The Rosanero failed in their attempt to claim a historic fourth spot but should nonetheless be very proud of what they have achieved this season. Edinson Cavani scored the brace that gave Palermo a 2-1 victory on Sunday to force Sampdoria to win their final match. It was a surprisingly tight affair with the already relegated Atalanta putting in a very good performance in their last Serie A fixture. It seemed that the players along with the fans had an ear on what was occurring in Genoa. But Atalanta failed to punish them for this and Cavani responded by tapping in from close range after Pastore’s good play. Despite interruptions from idiotic fans, the Nerazzurri continued to work Sirigu until they got their breakthrough early in the second half. But the Rosanero responded with a series of attacks and finally won the points with a dramatic injury time penalty.
They have fallen at the final hurdle, which will hurt, especially as they had numerous chances to take fourth. But this is a position in which most Palermo fans would not have dreamed they would have been in when Walter Zenga was relieved of his duties mid season. Head Coach Delio Rossi has done a marvellous job transforming this side from an under-performing team to a vibrant, youthful and successful synergy of players. They rose up the table in 2010 with a string of excellent performances and started to show some of the potential they had promised. And they have been rewarded with a place in Europe next season. It may not be the prize they desired but it will be an excellent developmental ground for their core group of youngsters. It will also still be an attraction for many players to be lured to Sicily in the summer.
There will undoubtedly be a shake-up of player personnel in the summer, with Zamparini likely to bring in a few names to try and push for fourth next season. Many attacking names have been linked with the Rosanero, most notably Celtic’s Greek striker Samaras. However, the defensive additions will shape how next season will turn out. It is looking increasingly likely that Simon Kjaer will leave, after numerous quotes from his camp exclaiming his desire for Champions League football. He should be one of the few with the desire to leave but he will need to be replaced. There have been no rumours or whispers about defensive transfers so it will be interesting to see how it plays out around the World Cup. Zamparini has invested a lot to make this squad competitive in the league and will no doubt find the challenge of European competition an exciting one.
The positions at which are most likely to be strengthened are striker, right midfield and defence. And that is before any departures. The Rosanero have an excellent attack but Miccoli’s injury highlights the lack of depth upfront past Hernandez. Igor Budan will not cut it at European level. Right midfield is interesting, as they have been linked with both Behrami of West Ham and Gamst Pederson of Blackburn. With the tumultuous affairs at the East London club, Behrami is likely to be the prime target. There is likely to be consultations between the front office and the South American scouting department. They have managed to unearth some excellent talent in the shape of Pastore and Hernandez in the last few years. They have earned he respect of the board and it would not be surprising to see an addition from that region in the summer.
The disappointment of missing out on the premier competition in Europe will reverberate around the club, the fans and Sicily for a period. Sampdoria, however, put on a final run of 19 points from the remaining 21, with the only slip-up against the Rosanero. They came good when they very much needed to. It is a testament to Palermo that it went down the final game when competing with such a red-hot team. Ultimately they could not match them over 38 games. This is no shame and everyone connected to the club should be tremendously proud of the season they have competed so confidently in.. The hard work will start for the front office now and the players can have a rest. They will surely use the disappointment of this season to spur them on to bigger and better things next year. Maybe even a run at the Scudetto.