With the international break upon us, the world of Calcio has been relatively quiet throughout the Peninsula this week but step into the world of the Rosanero and you will find it’s anything but that. There has been any number of transfer links involving players that could be leaving the island-based club in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, Club President Maurizio Zamparini recently made headlines for all the wrong reasons when he spoke out publicly on his future plans with the Rosanero. But before we move on to all that it’s only fitting that with the international break currently taking place that we take a look at which players from the current Rosanero squad should be considered for a possible Azzurri call-up in the future.
Over the last couple of years many Rosanero players have gone on to represent the national team, if we take a look at the world cup winning squad of 2006, four players – Luca Toni, Fabio Grosso, Andrea Barzagli and Christian Zaccardo – at one time or another have donned the distinctive colours of Palermo. However the squad that was picked to play against Montenegro and the Republic of Ireland had only one Palermo representative in Marco Amelia who is the second-choice back-up to Gigi Buffon, so who else deserves recognition from the current squad?
Federico Balzaretti should, in this writer’s opinion, be a starting line-up contender for the Azzurri. This season he has probably been the most consistent performer for the Rosanero, he adds an attacking dimension to the squad with his constant runs up the flanks and is sound defensively. In the recent Sicilian derby the 27-year-old looked as though he was the only one on the team who turned up on the pitch ready to play, throughout the game the Rosanero tifosi were repeatedly chanting his name in the crowds recognising the fact that he was the only one who was showing passion in a local derby. The rest of the team were half-asleep, unable even to string two passes together. The Italian backline is ageing especially in the full-back positions and Balzac (as known by most fans) as a solid replacement for the likes of Fabio Grosso and Gianluca Zambrotta in the future. Although he has represented Italy at numerous levels in the past, the time has arrived for him to take the next step up to the first team.
With talk of the Italian frontline needing reshuffling due to a lack of creativity and speed from the current crop, the inclusion of Fabrizio Miccoli could very well provide the answer to the Nazionale attacking woes. The pint-sized striker does have 10 caps to his name but he hasn’t been included in the national squad since 2004 and this writer thinks it’s about time he re-emerged onto the international scene. The pride of Lecce has been on fine form for the Rosanero this season having netted 10 goals in 22 appearances. You could say he fits the mould of Antonio Di Natale – both being of similar size and boasting the ability of beating defenders one-on-one with their immense pace. Former teammate Amauri now currently with Juventus has stated that he thinks Miccoli is better than his current strike partner Alessandro Del Piero: “Del Piero? Miccoli is stronger – I can honestly say that Miccoli is the strongest player I have ever played with.” It could be said that is something of a bold statement from the Brazilian hitman but nonetheless, Miccoli is a fantastic player but even so, definitely not on quite the same level as the great il Pinturicchio, on the hand other hand, it is praise that is thoroughly deserved.
As expected at this time of the year, transfer talk is starting to heat up between clubs about possible future acquisitions. One player in particular from the Sicilian side has been the topic of discussion in almost every gossip column in the Italian press. Palermo’s young Danish centre-back Simon Kjaer has been attracting a vast amount of interest from the top sides in the peninsula and is doubtlessly the most sought-after defensive prospect in the footballing world. The towering defender who recently turned 20 only made his Serie A debut in October but already has been touted to be the next Great Dane to hit Calcio following in the footsteps of former compatriots Michael Laudrup and Thomas Helveg. According to numerous Italian press sources, the youngster is wanted by the likes of Liverpool, Middlesbrough, Milan and Juventus and just recently Fiorentina have joined the long list of the teams interested in the services of the former Danish Under-19 Player of the Year. La Viola look the most likely destination if Kjaer were to leave the Rosanero according to his agent. Credit has to go to Palermo’s Sporting Director Walter Sabatini, the transfer guru who has on numerous occasions brought a vast number of great, unknown talented players to the Sicilian port town – Edison Cavani, Abel Hernandez and Davide Lanzafame (who has been dubbed the Italian Cristiano Ronaldo) to name a few. Mikkel Beck, Kjaer’s agent has set a valuation on his client: “Simon is worth £12m at least and there are clauses in his contract to that effect,” stated the former Middlesbrough striker. He also reiterated that his client wants to stay with Palermo and at least see out his four-year-contract: “To be honest I don’t know if he will leave Palermo in June, he still has another four years left on his contract, [but] I think Simon will stay with Palermo.” Those words are very encouraging indeed to the frustrated Rosanero tifosi who very much want to see Simon in a Palermo shirt next year.
One player who is definitely on his way out of the club is shot-stopper Alberto Fontana. The 42-year-old joined Palermo in 2006 and has made 66 appearances for the club conceding 86 goals in the process. Last season he was the club’s No.1 choice in goal but the inclusion of Marco Amelia in the squad has seen his playing time dwindle. At the time of writing he has only managed a mere five appearances for the Rosanero this season. A rift with Zamparini who claimed the 42-year-old penalizes the entire squad due to his high wage bill (€70k every month) has all but ended his story with the Rosaneri. Fontana declared he deserves the high wage because that was how much clubs were willing to pay for his services in the summer: “When I signed the contract renewal, I had received the same offer from Roma.” revealed the veteran to La Repubblica. This war with the club will only end one way and it’s sufficient to say the Cesena native’s future lies away from the club.
Meanwhile It’s been a difficult week for Zamparini. First he threatened to quit the club after saying he has had enough of the Italian football environment as he feels he and his club are being targeted by numerous fictional allegations whose whole purpose is to cause controversy around the club. He points out the latest declarations made by Collaborator of Justice Marcello Trapani that the club were forced to manipulate games when they were in Serie B by organised crime bosses in Sicily as a prime example of injustice towards his club. “Mud is thrown on Palermo, and indirectly on me, on prescribed facts,” vented the Rosanero patron to Stadionews. The 68-year-old goes on to say that while he is in charge of the club there will not be a risk of the Mafia eyeing up Palermo. You can’t help but empathise with the Rosanero patron this time around – it is definitely not an easy job being in charge of the Pink-blacks and even the toughest of Serie A owners would have felt immense pressure being in charge of this club, one set in the most harshest of environments. This writer believes he has done a immense job with the Sicilian side where many owners have tried and failed. Zamparini for a long period of time has managed to move the direction of the club away from controversy in a town in which always manages to bring itself down with pety goings-on between the Mafia and many local governmental officials.
There looks to be an eerie sort of vibe going around the club. All this has definitely overshadowed the fact that the Rosanero are still in a promising position in the table with Europe being not too far away in many eyes. Furthermore the club chief has recently unveiled plans for a new stadium and shopping centre complex estimated to cost around €450million. These are the important things the tifosi and anyone involved with the club should be taking notice of – the building of the future of the club – not some false meaningless drivel that has been all over the Sicilian Press in recent times.