The city of Genoa used to go by the name La Superba, The Superb, in tribute to its golden, imperial age. Parts of it now have the rough old edges common to most ports. It has always had a lively football culture, but not since Sampdoria surprisingly won the Serie A title early in the 1990s, has it had such supremacy as this. The city will enjoy the look of the league table this week: its two clubs are joint leaders, with maximum points so far.
Needless to say Genoa fans would be happier still if Samp were not sharing their moment in the sun. Ditto Sampdoria fans who have viewed Genoa's progress over the last two seasons with irritation. They had been hopeful that the loss of important contributors to last season's impressive showing - when Genoa flirted with a top-four finish - like Thiago Motta and Diego Milito to Inter Milan, would hamper Genoa. Not so far.
For over an hour against Napoli on Sunday, Genoa did not even have 11 men on the field, let alone their best XI from the previous campaign. They still won 4-1, mainly because they attacked with verve, but also because Napoli contrived two red cards themselves for 10-against-10 for most of the second-half, and 10 versus nine for the final four minutes. All this after Napoli had led through Marek Hamsik, with the emphatic response delivered by goals from Sergio Floccari, Giandomenico Mesto, the first Genoa strike from the old warrior Hernan Crespo and from Houssine Kharja. Matters were almost as tense for Sampdoria, who also had a man, Fernando Tissone, sent off early in the second-half of their 1-0 victory at Atalanta. Luck is blessing both the city's clubs: Atalanta hit the frame of Samp's goal three times.
All of which is to be applauded beyond the sea-port if it means Serie A will be open and competitive in the months to come. Yet there is also a more enduring name up among the clubs at the summit at this early stage. Juventus too have played three, won three. And it was the nature of their triumph over Lazio as much as those handsome statistics that encouraged coach Ciro Ferrara, plus the evidence that, for the hype over playmaker Diego's impact on their impressive work so far, there is depth in the Juve squad. David Trezeguet, whose importance to the club he has served with distinction for eight years had appeared diminished, scored a very late goal after a full 90 minutes on the pitch.
At the other end of the age-range, Sebastian Giovinco made his presence felt and a new signing, Martin Caceres, found the Lazio net. Ferrara praised each of them and knows now he will learn fast about Juve's so-called Diego-dependence. The player was taken off on a stretcher with a thigh complaint that may need two weeks to treat. Would that Ronaldinho was so easily diagnosed. AC Milan's trials continue, the rancour after their 0-0 draw at Livorno focused strongly on their Brazilian No 10. He may even be dropped from the starting line-up against Olympique Marseille in the Champions League tonight. His allies seem to number fewer and fewer as his head coach Leonardo spoke of "Ronaldinho's importance if he is in the right shape and fully motivated", and vice-president Adriano Galliani pointedly observed that Milan got better on Saturday when Ronaldinho was replaced.
So, unlike the port of Genoa, the city of Milan is currently posing a single threat to the Italian title. Inter Milan, 2-0 winners over Parma, had to sweat for the second win of the season. But patience paid off, and Samuel Eto'o's goal to break the deadlock was magnificent. Ian Hawkey is an expert on Italian football and has been covering Serie A for 15 years @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org