Mario Balotelli doesn't do himself many favours. The charismatic striker spent much of the season's final game against relegated Siena playacting and rolling around on the ground, begging for decisions to go his way.
After more than 80 minutes, he got one. A 50/50 tussle with Felipe in the Siena box ended when Balotelli went over very lightly. The Italian had been warned by the referee already for diving but was willing to take his chances with Champions League football on the line. His conversion from the spot cancelled out Claudio Terzi and changed the course of a game that would cancel out the hopes and dreams of Fiorentina fans everywhere.
As soon as Balotelli's penalty sailed into the back of Gianluca Pegolo's goal, you felt the momentum was shifting. Philippe Mexes would not have been the obvious choice to score the second, but Milan were in control of their own destiny in the closing stages, and it's not surprising that a European heavyweight was eventually able to overcome an already-relegated, provincial side like Siena.
The result has sent shockwaves around the Italian game.
The front page of Rome's Corriere dello Sport cried scandal (via Football Italia). According to Corriere dello Sport (Italian), Vincenzo Montella opined, somewhat sardonically, that Milan were simply better at taking penalties.
Montella's Fiorentina were the obvious losers to Milan on the night, missing out on an invaluable Champions League berth despite beating lowly Pescara 5-1 away form home. The result could have ramifications farther than Lombardy and Tuscany, however.
The Rossoneri's qualification adds more confusion to manager Max Allegri's already complicated position. After a drastic start to the season, Milan have been the league's strongest side since November and qualification for Europe's biggest competition would suggest that Allegri, who won the title with Milan in his first season, was safe in his job.
Still, rumours persist. Even Allegri himself seems unsure as to where his future lies. Following the game with Siena, the Milan boss told Sky Sport Italia (h/t Yahoo Sports):
I have a contract, so when a season ends you talk to the club in order to find out what's next. The club might want to replace me, I don’t know. I certainly can’t walk away, as I have a contract, so it is their decision, but right now talking about the future is too early.
The season has just ended so let me enjoy this victory. In three years the president has put his faith in me and could so easily have fired me this season after the first eight games. We have introduced many new young faces to the mix and helped the older guard too, so Milan have solid foundations.
According to Yahoo Sports, Allegri has been linked to the Roma job, a move that could have a domino effect across Serie A. Walter Mazzarri, who told Sky Italia (h/t Sky Sports) he was leaving Napoli after four years at the club, is another name that had been mentioned in with the Giallorossi.
"My era in Naples is over," said Mazzarri, according to the official UEFA website (Italian), before saying that he would now listen to offers.
Montella is among the favourites to replace him. The former Roma striker from Naples has spoken in the past of the affection he still has for the Partenopei and told beIN Sport (h/t Football Italia) that his "fondness for Napoli" remains.
Having failed to qualify for the UCL with Fiorentina, the lure of appearing on the continental stage with Napoli might be too much for the young tactician to resist. Whether Mazzarri or Allegri could replace him in Florence remains to be seen, but the Viola have a young, competitive squad and would surely be an attractive proposition for most managers.
There's also the curious case of Andrea Stramaccioni, who despite presiding over Inter's worst finish in the Massimo Moratti era remains in his job—at least for now. At just 37, the Roman is considered to be a coach with plenty of promise, and should Inter decide to relieve him of his duties, his name would be in the mix for one of the league's better jobs.
The coming weeks will be interesting. Milan's qualification has certainly raised Allegri's standing, but perhaps not enough to save his job at the San Siro. But his future employment could depend as much on what happens elsewhere as in Milan.
Allegri, Mazzarri and Montella look set to be part of a managerial merry-go-round that shapes the landscape of next season's Serie A. Watch this space.