Half a season has passed, and Palermo are still in touch with those teams chasing Europe. There was some concern over their ability to compete at the start of the campaign, having sold Edinson Cavani and Simon Kjaer, but their continued ability to unearth players is keeping them at the right end of the table.
Indeed, Cavani and Kjaer are two such examples of Palermo’s impressive scouting record. Both played important roles in the club’s 5th place finish in 2009/10, and it is testament to the high regard Kjaer is held in that his move to Wolfsburg was something of a surprise – many expected a bigger club for a player who became a full international during his time in Sicily. Nevertheless, the efforts of sporting director Walter Sabatini (who resigned in November 2010) and his then trusted scouting team of Frederic Massara and Luca Cattani were not wasted – the sale of both players has garnered a combined profit of £17m, a figure that will undoubtedly keep the accountants smiling.
Fortunately, Sabatini was around long enough to ensure he and his team found a new set of players to keep Palermo competitive. Slovenian duo Armin Bačinović and Josip Iličić, Argentine Javier Pastore and Uruguayan Abel Hernández are amongst the stand-out finds. All four have become beacons for this current Rosanero outfit and a shining example of how effective the scouting team at the club has been over the past few years.
The two Slovenians were, in many ways, stumbled upon after Palermo played Maribor in a Europa League play-off match and lost the second leg 3-2 in Slovenia. Both were outstanding (Iličić scored one of the three Maribor goals that night) to an extent that convinced the Sicilians to purchase them the day after. Despite the manner in which they appear to have been acquired, it still takes a sharp eye for a player to confirm a transfer based on one good performance against your side. The scouting team’s more considered transfers have worked just as well – the aforementioned Cavani and Kjaer proved astute signings, whilst Pastore and Hernández have been revelations. But this is just the players in the current squad getting attention – there are other potentially talented individuals not yet in the limelight.
Nicolás Bertolo, signed from Banfield last summer, featured prominently under Walter Zenga last term, but was unable to find space this season and so is currently on loan at Zaragoza. Romanian Cristian Melinte started twice last season when Palermo ran out of left-backs – he too is out on loan. Santiago García, a 22-year-old defender, was signed from Rosario Central in the summer after recommendation from Massara, but has yet to appear this season. As if that was not enough, they went back to Maribor to sign another one of the players who scored against them in that 3-2 defeat, central defender Siniša Andelković, who joined in January of this year.
The factor that will decide Palermo’s future is how long they keep these players, and the ability of their scouts to find replacements. Their history shows they are a selling club, and all of their current stars would make a considerable profit in the transfer market, but with Sabatini gone, there may be concerns over whether the new talent will keep being discovered. Massara and Cattani remain nonetheless, joined by Dario Rossi during the 2010 summer (Coach Delio Rossi’s eldest son), and their track record will inspire plenty of confidence.