2008/09 – Quite simply put, a superb season for the team from Sardinia. A ninth place finish, for a club that usually fights relegation, was a fantastic result. Some fans may even be disappointed that they didn’t secure a Europa League place, after a very poor start had them playing catch-up. No win till seven games in meant that Cagliari looked doomed for another tough year just trying to stay in Serie A. But a great run, including victories over Juventus and Fiorentina, ensured the season was a huge success and made headliners of players like Robert Acquafresca and Federico Marchetti.
2009/10 – As with many of the smaller clubs, any player that emerges with credit from the previous season is usually snapped up by a bigger team. Top marksman Acquafresca has left to join Atalanta, and a host of players and even the Coach have been linked to moves away from Cagliari. This brings fresh challenges and the need to continually find quality replacements, which can be difficult when the budget is small. It also unsettles the squad and makes it difficult to build on any successes, but if they can keep changes to a minimum they could enjoy another good season.
Transfer Campaign – The Cagliari squad has, fortunately, not seen any major overhaul. The loss of Robert Acquafresca will be a difficult one to replace and they have opted for the Brazilian Nene to try and fill his boots. The 25-year-old arrives from Portuguese side, Nacional Madeira, and will need to settle quickly if Cagliari is to have a good season. The second notable acquisition is World Cup-winner Simone Barone, who has been signed from relegated Torino. Barone will hopefully provide the midfield with some steel and experience. A major plus has come from Federico Marchetti, who was linked with several big clubs but has stayed loyal to the Sardinians. The newly-capped Italian international had an amazing first season in Serie A and looks as though he is now Marcello Lippi’s second choice keeper after the great Gigi Buffon.
Nené – Nacional Madeira – €4.5m
Lino Marzoratti – Empoli – €1.5m
Mario Brkljaca – Hajduk Split – €1.3m
Simone Barone – Torino – €1m
Robert Acquafresca – Inter – undisclosed
Daniele Magliocchetti – Triestina – loan
Paolo Bianco – Atalanta – free transfer
Robert Acquafresca – Atalanta – loan
Michele Fini – Siena – free transfer
First XI – The team has not evolved too much after last years heroics, and Cagliari will be looking for much the same for this season. Marchetti will hope to provide stability at the back and the strong midfield pairing of Barone and Conti should mean that they will be a difficult team to score against. Goals may be difficult to come by if Jeda and Nene do not click, but the strong defensive unit should help to compensate. Michele Canini had a super season alongside Diego Lopez and they have forged a great partnership at the heart of the defence.
14 Pisano – 6 Lopez – 21 Canini – 31 Agostino
8 Biondini – 5 Conti – 20 Barone – 7 Cossu
9 Nene – 27 Jeda
The Coach – Coach Massimiliano Allegri, is one of three or four new young Coaches that are raising eyebrows in Italy. Alongside the likes of Siena’s Giampaolo and Udinese’s Marino, they are bringing a new brand of attacking football to the peninsula. Allegri did, however, almost lose his job after five losses in his first five games last season, but Cagliari chairman kept faith in him and he lead the club from Sardinia to an impressive ninth place finish. He was rewarded with a contract extension for his efforts but this season will really show his abilities if he can continue what he achieved in 2009.
Team/reliable player – The son of former world champion Bruno, Daniele Conti has been a permanent fixture in the Cagliari side since the 2000/01 season. The 30-year-old does not usually hit the headlines but gives his all in each and every game and brings stability to the midfield. He has helped greatly in the development of the younger players around him and his experience is invaluable to a club that so often flirts with relegation. If ever the title ‘unsung hero’ applied to a player, then Daniele Conti would be that player.
Creative force – Whether Cagliari sink or swim this coming season may just depend on how new boy Nene does. The player who was top scorer in last year’s Portuguese top flight will need to hit a similar vein of form or Cagliari could struggle to find the net. Nene can be used as target man or as a second striker. He has good movement and a good shot from either foot and is considered to be in the same mould as Pippo Inzaghi. Lacks technique but has made up for that by being in the right place at the right time to score his goals.
Youth prospect – Daniele Ragatzu is the youngest ever player to score in Serie A for Cagliari. Last season he made five appearances and notched his first ever top flight goal. If the likes of Jeda and Nene fail to get the goals, Coach Allegri could look to his Italian U-19 international to succeed where his more illustrious teammates have failed. Class of 1991, the young Ragatzu will be looking for more opportunities and the failure to strengthen in the scoring department, other than the purchase of Nene, may give him those opportunities.
The fixtures – Cagliari open the season away to Livorno and they will be hoping to get a positive result. On September 23 they are away to Bari and from then till November 8, the Sardinians have a run of games against Parma, Chievo, Catania, Genoa, Lazio, Atalanta and Sampdoria. If they can get points from the majority of those games then it could be a good season for them. It will be a crucial run as they then play Milan and Juventus, who could nail the coffin shut before the year is out if things have gone badly beforehand.
Home grown players – 72% – Of the 28 players in Cagliari’s first team squad, eight are not Italian.
Predictions – Survival is going to be Cagliari’s main aim, as it is for most seasons. After the superb ninth place finish last year, fans may hope for similar success but the lack of activity in the transfer market and the loss of Acquafresca may mean a very tough season ahead for the Sardinians. They have done well to keep hold of star keeper Marchetti but he is going to be kept quite busy and – if the forwards fail to score regularly – his heroics alone may not be enough to keep the Cagliari faithful singing. Clubs like Atalanta, Napoli and even Chievo and Catania appear to have done more work in signing new players which could see the Isolani being sucked into a relegation dogfight. Allegri’s managerial abilities will be severely tested this coming campaign. Prediction – 15th.