By Sergio Stanco
Yes, no, yes, no, maybe ... so much of the build-up to tonight's crucial Serie A fixture between AC Milan and Juventus has been dominated by the eligibility of Zlatan Ibrahimovic after his slap on Napoli's Salvatore Aronica. But on Thursday, 18 days after the offence which saw him red-carded and handed a three-match ban, the Rossoneri's appeal was officially rejected, and he will not be available for the Scudetto showdown at San Siro.
The decision in the Court of Federal Justice to uphold the third and final game of the suspension has divided many onlookers, with Milan claiming in an official statement that their No.11 had been hard done by due to the 'non-violent' nature of his action.
Many observers continue to argue the toss over whether the Swede should have been given the go-ahead to take part against his former club, but what had to be taken into account to make the decision? And was the right outcome reached in the end?
Goal.com decided to call on an authority on the matter in the shape of former Serie A referee Daniele Tombolini to give his view on the severity of Ibrahimovic's suspension.
Goal.com: Daniele, was the suspension fair?
Tombolini: From a regulatory point of view, yes. The problem, though, comes in the source. I think the initial three-match ban was too much, because it is evident that the action did little harm to Aronica. Maybe it is an act to which a suspended punishment could have applied. It could have otherwise been a two-game ban. But, from the moment they chose three matches, it couldn't be reduced. However, this leads me to thinking: we need to review the system, otherwise we risk rewarding those players who provoke their opponents. I'm not speaking specifically of Aronica, but in general. The knowledge that an adversary could end up with a huge ban could induce many players to irritate them.
But people are asking why Aronica was not punished ...
Probably because his gesture was instinctive and above all because it was not reactive. I think above all it is Ibrahimovic who should pay.
Playing Devil's Advocate, if Saturday's game wasn't Milan-Juventus, would the ban have been reduced?
Good question! Such a thought is a sin, but we can still guess, and it is human to do so. If the Rossoneri were playing Lecce, for example, I think a reduction may have been granted. But now, given the pressure that was on the decision, it would have been impossible to free him to play.
On the subject of pressure, the referee in charge - Paolo Tagliavento - will have to be a tough nut to crack ...
Yes, but it is also a great satisfaction. I think this appointment shows that he is considered to be the best Italian referee at this time, which creates a paradox really, because in Europe it is Nicola Rizzoli who represents Italy. Either way, it will not be easy because, if you look at the statistics of Milan-Juventus, it has always been the biggest game of the season for fouls committed. Maybe Inter-Juventus is the most controversial, but Milan-Juve is more tense. However, I think Tagliavento will do well.
But how do you officiate a game with so much pressure?
Ironically, with equal pressure. It is clear that the referee doesn't descend from the moon to officiate Milan against Juventus, but he does come prepared. You know what the pitfalls are and how to react to them from the start in order to draw the sting out. You should probably caution immediately to prevent tempers from becoming hotter, and you should have no problem in showing a red card if you have to, or maybe more than one. Tagliavento is a referee with personality and is not intimidated. I think that has been demonstrated in the past.