Josip Ilicic begins to emerge from the shadow of Javier Pastore

The events of Sunday night were a surprise to most onlookers as Palermo produced an excellent display in a 4-3 victory over Inter. While the latest man in the hotseat, Devis Mangia, has been praised for the high-pressing game that was deployed to winning effect, the loss of Pastore looked to have zero negative effect in large part due to the growing creative presence of Josip Ilicic.
After the departure of Javier Pastore, questions began over just what the ambitions of Palermo were to be for the season ahead. Combined with the surprise sacking of Stefano Pioli, questions of ambition and approach were paramount. Josep Ilicic has been an excellent signing for Palermo and his performance against Inter was one of great influence as he would regularly initiated attacks as well as taking counter-attacks up a gear in terms of tempo. His interplay with Fabrizio Miccoli caused the Inter defence serious problems and while Ilicic was replaced after 68 minutes, he had shown more than enough to warrant praise following the dramatic finale that was played out at Stadio Renzo Barbera. His assured performance is not a new example of the promising talent the Slovenian possesses.
Ilicic’s Palermo career to date has been very impressive. It’s made all the more impressive by the fact that it was only 15 months ago that he was plying his trade for struggling Slovenian outfit Interblock Ljubljana. What followed was a short detour at arguably the biggest club in Slovenian football, NK Maribor before he was snapped up by L’Aquile. There was no settling-in period afforded to him but he appeared unflustered and adapted very quickly to life in Serie A.
The Slovenian 23 year-old inspired so much confidence in previous Rosanero Coach Delio Rossi that Rossi wanted to utilise a formation using him and Pastore in a dual trequartista setup behind a lone striker. Such a tactical setup is now beyond the Rosanero in terms of personnel but it serves the purpose of highlighting the regard that Ilicic is held in by those in the game.
In terms of attributes, Ilicic has an impressive energy which will only serve the Rosanero well for the season ahead. President Maurizio Zamparini retains that element of bizarre decision-making but the promotion of Mangia from youth coach to the hotseat with the first team might be an inspiring move not just for the team but for Ilicic too. The pressing game that was displayed against Inter appears to be the template for Palermo under Mangia’s tutelage and it would appear the perfect fit for Ilicic’s characteristics.
Last season after a great performance against Roma, Ilicic was quoted by several Italian media sources as saying “I’m not an important player for this team”. He may have not been then but it would appear that he will be an important player at the very least for the Rosanero this season. Should he continue to develop then he might well turn out to be the important player as Palermo look to solidify their place in Serie A as genuine European qualification contenders.

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