Life at Palermo is rarely boring. With lunatic President Maurizio Zamparini liable to create mayhem at any time, it is something of a surprise when a sensible bit of news comes out of the Sicilian club. On Monday, exactly such a story broke when it was revealed on the club’s official website that Slovenian duo Josip Ilicic and Armin Bacinovic signed contract extensions that tie them to the Rosanero until 2016.
Both players had impressive debut seasons in Serie A having joined from Maribor in the summer and Ilicic especially had been the subject of interest from a number of top clubs around Europe. The importance of hanging on to them cannot be overstated, especially given the possible departures of Javier Pastore and Antonio Nocerino, as Bacinovic and Ilicic make up a key part of Palermo’s midfield.
Much will be expected of Ilicic next season should Pastore depart and the player will be keen to follow a strong debut season with further improvement. A tall, graceful player, it will be he who takes over from Pastore as the main creative force in the team. Throughout the season, Ilicic stated a number of times that he was keen to stay with Palermo and continue developing as a player and, in doing so, avoid making a step up in class to early and finding himself out of his depth. With a strong front line likely to be added to over the coming months, the onus will be on Ilicic to provide the chances that keep his team scoring.
Bacinovic, while not quite having a break through season to match that of Ilicic, impressed as the deepest of the Rosanero midfield under Delio Rossi. He was often asked to do the job of three men as Rossi’s philosophy of all out attack left his side exposed when the full backs bombed forwards and he can expect a great deal more support under the more pragmatic, thoughtful Stefano Pioli. At just 21 Bacinovic still has plenty to learn, but is showing signs that he could develop into an exceptional defensive midfield player and Pioli is exactly the kind of Coach to bring the best out of him.
The new Coach will also be important for Ilicic’s development as under Rossi he had little or no defensive duties whereas under Pioli he is likely to be called into service at both ends of the pitch. This may take some getting used to, but in the long run he will certainly benefit from the more rounded approach to the game that Pioli will bring.
So despite the possible departure of Palermo’s star man, Pastore, it seems that Zamparini has pulled of a vitally important coup in securing the futures of both Ilicic and Bacinovic. While the comings and goings may be many this summer, with those two certain not to be among them, fans can safely look ahead to a bright future for their club.