Club Focus – Cagliari – Cellino seals Cagliari return for Acquafresca

Cagliari has had a quiet summer in terms of transfer activity, which is just the way they like it. Whilst President Massimo Cellino has already emphasised, their priority is to keep what they have, however the ex-rossoblu striker Robert Acquafresca has rejoined gli Isolani.

Cagliari supporters will be most pleased to hear that the deal, though initially on loan, will be made with the view to making it permanent. Reports have already suggested a fee of close to £7.5million would be required to make the deal permanent, should the loan be successful.

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The forward, who originally joined Genoa as part of the deal that took Thiago Motta and Diego Milito to Inter last summer, was shipped out to Atalanta last term. It was not a success and Acquafresca returned to his parent club halfway through the season, but again was unable to make his mark. This was a massive disappoint given how impressive he had been the season before last in which he hit the back of the net 14 times for Cagliari, while just 20 years old.

Big clubs such as Napoli and Lazio were linked with the ex-Azzurrini hit man earlier in the summer, clearly looking to rejuvenate a great young talent who had perhaps lost his way last year. But Acquafresca’s priority, it would seem, is to get game-time, the lack of which could perhaps be held responsible for his dip in form during his time at Atalanta and Genoa.

After superb form for Italy’s youth sides, Poland were made aware of the possibility that Acquafresca could change allegiances, with his family background potentially giving him the opportunity to play international football earlier than expected. The precocious talent, who is clearly ambitious enough and confident enough to feel he will one day be good enough to represent his country of birth, flatly refused this.

In the aftermath of Italy’s dreadful display in South Africa this summer there is a growing sense of optimism among the next generation of Italians that more opportunities will be on offer than previously under Marcelo Lippi. This has already been shown by new boss Cesare Prandelli, who has included former U-21 internationals Mario Balotelli and Giuseppe Rossi amongst others, in his most recent squad.

Acquafresca, who scored 11 goals in just 21 appearances for the Azzurrini, will hope to be the next in line on the long list of potentially great players that have graduated from the U-21’s. Recapturing his form of old for Cagliari this season will be seen as the first aim. Acquafresca should be confident that the call is not far away having already seen many ex-U-21 international colleagues make the step up to the full side. This is not always the case with many of Europe’s top nations, who often isolate their youth sides from the full international squad.

Regular action on the pitch will be vital for Acquafresca, which explains why he has shunned offers from perhaps bigger clubs with more money to offer. Evidently Acquafresca is keen to avoid sides with large squads where there is the possibility of a rotation policy, thus making his switch back to gli Isolani a smart one.

Prandelli has not only instilled the belief that the younger players will be given a chance to represent the Nazionale, but also it will no longer be necessary to play for Italy’s elite sides in UEFA competitions in order to play for the Azzurri. Smaller clubs in the league such as Cagliari look to reap the benefits of this, with players preferring to stay with them due to the guarantee of regular starts. This was highlighted by two of Cagliari’s stars in Andrea Lazzari and Davide Astori staying at the club over the summer, both of whom made their international debuts in the friendly against the Ivory Coast this month.

The Rossoblu also possess former internationals in their squad in the shape of Andrea Cossu and Davide Biondini, alongside several Azzurrini players. It is obvious therefore that Prandelli and his advisors will more than likely be in regular attendance this season at the Stadio Sant’Elia, something that clearly played a part in the decision of Acquafresca.

The striker should be in line to make his debut against Palermo at the Stadio Renzo Barbera a week on Sunday. This will be the first opportunity to take a glimpse of what should promise to be an explosive front pair of Acquafresca and Alessandro Matri. Many goals could be expected from these two with chances being created by the highly creative Lazzari and Cossu.

Having already warded off interest from bigger clubs for his best players, Cellino can now be confident a strong squad is in place for the new season. Bright young manager Pierpaolo Bisoli has the tools to make his own mark on the side he has inherited from the new Milan boss Massimo Allegri.

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