – on a budget a fraction of the size.
• After a run of just six goals in seven games, Juventus racked up five in a single afternoon as they savaged Fiorentina. If it was enough to ensure Juve lost no further ground on Milan following recent slip-ups, it was also sufficient to spark a furious reaction from the Fiorentina fans, with club directors having to be escorted from their seats by stewards as missiles were thrown in their direction. This was the Viola's heaviest home defeat since the club was taken over by the Della Valle family in 2002 and the biggest ever at home to their most bitter rival. Andrea Della Valle issued an apology on behalf of the club, but should they wind up being relegated this season – and with just six points separating them from the relegation zone, it is becoming a distinct possibility – his family's actions will come under heavy scrutiny.
• It was the directors themselves who were raging at the Stadio Friuli, where the Udinese owner Giampaolo Pozzo called for Gianluca Rocchi to be suspended for "a good few months" after the referee sent off Diego Fabbrini and gave Napoli a penalty as they recovered from two goals down to draw 2-2. The penalty – awarded when the score was still 2-0 – was actually missed by Edinson Cavani, but he would prove rather more effective from a free-kick 20 yards out with 10 minutes to go. The equaliser, also scored by Cavani, arrived moments later – meaning Napoli have now scored 15 goals this season in the final 15 minutes of matches: the most of any team in the league.
• Novara made it two wins from two since the return of Attilio Tesser – the manager who led them to back-to-back promotions to reach Serie A and who returned to the job this month after being briefly replaced by Emiliano Mondonico. They remain eight points from safety, but given the recent paucity of the teams around them, escape is not yet unthinkable.
Results: Bologna 2-2 Chievo, Cagliari 3-0 Cesena, Catania 1-0 Lazio, Fiorentina 0-5 Juventus, Inter 0-0 Atalanta, Lecce 1-1 Palermo, Parma 0-2 Milan, Siena 0-2 Novara, Udinese 2-2 Napoli.