This Sunday sees the start of Chievo’s brand new campaign. A home fixture against Catania that is a must win for all true ‘Gialloblu’ supporters so that all the hard work of the previous two seasons doesn’t go to waste.
For Pioli, it sees the start of his second (and some would say) final chance at Serie A level. Fans of the ‘donkeys’ will be looking towards the usual suspects, ‘Azzurri’ hopefuls Stefano Sorrentino and Andrea Mantovani, aswell as the skipper, talisman, and the clubs all time leading scorer Sergio Pellissier. He aims to push himself towards the 100 goal mark for the ’Gialloblu’ and in the process push the club towards the mid-table safety they so crave as well as staking his claim for a place in Cesare Prandelli’s plans for the European Championship qualifiers.
Aside from the standout names in Pioli’s line-up there are a few players who maybe household names in one half of Verona but escape everyone else’s attention. Here are a select few who may just play a key role in the ‘Flying Donkey’s’ season.
The 33 year old centre back was born in Monza in Italy. Despite his hometown being more famous for Formula 1 motor racing, he began his career in his hometowns youth team. He then had lower league experience at Biellese before gaining Serie B experience at Varese. He was sold on to Torino where he gained more experience at both Serie B and A with the ‘Granata’ before a loan spell at Siena saw him come to the attention of Chievo. He joined the ‘Gialloblu’ in 2004 and has played in the top two divisions and is now closing in on 200 appearances for the club. He is invaluable to the back four as he moves towards the twighlight of his career.
The centre half was born in Thonon-les-Bains, France. At 26 years of age he is coming into the best years of his career right now. He began his career at AS Cannes in his native France. It was here that he came to the attention of Serie C outfit Legano. After a successful spell he joined Serie B side Modena before joining Chievo in a co-ownership deal in 2008. He was bought outright by the Stadio Bentegodi outfit in July 2009. Nicolas is the brother of the Fiorentina goalkeeper and former French international Sebastien Frey. His father was also a professional goalkeeper whilst his grandfather played as an international defender. This means that Nicolas comes from a line of sportsmen and as such will be looking to make the 2010/11 season one to remember.
The 25 year old left sided midfielder was born in a province of Turin. He signed for his hometown club of Juventus where he was brought through the youth ranks but failed to make the grade at first team level. He was loaned to Mantova in Serie B. He signed for the ‘Gialloblu’ in 2006 but was immediately loaned out to Serie B outfit Modena where he made 34 appearances in the 2006/07 season. He has now made almost 100 appearances for the ‘Flying Donkeys’ and has one ‘Azzurri’ cap for the under 21’s.
At 35, the midfielder is certainly an experienced head. He was born in Savona and began his career at Torino, but failed to register an appearance. He then had spells at Bari, Vicenza and Atalanta before his current employers came calling in 2006. He has made over 100 appearances for the club.
The 25 year old defensive midfielder was born in Schio. He came through the youth team at Vicenza before beginning his career there. He was sold in a co-ownership deal to Reggina but only managed four appearances and was loaned to Piacenza. He was then bought back by Vicenza and offered a four year deal. He was sold to the ‘Gialloblu’ in another co-ownership deal in 2008. The deal was bought outright in June 2009 where he displaced Vincenzo Italiano as first choice defensive midfielder in the heart of the team’s midfield.
The 26 year old striker was born in Montevideo, Uruguay. He played for some of the bigger names in his home country such as River Plate in the capital (not to be confused with their Argentinean namesakes) and Toluca. He then joined Serie B side Triestina, where he scored 31 goals in 62 games. He was signed by Chievo in 2009. His first season saw a return of just 3 goals in 30 games and now has his work cut-out if he is to convince the ‘Gialloblu’ faithful that he is the man to take the weight off of Pellissier’s shoulders.
These are the names that will be chanted on the terraces of the Stadio Bentegodi this season as they hope to finally claim that mid-table finish without having to glance over their shoulders.