Club Focus – Palermo – Testing Times

Palermo’s troubles on the road continued on Sunday as they were once again held to a draw, this time by Cagliari. They did, however, claw back from two down in the last three minutes to salvage a point from an evenly matched game. Both goalkeepers produced a number of good saves to help their frail defences from being totally embarrassed. This last minute double salvo was topped in Genoa where Sampdoria scored a last minute winner against Milan to leapfrog the Rosanero for fourth spot in Serie A. This will be a big blow for Palermo who will now have to rely on positive home results to rescue the final Champions League spot. They have to play Milan and Sampdoria in Sicily and may need to win both to fulfil their lofty ambitions.

The defence on Sunday was particularly poor – not for the first time this season. It will be interesting to see what Delio Rossi will do in the summer with regards to transfers. If they do reach the Champions League it will be much easier to attract good players, but that cannot be relied on. There is talk of Valon Behrami, Morten Gamst Pederson and Federico Macheda arriving to bolster an already potent attack. These introductions would help to create a very dangerous offensive team, but good teams are built on a solid defence. The one defensive player they are undoubtedly very keen to keep is Simon Kjaer, the Danish defender who has an attracted a plethora of interest in the Premiership and La Liga.

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Liverpool has always been the club most linked with Kjaer. Growing up in Denmark he was a Liverpool fan and could line up with fellow compatriot Daniel Agger in their defence. He has even said he would prefer England: ‘The playing style would probably suit me better. In case the right offers come, it would be exciting to form a partnership with Agger (at Liverpool).’ He has since backed down from these comments saying he would like to see out the remaining three years on his contract. But footballs rhetoric comes in many forms, and he hasn’t fully retracted what he said. It is clear that he wants to challenge himself against the best and Palermo have to show him that their ambitions are aligned. At twenty one years old his importance is not under-valued – both Delio Rossi and club president Maurizio Zamparini are desperate to keep him, the president himself stated that ‘Kjaer is too much of an important player for us – I’d buy him again just to not make him go away.’

With Palermo performing so well in the league, a few of the clubs talents have emerged onto the European market and Zamparini will be keen for his club to not be gutted: ‘I hope that all can remain in Palermo and maybe if we go into the Champions League, the boys will be encouraged to stay.’ This is the pertinent point for the Rosanero over the closing stage of the season. Achieving these lofty ambitions will not only step the club up to the next level but also help them keep a core group of highly talented youngsters in the summer.

The likes of Cavani, Pastore and Hernandez will likely stay for next season, but the doubt over Kjaer’s future is still there. There have currently been no offers to Palermo (according to his agent) but the very existence of these reports is in itself worrying for Palermo fans. Season after season, long drawn out transfer sagas have a habit of resulting in a summer transfer.Most notably Cristiano Ronaldo’s move to Madrid, where all year every report was played down until the move actually happened. Sunday’s fight-back showed that this squad does have mental strength and is developing into a more rounded team – a development which would be severely hampered by the loss of a player such as Kjaer. They may get lucky with Liverpool’s current financial woes by not having to fend them off. But to really offer an alternative to Europe’s top clubs, they will need to continue their progression in a tangible way. Either way, Zamparini will not allow his clubs top players to leave unless they are desperate to go. Rosanero fans will have to hold their breath this summer and hope that Sicily is still the most desirable place to be.

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