Dr Jekyll and Mr. Lotito: the Salernitana’s nightmare | sports

The best thing had to be the meal between boards on game day. Claudio Lotito, president of Lazio, called Claudio Lotito, owner of Salernitana. They commented on the meeting, joked, met at one of their favorite restaurants in Rome, near the Olympic stadium, and had a good time remembering anecdotes over coffee and a good grappa. Then, the Lotito de la Lazio, as host of the match, took out his wallet, paid the bill and accompanied the Lotito de la Salernitana to the box to see how his team lost 3-0. Such a win winas it is said now. But the occurrence of being the owner of two teams that play in Serie A has been about to cost Salernitana relegation on January 1 and a morrocotudo loss in the championship. But, above all, the umpteenth mockery of a hobby because of another clumsiness in the offices.

The Campano team, which had returned this year to the highest category after 23 years and is today the last classified in Serie A, has been only two minutes away from losing the category. The Italian Football Federation warned Claudio Lotito -at Lazio and Salernitana- at the beginning of the season that he would not admit that corporate schizophrenia in which he had embarked. He could not be the owner of two clubs that competed with each other due to an obvious conflict of interest. Especially seen from the other teams, who would never be sure of the result arising from those fratricidal crosses.

So Lotito, from La Salernitana, made a swap in the summer to transfer the club to a company owned by his son, Enrico Lotito, and his brother-in-law, Marco Mezzaroma, who acts as administrator. But he didn’t hang. And with water up to their necks, on the 31st, at 11:58 p.m., the Federation accepted the proposal of businessman Danilo Iervolino, founder of a distance university, to take over one of the clubs with the most history and the most devoted fans. He will pay 10 million euros in cash and must inject another 20 in the coffers of the club. The story has not ended and has been challenged in court by another of the bidders – a fund that offered more money – and in 45 days the purchase must be formalized.

Salerno, 40 miles south of Naples, is a port city nestled on the rugged Amalfi Coast. The devotion to a team that has suffered all kinds of vicissitudes since its foundation in 1919 has overcome all the dramas of the team, which came to suffer in the limbo of bankruptcy. The Stadio Arechi (with capacity for 38,000 spectators) is the third in influx in the current championship and the club has built its history on a persistent commitment to the academy. But the Salernitana, who this year had signed Frank Ribéry – they also tried it with defender David Luiz – has been about to become a kind of uncomfortable memory in the middle of the season. Especially in the classification, where all his points were going to evaporate (he has only achieved eight) and those of those who defeated him (14 different teams). The height of the bungling indicated that, if it fell, those who lost against them were going to be the most benefited by not seeing their results altered.

The patience of the stands sometimes seems infinite. In 2012, when the team had disappeared due to a new bankruptcy, a banner appeared in the stadium: “Since you’re gone, Sundays no longer exist.” The phrase was from a song by Bolognese singer-songwriter Cesare Cremonini. He was talking about a broken love, of course. But also of the unconditional devotion of a hobby betrayed again in the offices of some businessman with a scarf around his neck. Of an increasingly widespread mood in football.

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