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Parma Club Focus: The Gialloblu prepare for life without Giovinco

Sebastian Giovinco’s mentality has often been called into question, with his loan move to Parma last season – followed by a co-ownership agreement with Juventus ahead of this campaign – making some wonder whether he was really cut out for the glittering career so many had tipped him to achieve.

But, one thing which has never been disputed is his ability. This season – in his second year at Parma – he has won the hearts of the Emiliani, dazzling the Tardini with some 15 goals, effectively booking his flight to the European Championships in the process.

His irrepressible energy has seen him chasing, creating and scoring, forming an strike partnership with his polar opposite – the rather gangling Lazio loanee Sergio Floccari. Only Andrea Pirlo and Fabrizio Miccoli have more assists to their name than Giovinco, with just sixplayers bettering his goal tally this season.

Now, the inevitable has occurred. Parma news sites are bombarded with rumours and refutations, as clubs all around Europe are linked with the formica atomica. From Barcelona to Zenit or indeed a return to Juventus, the rumour mill has been grinding faster than ever.

Giovinco has dropped the occasional hint, be it about how he loves Naples to the lure of the number ten shirt at the Juventus Stadium. Meanwhile President Tommaso Ghirardi has – as a matter of course – reaffirmed that Parma do not have to sell the atomic ant, whilst simultaneously admitting that it will be difficult to ‘restrain the ambitions’ of the 25-year-old.

All of this has left Gialloblu tifosi resigned to life without Giovinco; the happy reminder of a bygone era when the likes of Gianfranco Zola graced their teamsheet and the UEFA Cup adorned the Tardini trophy cabinet. So integral has he been to the current campaign that it is difficult to envisage a Parma without him.

Then again, with so much uncertainty surrounding the side’s line-up ahead of next season (with about half of the first team on loan or co-ownership deals), it is anyone’s guess as to where Roberto Donadoni’s side will end up. The mid-week victory against Inter was the first time that Parma had won five games on the bounce for twelve years. Perhaps even more surprising, was the belief among fans before the game that they could.

Since the change of coach in January, there is a new-found optimism reverberating around Parma. Having well and truly banished the haunting scream of relegation, the players now chase the faint chorus of Europe. While it is unlikely that the Crociati will close the deficit to Lazio with a game to play, the prospect of similar successes next year are a mouthwatering prospect for the fans.

As of yet it is impossible to answer whether Giovinco has the mentality to play for a top club, although it is highly likely that we won’t have to wait long to find out. Personally, I can’t see him struggling a great deal – his reasoning for leaving Juventus was feeling isolated from their first team; being treated with a lack of respect.

After starting the season faster than a Maurizio Zamparini firing (well, almost) – with five goals in the first four games – he unsurprisingly faded. However, his powerful volley into the top corner of Gianluca Pegolo’s goal to secure Parma’s record sixth win on the trot on Sunday served as a stark reminder of his quality. Wherever he will end up, it is unlikely he will be too far from the starting eleven.

In the meantime, sporting director Pietro Leonardi will have some tough work to do to find a replacement who can fit into Giovinco’s small – yet metaphorically enormous – boots. The 2012-13 season lurks tantalisingly on the horizon. Whether it can live up to expectation or not largely rests on the shoulders of Ghirardi and Leonardi. Buy well, and it could be one which lives long in the memory.

This article was originally published on Forza Italian Football

Serie A | 22 April 2012: SS Lazio - Lecce 1-1
I see an eagle in flight, I close my eyes and think of you… Ciao Mirko!

Serie A | 22 April 2012: SS Lazio - Lecce 1-1

I see an eagle in flight, I close my eyes and think of you… Ciao Mirko!


The new Stadium plans for Seina is the winner of the 2011 Architectural Review Future Projects award.

The Marazzi Architett company explained their design

“The project develops the insertion of a large sport complex in a prestigious environmental context. The Council of Siena, after…


Picture of the day: Who is this young goalkeeper at Inter? Look familiar?

He’s put on a few pounds…


Picture of the day: Who is this young goalkeeper at Inter? Look familiar?

He’s put on a few pounds…

Parma Club Focus: The Gialloblu prepare for a busy mercato

A pleasantly surprising 2-1 win away at Palermo has left Parma in an equally pleasant position in the top half of Serie A. The work which Roberto Donadonihas done since arriving at the Ennio Tardini mid-way through the season is now finally beginning to bear fruit. Four wins in the last five have followed on from eight without a single victory, in a superb run of form.

However, while being nine points clear of the drop is an undoubtedly comfortable welcome for the Gialloblu - who just weeks ago were seriously worried about relegation – attentions are already turning to how they’ll fare next season. With a number of key first team players only on temporary deals, Parma fans are somewhat concerned about the prospect of a squad short on players, let alone quality.

Six of Parma’s most important players in the latter half of the season are only on loan deals, with talismanic Sebastian Giovinco – who could almost keep a side in Serie A on his own – seemingly destined for his home town Turin and Juventus ahead of next season. Giovinco is Parma’s top scorer, having bagged almost twice as many goals as the next highest, Sergio Floccari.

This duo have formed an excellent strike partnership at the top of Donadoni’s 3-5-2, although there is a very realistic chance that neither will be donning the famous black cross next season. With Giovinco being lured by the soon-to-be vacant number ten shirt at the Juventus Stadium, and Sergio Floccari only on loan from Lazio, then Parma’s goalscoring threat could be dramatically reduced.

Similarly, winger and wing-back Jonathan Biabiany and Jonathan respectively have provided an excellent attacking outlet down the right this season. The former has made 2.9 successful dribbles per game this season, second only to Juan Cuadrado of Lecce. But, both Jonathans are at the Tardini as part of loan deals, from Sampdoria and Inter.

The central midfield has been strengthened no end by the introduction of McDonald Mariga andJaime Valdes on loan; both of whom have played regularly since arriving.

The former – who has played over 20 times for Inter – has impressed in a box-to-box role, with the latter as a regista, enjoying playing in an unusual deeper role as Donadoni’s attractive passing style begins to take hold. Only Sebastian Giovinco has made more key passes per game than the Chilean. But, you guessed it – both players are also on loan deals, from Inter and Sporting respectively.

Likewise, defender Fabiano Santacroce and striker Stefano Okaka are on temporary deals, and have both made over 12 appearances for the club since their arrivals. It is obvious that without this list of players, the side would be considerably lower in the table – possible facing relegation for the first time since 2008.

Fortunately, most of the loanees have clauses in their contracts which mean that Parma can make the deals permanent (or at least semi-permanent) come the end of the season. €1.8 million will be enough to bring Jaime Valdes to the Ennio Tardini permanently, while Jonathan Biabiany’s move could be turned into a co-ownership deal with Serie B Sampdoria. Sergio Floccari would stay for a fee of €5.5 million, although whether owner Tommaso Ghirardi would be willing to fork out such a fee for a 30-year-old is another matter.

It is evident that the temporary foundations on which this squad has been built will have to be strengthened in the summer. Recent results have suggested that there’s some reason for optimism for Parma supporters, who are no doubt hoping that rather than replacing loanees, clauses are activated for permanent moves.

A lot, of course, will be decided on the funds which Ghirardi has available, which would likely be boosted by a few million should Giovinco move on. If this money is re-invested wisely then perhaps the  formica atomica‘s departure wouldn’t be so disastrous after all.

This article was originally published on Forza Italian Football

Has Mauricio Pinilla finally found home at Cagliari?

Cagliari’s Mauricio Pinilla has clearly taken a leaf out of Oscar Wilde’s book, following the principle that: “consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” The Chilean has erratically and inconsistently travelled from Scotland to Cyprus (and many places in between) in the hunt for games and goals. But only now – at his fourth top-flight Italian club – has he finally found form.

Pinilla is a curious case – a player with the reputation of a talented striker, but the record of a mere journeyman. He has been on the books of 12 different clubs, playing more than 35 games for only two of them, and yet has still been linked with moves to the likes of Inter and Napoli. Prior to joining Cagliari in January, Pinilla had a somewhat disappointing spell at Palermo, failing to continue the form which saw him score 24 goals in as many games in Serie B at Grosseto.

This poor run only serves to make Pinilla’s current goalscoring streak even more extraordinary. He has immediately become one of Cagliari’s key players, with his physical strength and aerial ability posing a real threat for Serie A defences. On average he wins 3.8 headers per game, ranking among the highest in the division, and over twice as many as he mustered last season.

However, it is not just his physical presence which has impressed in recent weeks. In fact, Pinilla has scored just a single header since arriving at Cagliari, despite his aerial prowess. He has often found himself partnering a more mobile, creative player at the tip of Cagliari’s 4-3-1-2 formation, such as Thiago Ribeiro or Victor Ibarbo, allowing the Chilean to play further up the pitch, and make intelligent runs in behind the opposition defence.

His seven goals in ten games (he scored just eight in 22 in the previous campaign) make him the Rossoblu’s joint top scorer, playing a crucial role in their fight against relegation. His move from Palermo is initially on a six-month loan basis, although it is highly likely that President Massimo Cellino will activate a clause to make it permanent in the summer.

With Palermo’s biggest problems over recent seasons being a lack of options upfront, it seemed a bizarre decision to allow Pinilla to leave. President Maurizio Zamparini explained the decision in no uncertain terms: “Pinilla is a 28-year-old man with the mind of a 21-year-old. I’d have liked to have seen this sort of performance from him when he was at Palermo. Recently he looked as if he couldn’t care less and I still haven’t understood why he behaved like that,” he raged.

“A change of environment was good [for Pinilla],” former Rosanero Coach Devis Mangia added, as if he had not had sufficient changes of environment playing in seven different countries over ten years. His whole varied career has been punctuated by on-field controversy, let alone since joining Cagliari. Since arriving at his new club, he has already caused a stir, from being sent off against Inter for over-extravagantly celebrating to upsetting fans of his parent club for celebrating at all.

But, whilst it is possibly this element of rash impulsiveness which has led to Pinilla’s incessant club-hopping through the years, it is also a mark of his determination to prove to the supporters just what he is capable of. He quickly apologised after celebrating against Palermo, stating that: “I love to honor the shirts I wear.” Like many a great player, there is an element of madness which follows Mauricio Pinilla around. However, as long as he keeps scoring goals, the fans certainly won’t mind. If anything, they’ll love him all the more for it.

This article was originally published on Football Italiano


When the Turin Stadium Summit is over, it would be foolish to think that every Serie A team will have a brand new state of the art stadium completed within a year or so. Far from it, most of the teams will probably try to refurbish their old stadiums.

This may come as a relief to many, who…

Di Carlo’s Chievo soar into the top half

Donkeys will fly before Chievo are in A,” Hellas fans used to mock, when their Veronese counterparts Chievo toiled in the lower divisions. But, their fortunes turned with the millennium, and the donkeys finally had top-flight lift-off in 2001. After emerging through a bout of mid-flight turbulence, under the stewardship of Captain Di Carlo, they’re seemingly soaring once more.

Domenico Di Carlo had a dismal last campaign, guiding Sampdoria from Europe to the relegation zone before being replaced by Alberto Cavasin. But, his credentials have been somewhat restored by Chievo’s comfortable top half position, carrying on the work started by the equally pragmatic Stefano Pioli.

There were pre-season fears that the Blucerchiati blotch on Di Carlo’s CV would combine with the loss of important first team players Kevin Constant and Andrea Mantovani to ensure that Chievo were set for a long slog for survival. As it is, they’re in the top half of the table and are only four points short of their highest total since their return to Serie A three years ago. The coach said that Mussi Volanti want to have a campaign that gives them: “more than just achieving safety from relegation,” and as it stands, they’re on course.

They’ve stuck with a 4-3-1-2 formation for the majority of the season, spearheaded by their talismanic captain Sergio Pellissier. He’s played over 300 times for the Gialloblu netting over a century of goals, and has generally played up front alongside Milan loanee Alberto Paloschi this season. After Paloschi scored his first Serie A goal 17 seconds into his debut for the Rossoneri in 2008 his development has appeared to have stalled, scoring only five times this season.

In fact, scoring has generally been Chievo’s main issue, with only 30 goals in total thus far. Only hot relegation favourites Novara and Cesena have fewer. But what Paloschi has lacked in goals he’s made up for in defensive contribution, embodying the side’s hard-working stereotype. They’re a team who press well, with excellent performances from full-backs being vital to their success. Nicolas Frey and Boukary Dramé provide width with defensive solidity, with the former’s 59 interceptions and 14 key passes testament to his industrious work on the flank.

Veteran goalkeeper Stefano Sorrentino has reaffirmed his position as one of the most solid in Serie A. His five clean sheets are more than the likes of Morgan De Sanctis and Maarten Stekelenburg, despite having faced 140 shots – considerably more than both of the aforementioned duo. Di Carlo has followed the defensive principle laid down by former coach Pioli, and it comes as no surprise that Chievo have made more tackles (788) and interceptions (699) than any other side in Serie A.

One of the most influential players for Chievo this season has come from an unlikely source, with American Michael Bradley having adapted perfectly to Italian football after an unsuccessful spell at Aston Villa. He’s averaged 1.5 key passes per game – as many as the likes of Hernanes and Marek Hamsik. His 97 tackles this season have proved just as important. Tommaso Franco, the Gialloblu press officer, beamed: “he’s bravissimo.”

“Bravissimo” is a neat summation of Chievo’s season overall. With six, very winnable games of the season remaining, a late charge could see Mimmo Di Carlo’s side fighting for more than just a top half finish. But, whatever happens in the remainder of the season, it can’t be denied that the Flying Donkeys continue to perform far beyond their means. Not bad for a town with a population of just 4,500.

This article was originally published on Football Italiano


Jack Sargeant (@sargeant_j) steps into the firing line with a 100-word hero who has as many doubters as he does admirers. I’m in the latter group.

Alberto Gilardino is a mercurial talent; a player who’s often cut a haunted figure between incredible scoring spells, himself admitting he’s…

I’m honoured to be a contributor to Giancarlo’s excellent 100-word hero series. My piece is dedicated to modern day Serie A legend Alberto Gilardino.