The 2010 FIFA World Cup showing was particularly galling for the Italians as they came into the competition as champions but exited at the group stage, even suffering the ignominy of finishing bottom despite facing New Zealand, Slovakia and Paraguay. They didn't win a game and 2006 FIFA World Cup winning coach Marcello Lippi went back into retirement in inglorious fashion with many wondering why he ever left it.
Having retired a hero after their 2006 success, Lippi came back to the job two years later after Roberto Donadoni's unsuccessful tilt at the 2008 UEFA EURO, only to now leave as a flop. Lippi was replaced by Cesare Prandelli who immediately rejuvenated the team, bringing in talented players such as Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli, both frozen out by Lippi. Italy top their European Championships qualifying group with three wins and a draw from four games.
In the club scene it was a different story as the charismatic Jose Mourinho led Inter to the first treble in Italian football. Inter began 2010 with the Serie A title seemingly in the bag but things started to go against them in February and March and although AC Milan and Juventus fell by the wayside, Roma managed to make up a 14-point deficit to overtake Inter at one point.
But with the title in their grasp and four games to go, Roma lost 2-1 at home to Sampdoria, in a game in which their superiority in the first half was so evident that the only question mark was how they managed to score just once. With their fate back in their own grasp, Inter were not about to let it go and they won their last four games for a fifth straight title.
Diego Milito scored the winning goal on the last day of the season and he repeated the trick when Inter beat Roma 1-0 in the cup final. All that remained for Inter was the UEFA Champions League in a competition in which they had at times stumbled forward.
They were close to going out in the group stages until two late goals saw them turn a 1-0 reverse in Ukraine into a 2-1 victory over Dynamo Kiev. That put them second in their group behind Barcelona and they faced a daunting clash with Mourinho's former club Chelsea in the second round.
Inter rode their luck with Chelsea denied penalties in both legs but the Italians won both games to progress. After easing past CSKA Moscow they faced Barcelona again in the semis, with a stunning 3-1 victory at home proving enough to reach a first final in 38 years. In Madrid, Milito was the hero again as he fired a brace to down Bayern Munich 2-0 to land Inter's first Champions League crown in 45 years.
But Mourinho stunned his employers by immediately announcing he was quitting the club to take over at Real Madrid. His successor, Rafael Benitez, has struggled while Milan under Massimiliano Allegri and Juve under Luigi Del Neri - both teams so disappointing the previous season - have started to soar again.
Milan signed former Inter darling Zlatan Ibrahimovic and head into the winter break with clear air between them and the rest. Juve are one of their closest challengers but Inter, away on FIFA Club World Cup duty, are falling away into the distance and have a lot to do in 2011 to stand any chance of making it six-in-a-row in Serie A.