They were going to be the men who revolutionised Italian football. Two fresh-faced coaches were sent out to “do a Guardiola” and revitalise a pair of Serie A giants. This international break seems a fair time to ask who has done a better job—Leonardo or Ciro Ferrara?
The Serie A standings come down in favour of the Juve man.
Despite a couple of blips, Ferrara's team still sits just five points behind Inter with the Derby of Italy to be played. On occasions he has been caught out tactically, but the Bianconeri have also dished out a couple of right royal thrashings.
And yet you have to admit the Brazilian appears to have hit some kind of form.
Milan have won four of their last five league matches, only dropping points which they should have had in the bag at Napoli. It has sent them surging into a third-place spot, which seemed improbable after their humbling defeat in the derby with Inter.
Honours narrowly to Ferrara on the home front, then, but what about in Europe?
Both teams are sitting reasonably pretty in their Champions League groups. Juventus have one point more but sit in second place behind Bordeaux, while Milan are precariously perched atop a group containing Real Madrid and Marseille. All outcomes are possible.
Undeniably, the Turin side has been more consistent on the continent. They have yet to lose a game, but the goals-for and-against columns tell a tale of drab efficiency rather than spectacular displays. Still, there is plenty of time for that—progress in the competition has to be top priority.
The Rossoneri, for their part, have been infuriating and inspiring in equal measure. A home defeat by Zurich was sandwiched between historic away triumphs in Madrid and Marseille. They have plumbed greater depths than Juve, but they have also scaled greater heights. If nothing else, they have been a gripping spectacle on Champions League nights.
In Europe, then, the difference between the coaches may be too close to call.
There is a final part of the midterm examination which cannot be ignored. Who started off with the biggest advantage and who had the greatest handicap? Did they really begin from a level playing field?
In this, it seems clear the Juve boss had a slight edge. Both teams finished well adrift of Inter last year, but La Vecchia Signora was a much more serious competitor for much of the campaign. In addition, they were far more audacious in the transfer market, as they made their intentions to battle more closely with the Nerazzurri clear.
Ferrara got Felipe Melo, Leonardo got Oguchi Onyewu.
Ultimately, it is all about what you produce on the field of play. Juve have been better on a regular basis, but Milan have shown an impressive upturn of form. It has been all the more admirable given the level of criticism heaped on the Brazilian in recent weeks.
So, pass marks to both men, maybe. But there are a few stern examinations just around the corner.