2008/09 – To say Udinese’s 2008/09 season was a bit “up and down” would be a massive understatement. They started off quite impressively, and then embarked on a huge slump between November and the New Year before ending the campaign in great form. They finished the season in a decent 7th place, which given the horrendous pre-Christmas run was an excellent league position. They reached the quarter-final stages of both the Coppa Italia and the UEFA Cup. The team received a huge blow when captain and star player Antonio Di Natale suffered a knee ligament injury, whilst on international duty.
2009/10 – The summer break has been rife with transfer talk at the club. Gaetano D’Agostino was rumoured to be joining Liverpool, and then Real Madrid, but looks as though he will be with the Bianconeri for one more season at least. This will be much to the relief of the fans, as it looks as though they will hold on to all of last season’s first-team, with Fabio Quagliarella being the only player to leave. This will be good news as they now can build on what they achieved on 2008/09 and even possibly challenge for that fourth Champions League spot.
Transfer Campaign – Much of Udinese’s transfer campaign has focused on bringing in young, undiscovered talent. Some notable players have left, Fabio Quagliarella has moved to Napoli and impressive fullback Marco Motta has gone to Roma. They have signed some experience in the form of Bernardo Corradi, who knows his way around Serie A. Added to this, Udinese have acquired a clutch of young talent from South America and Europe to further bolster their roster for the new campaign. Players worth keeping an eye on are Italian Under-21 international Piermario Morosini and talented Spanish midfielder Jaime Romero Gómez, who impressed scouts whilst playing for Albacete.
Bernardo Corradi – Reggina – free transfer
José Carlos Alemão – Santos – €500,000
Jaime Romero Gómez – Albacete – undisclosed
Leandro Caruso – Godoy Cruz – €2.5m
Piermario Morosini – Vicenza – end of loan
Juan Gulliermo Cuadrado – Medellin – undisclosed
Fabián Orellana – Audax Italiano – €2.3m
Rafael Romo – Llaneros de Guanare – undisclosed
Allan Nyom – Arles – €1m
Fabio Quagliarella – Napoli – €18.75m
Luigi Sala – AlbinoLeffe – free transfer
Marco Motta – Roma – €3.5m
Fernando Tissone – Sampdoria – €2.5m
Michele Paolucci – Juventus – €3.3m
First XI – The first team is much the same as last season (with the only notable omission being Quagliarella) and will hope to carry on the excellent end of season form. Di Natale is once again the main goal threat, and will hope for a good supply of chances from the creativity of D’Agostino and the wing play of Simone Pepe. Handanovic continues to impress between the posts and another good season from him will be expected if Udinese are to achieve any degree of success. Continuity will be the key to their season.
15 Ferronetti – 19 Felipe – 2 Zapata – 26 Pasquale
20 Asamoah – 21 D’Agostino – 88 Inler
7 Pepe – 83 Floro Flores – 10 Di Natale
The Coach – Pasquale Marino hung on to his job last season by the skin of his teeth after suffering a mid-season stutter. He is considered, however, one of the most promising young coaches in Italy. His style is very attacking, usually favouring three strikers within his tactical formation, which can switch between 3-4-3 and 4-3-3. His only other previous top flight job was coaching Catania and he managed to promote them from Serie B at his first attempt. He will be hoping, at the very least, to achieve a Europa League place by the end of the season.
Team/reliable player – Italian international Antonio Di Natale is the team captain and if he plays well then Udinese play well. He will score as well as make goals for his teammates and has been the clubs biggest asset in recent seasons. He is often linked with a move to one of the more illustrious Serie A clubs but has so far been loyal to the Zebrette. A tireless forward who can play wide as well as through the middle, he has excellent dribbling skills, fantastic technique and a good turn of pace. With him in the team, Udinese are a different proposition and will always give opposing defences major headaches.
Creative force – By far Udinese’s most talented and creative player, Gaetano D’Agostino is of a similar mould to Andrea Pirlo. He is the one that pulls all the strings in midfield and knits the whole team together. Blessed with superb vision and “soft” feet, D’Agostino is the man Udinese hope can unlock the tight Serie A defences and create the opportunities for the forwards to finish. He has been picked for Azzurri squads of late and Udinese will hope this will boost his confidence further.
Youth prospect – The Spanish U-21 international Jaime Romero Gómez has only recently arrived from Albacete. The 19-year-old is highly rated by the Udinese coaching team and much is expected of him. If Romero is given a decent run in the first-team he may well become a permanent fixture. He is lightning fast and is able to play as a winger or a wide forward if part of a three man attack. He has an excellent eye for goal, superb technical ability and bags of confidence. He could well turn out to be a very astute signing, if his potential can be realised.
Fixtures – Udinese kick-off the season at home to newly promoted Parma, and they should aim to take three points from that game. Week 5 sees them take on the first of the big boys, playing Milan at home, and it would not be inconceivable for the Zebrette to pick up maximum points. Two weeks later they play Inter at the San Siro, which is probably their first real test away from home. If Udinese can be unbeaten leading up to that game, then they will have built a great foundation for a Europa League place. Their final game against Lazio could be a decider for that European spot.
Home grown players – 11 out of the 30-man first-team squad are Italian, a slightly disappointing 36%. The influx of South American talent has not helped this figure, nor have the sale of Quagliarella and the loaning of Giampiero Pinzi to Chievo for the season.
Predictions – Udinese should be disappointed if they don’t finish in the top seven come next May. The main threat to that will be how they manage the loss of Fabio Quagliarella and whether the clutch of young, but relatively unknown, recently acquired talent can be good enough to support the squad. The first XI is very strong and also very settled as most of the new signings will complement, as opposed to replace, the first-team. Consideration must also be given to teams around the top half of the division who have spent far more, notably Napoli. With Lazio, Palermo, Genoa and Sampdoria also looking for strong top half finishes, the competition for the Europa League spots will be fierce. If continuity is the key, then the Bianconeri should have the edge on those around them. Prediction – 7th.