2008/09 – After just one solitary season stuck in Serie B wilderness, Parma are back in the big time. Although the Gialloblu were pipped to top spot by Bari, their passage back to the top-flight football was relatively smooth, as they comfortably finished eight points ahead of third-placed Livorno. Promotion is always a laudable achievement, particularly at the first attempt – but perhaps praise in the form of respectful, appreciative applause for Parma’s second tier performance would be more appropriate than a cacophonous standing ovation of whooping and whistling. The team did what was expected of them, and now they have their reward of battling against Italy’s finest once more.
2009/10 – With managerial stability a seemingly alien concept to the Parma board, Ducali supporters should be encouraged to see Coach Francesco Guidolin keep his job following last year’s success. However, they will hope to see a bit more prolificacy in front of goal this year – the now departed Cristiano Lucarelli was the club’s leading scorer with a meagre 12 league goals – whilst maintaining the team’s consistency both in performance and at the back. No doubt this will be a difficult task what with the step up in class of opposition, but with the Serie A experience that many of the squad possess, the team should not be caught unawares.
Transfer Campaign – Guidolin has tried to address each area of the team, demonstrated by the expected first XI below. Antonio Mirante has come in on-loan from Sampdoria and is likely to take his place between the sticks ahead of veteran Nicola Pavarini. Probably Guidolin’s most high-profile summer signing is that of Christian Panucci – take one glance at his CV, and you’ll see the wealth of Serie A, Champions League and international experience the versatile defender will bring to the team. After a steady couple of seasons with Siena, Daniele Galloppa has made the move to Ennio Tardini and should provide some consistency in the midfield. However, it is up front and goals that are the priority – the loan deals for Valeri Bojinov and Jonathan Biabiany could prove to be strokes of genius on Guidolin’s part.
Pablo Fontanello – Tigre – €1m
Daniele Galloppa – Siena – co-ownership
Manuel Coppola – Siena – €1.2m
Nicolás Córdova – Grosseto – free
Jonathan Biabiany – Inter – loan
Hernán Dellafiore – Palermo – loan
Daniele Paponi – Rimini – end of loan
Davide Lanzafame – Palermo – loan
Antonio Mirante – Sampdoria – loan
Filippo Savi – Spal – end of loan
Valeri Bojinov – Manchester City – loan
Christian Panucci – Roma – free
Luca Antonelli – Milan – free
Gianluca Pegolo – Genoa – end of loan
Reginaldo – Siena – co-ownership
Magnus Troest – Genoa – €1m
Marco Rossi – Sampdoria – loan
Cristiano Lucarelli – Livorno – loan
First XI – Mirante’s signature has freshened up the goalkeeping position, with Pavarini in the twilight of his career, and the 26-year-old Juventus trainee will be given plenty of chances to show off his talent. He could not ask for a more experienced back-line, with Zenoni (32-years-old), Panucci (36), Paci (31) and Castellini (30) the noble sages entrusted to protect him. Needless to say, there is a vast difference between the Serie A and Serie B standard of football, but Parma’s defence was extremely miserly last season and with the added assurance of Panucci, Gialloblu supporters will be hoping for more of the same. Bringing in Bojinov and Biabiany should hopefully ease the goal-scoring burden on young Alberto Paloschi’s shoulders.
19 Zenoni – 2 Panucci – 24 Paci – 7 Castellini
4 Morrone – 17 Mariga – 14 Galloppa
86 Bojinov – 43 Paloschi – 20 Biabiany
The Coach – Francesco Guidolin is an experienced manager but with a rather uninspiring record, and perhaps his level is in getting teams promoted from Calcio’s second tier. He seems to have been living on his fantastic success at Vicenza (where he won the Coppa Italia despite being in Serie B, following it up with a semi-final in the Cup Winners Cup) for a long time since. Regarding Parma, he did what his remit required him to do: get promotion, albeit in a rather laboured fashion. He will try to keep the defence tight so do not expect too many goals – and also do not be surprised if he is not in charge by the end of the season.
Team/reliable player – There are a few experienced players, particularly in Parma’s backline, that could have been chosen, but with Christian Panucci’s signing, you know what you are getting. Panucci has been there and done it. He’s a two-time Champions League winner at both Milan and Real Madrid, and racked up over 300 appearances during his eight years with Roma. He is 36 now, and must be thinking about retirement, but Parma is a good move for Savona-born veteran. He’ll play week-in and week-out and it will provide a different kind of challenge to what he has had before in his career – a battle at the wrong end of the table.
Creative force – This is a big year for Bulgarian international Valeri Bojinov after two seasons ravaged with injury – first suffering knee ligament damage and then rupturing his Achilles tendon – and for his own sake, he needs to prove that he can still cut it as a top-flight striker. His days at Manchester City are looking numbered what with the English side’s summer transfer dealings, and Bojinov needs to make this loan spell at Parma work if he wants to be play for a trophy-seeking team again. The Gialloblu needed a player to score goals to offset the loss of Lucarelli, and with his experience at both Fiorentina and Juventus, he could potentially be the man to do it.
Youth prospect – Daniele Paponi is a player who is out to prove that he can cut it at Parma after being sent out on loan. He is only 21 and has had a season in Parma’s first team back in 2005, where as a striker he managed 3 goals in 30 games – a rather pitiful return. This could be a key season for Paponi to see if he can make it as a footballer in the higher echelons or whether his level is somewhat lower – and with a formation sporting a three man strikeforce, he will be hoping he gets a chance to impress.
The fixtures – First home game of the season – against Catania, and expect the Gialloblu fans to be going bananas, starved of top-flight football for a season at the Ennio Tardini. This match should set the tone for Parma’s season – if survival is to be achieved, these are the games that will be labelled ‘must win’. Bottom at Christmas normally equals relegation. For Parma fans’ sakes, hopefully the Emilia-Romagna based side will be nowhere near the foot of the table at this time, and victories over fellow relegation-battlers Bologna will come in very handy indeed. Parma’s fixtures over Christmas could decide their season – Guidolin should be targeting precious points during this period. Loaning out last season’s top-scorer to one of your rivals doesn’t seem particularly sensible – Lucarelli could well make his parent club pay for it on the final day of the season, when they take on Livorno in what could be a huge match for safety.
Home Grown Players – 77% of players are Italian, an incredibly healthy figure. Whilst some of these are on loan, there a number of young Italians in the squad on a permanent basis. Sadly, only a couple of these are from the club’s own youth system, an academy that was once incredibly productive, but that seems to have suffered with the club’s drop to Serie B.
Predictions – The golden years of the 90’s under managers like new Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti, with superstars such as Hernán Crespo, Lilian Thuram and Fabio Cannavaro, seem a long, long time ago now. Nonetheless, Parma is back from their exile to Serie B and will be desperate to stay in the division and build for the long term. As discussed, Parma have a solid base of seasoned pros in their defence and midfield, but Guidolin has put his faith in an inexperienced goalkeeper, two unproven forwards and a talented Bulgarian striker whose injury record breeds pity rather than confidence. It is a gamble that is for sure, but if it pays off it will look like a masterstroke. Predicted Finish: 17th