Optimistic Cellino targets building a great Cagliari

A mood of optimism has swept the shores of Sardinia as summer reaches it’s height over Italy’s second island. Before jetting off to Miami for a break in late June, Cagliari’s President Massimo Cellino promised newspaper L’Unione Sarda that he would make ,“two major purchases in order to build a great Cagliari”.
After a minor improvement in the 2010-11 season compared to that in 2009-10, one point and two places higher in the Serie A standings, Cellino’s confident comment would appear misplaced or bullish at the very least.
The Rossoblu suffered a big blow in losing manager Max Allegri to Milan last summer, a man who had won the Panchina d’Oro award in both his seasons with the Sardinian outfit, and his replacement Pierpaolo Bisoli was sacked in November with the club languishing in a lowly 17th position.
Bisoli’s replacement, Roberto Donadoni, was looking to relaunch his own managerial career after an unsuccessful Euro 2008 as Coach of the Azzurri and his subsequent disastrous six month spell in charge at Napoli. He eventually led the Isolani to 14th position and the start he made, winning seven out of his first 11 games as boss, proved crucial in Cagliari’s survival bid.
By the time that seventh win had come in early February, Donadoni had been shorn of his star striker Alessandro Matri, who had joined Juventus on loan in January for €2.5m after scoring 11 goals in 19 games for the Sant’Elia outfit. A risky move by Cellino turned out to be a savvy one at the campaign’s end in May, as Matri continued his good form at Juventus resulting in the Bianconeri stumping up the remaining €15.5m to sign him permanently.
Matri’s loss was covered by an all-round team contribution though. Davide Astori starred at the back, Davide Biondini and Andrea Lazzari performed well in midfield while Nene, Robert Acquafresca and captain Daniele Conti weighed in with vital goals. However, nobody contributed more than serial snood and short-shinguard wearing trequartista Andrea Cossu.
The 31-year-old scored all four of his goals in the second half of the season, on top of his 13 assists during the campaign, improving each total by one from his previous season effort. Cossu declared in April that he intended to spend the rest of his career with his hometown club, arguably the best bit of news Cagliari could’ve wished for ahead of the summer mercato. Donadoni will no doubt be delighted to hear such words, as he will to learn of the club’s outright signing of Davide Astori from Milan.
That transfer raised eyebrows given Astori’s progress playing for the Isolani, but while his development as a defender is something to watch, Cossu will be the key man for the Rossoblu next season. Sides struggle to deal with his movement, creativity and vision. If his performances playing in a 4-3-1-2 or 4-3-2-1 formation under Donadoni continue to flourish, an Azzurri recall could be on the cards too.
When Donadoni returns to work with his side during pre-season later this month, his focus will be on integrating new striker Moestafa El-Kabir into the squad and getting Brazilian striker Nene, Portuguese league top scorer with unfancied Nacional in 2009, fully fit once more following Robert Acquafresca’s return to Genoa. And with Cellino’s promise of two additional presents, Sardinia may prove to be the place for excitement in Serie A next season.

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