2008/09 – The 2008/09 campaign was all about bouncing back to Serie A at the first time of asking for the Tuscan outfit. Led by Leonardo Acori for 41 of the 42 weeks in Serie B, Livorno were already assured a spot in the play-offs, but decided to sack Acori for missing out to Parma and Bari on automatic promotion after a season-long battle (and two-month winless run). Gennaro Ruotolo was brought in for the final games and led the team to a 5-2 play-off aggregate win over Brescia.
2009/10 – With Vittorio Russo now officially in charge and Ruotolo as assistant first-team Coach, Livorno’s main task besides sorting out their management situation will be survival. The 2007/08 season saw them pick up only 13 points away from home as they finished bottom of Serie A. Solidarity and team-spirit was enough for a weak Chievo to escape the clutches last season, Livorno will be hoping for much of the same whilst looking to their front-men for some much-sort-after goals.
Transfer campaign – The Amaranto’s transfer campaign has so far been about those returning to the club as much as arriving fresh. Livorno has brought in experience this summer in the legs of Mirko Piero and Cristian Raimondi. Dario Knezevic will have learnt a lot from his loan spell at Juventus last season and returns alongside hero/Livorno’s biggest fan Cristiano Lucarelli who in turn is expected to recapture his goalscoring touch. Antonio Candreva returns to Udinese as promising roman starlet Aleandro Rosi also returns to parent club Roma. Livorno have first refusal on the 22-year-old and with a small squad would be well advised to take up that option.
Dario Knezevic – Juventus – end of loan
Davide Marchini – Bologna – end of loan
Cristian Raimondi – Vicenza – undisclosed
Cristiano Lucarelli – Parma – loan
Marcus Diniz – Milan – loan
Leonardo Miglionico – Sampdoria – undisclosed
Francesco Volpe – Juventus – renewed co-ownership
Giuseppe Rizza – Juventus – undisclosed (co-ownership resolution)
Romano Perticone – Milan – undisclosed (co-ownership resolution)
Riccardo Bonetto – Lazio – end of loan
Fausto Rossini – free agent
Emanuele Terranova – Palermo – end of loan
Aleandro Rosi – Roma – end of loan
Antonio Candreva – Udinese – end of loan
Alessandro Vono – Juventus – end of loan
First XI – Livorno go into the campaign with a classic blend of youth and experience – promising youngster Martin Bergvold will be eager to impress at the top level in an energetic midfield held by the much-travelled Antonio Filippini. Up front the team will rely heavily on Cristiano Lucarelli and Francesco Tavano to lead by example – should they fail then Alessandro Diamenti and pacey Francesco Volpe will provide stern competition. With Gennaro Ruotolo expected to be pulling the strings whilst gaining those UEFA badges, Livorno are likely to line up in an attack-minded 4-3-2-1 formation, turning into a defensive 4-5-1 on their travels.
1 De Lucia
2 Perticone – 13 Knezevic – 17 Miglionico – 46 Pieri
7 Pulzetti – 3 Filippini – 8 Bergvold
10 Tavano – 99 Lucarelli – 11 Volpe
The Coach – Livorno have appointed 70-year-old Vittorio Russo as Coach, but this is seen very much as a ‘title only’ position, with Gennaro Ruotolo very much the man at the heart of coaching and tactics. Having led the team through the play-offs in dramatic, Livorno style, Ruotolo was forced to give up the Coach role due to his lack of official coaching badges. Beyond the controversy is another young, former player leading his side in an ambitious season. The 2009/10 campaign will test his leadership skills with a large number of young, inexperienced players in amongst his squad.
Team/reliable player – Alfonso De Lucia will be called into action a great deal more this season, and having been reserve to Marco Amelia last time the Amaranto were in Serie A, will be relishing his chance. The 25-year-old is still relatively young and inexperienced for a goalkeeper, having played as the reserve shot-stopper up until last season. The 2008/09 campaign saw him make the position his own, and with a bit of luck, his performances will tell their own story as to how Livorno’s season will go.
Creative force – Francesco Tavano is the one the rest of the side will look to for on-the-pitch inspiration. After notching an impressive 24 goals last year, the Italian is the in-form striker at the club, ahead of the enigmatic Lucarelli who has struggled for form and fitness since leaving Livorno in 2007. Fans may expect Lucarelli to thrive once more in front of his home fans, but the team will know that they stand a much better chance of performing in the league with Tavano’s shooting boots.
Youth prospect – Francesco Volpe is just one of several youngsters to arrive at Livorno this summer and could prove the most exciting of the lot. Boasting impressive speed on the pitch, Volpe has emerged from the prosperous youth set-up at Juventus and spent last year on loan at Ravenna. The co-ownership move to the Stadio Armando Picchi presents the 23-year-old with the perfect stage to perfect his game. Having only scored four goals at the professional level, this is his chance to perfect his game alongside accomplished goal-scorers Lucarelli and Tavano.
The fixtures – A difficult start to the season could leave the team in early trouble going into Week 5’s clash with fellow likely strugglers Bologna. Expectations will be low for the games before that, with Juventus and Milan both up for the Amaranto. Successive Tuscan derbies against Fiorentina and Siena (Weeks 6 and 7, then Weeks 25 and 26) set up intriguing fortnights in a season peppered with tough clashes in-between crucial, proverbial six-pointers.
Home grown players – With a small squad, the percentage of home-grown players at Livorno stands at an impressive 74% of the first team squad. Croatian Knezevic and Uruguayan Miglionico are the only ones likely to feature consistently in the first XI, and 6+5 will be of no concern to the Tuscans.
Predictions – Gennaro Ruotolo remains an unproven, inexperienced Coach, but the policy of ex-players becoming Coaches is tradition, and can often uncover new, exciting footballing minds. How Livorno’s season unfolds will depend very much on the time afforded to Ruotolo, and the leadership demonstrated on the pitch from the more experienced players. The Amaranto have picked up some interesting youngsters in co-ownerships and loans, and they could well provide the energy and desire to make a real impact this season. Livorno remain an unpredictable side and will be looking for some consistency this year, particularly as the fixture list has been cruel to the side with no clear run of winnable games. If the Coach is given time to shape his side then we could witness a surprise package, but more likely, this side will struggle to compete and could be headed for a tough relegation fight. Prediction – 17th.