Finally, after three seasons of us following them and twenty years since relegation, Salernitana are back in Serie A. Now they’re there, the gulf in budget, ability and drawing power is very quickly and very suddenly rearing its ugly head…
This is Cesar Granado. From what few attributes you can see there, he’s got a little bit about him. He’s a reasonably versatile player, his wages are small and, because he’s only 20 and not worth £45 million, Inter were more than happy to loan him.
I wanted him in the summer. Inexpensive loan. Reasonable ability and adds something different to our squad plus (and this was the big selling point) if he plays terribly I don’t have to worry about trying to shift him on. It was the perfect move for me and for the player who is clearly looking to break into Inter’s first team. So, of course, he chose to go to France and Lens.
OK, Lens did finish 13th in Ligue 1 last season but that’s besides the point. Here’s another example. Grigoris Katsanos is a Cypriot attacking midfielder. He’s not great but he’d be an extra body in an area where we’re weak. Yet again, inexpensive loan signing and we offer high level football so, as you can see below, he went to Brescia in Serie B.
Now, you may argue that he went for first team football but I counter your argument with the fact he has played 44 minutes so far this season. Admittedly, he’s been injured but 44 minutes nonetheless.
Now you begin to understand what I’m up against here. I’ve put this pre-season off for as long as I could because I knew that this was going to hurt. Sure, I’ve been here before with Osasuna but it definitely seems like the gap between a crap Serie A team and a good Serie B team is vast. Yeah, we’ve beaten Serie A teams before in the cup but, seriously, Milan played a youth team and Palermo played Robert Snodgrass. This is serious now and they’re coming to batter us.
My ambition for this season? Don’t humiliate myself.
Shall we see what I’ve done to get to the end of the transfer window? I think yes…
We’re in the big time and can’t be having this hanger on nonsense so a lot of players who’ve simply not been any good or haven’t improved were let go. Third choice keeper Alex Cordaz announced his retirement around February and saw out the season in the stands as he transitioned to permanent coaching while a lot of the original youth teamers from the start of the save went bye bye.
The senior pros released were a mix of dross and unfulfilled potential. Salvatore Amabile looked decent but never improved to a remotely decent level while his, I assume, brother Emanuele may have made a couple of appearances for me last season but wasn’t much better. Oscar Lorefice is ready for Serie B football at 21 and that looks to be his level so I let him go for his own good. One of my first signings Adrian Cerda as a transfer dud while Levan Mchedlidze after proving to be a very average Serie B player at best. Giuseppe Caccavallo also left after playing about four games for me total although he did score that brace at the San Siro.
Lorenzo Laverone had asked to leave to play football so once the season ended, I agreed a very reasonable £250,000 deal with Latina for him. Joao Silva was next out the door, his horrendous season last year contributing to my willingness to sell him. Vitoria Guimaraes parted with £650,000 for him and he was away back to Portugal. Mattias Andersson also returned to his homeland with Malmo very keen on signing him. I agreed to a £400,000 deal for a player I wasn’t looking to sell and who has real promise. Two caveats – there’s a 25% sell on clause and, just in case, a £1 million buy back clause.
Finally, I couldn’t sell either Valerio Mantovani or Michael Kouame so they are out on loan for the season while they run down the final year of their contracts.
First in the door was Croatian centre back Niko Datkovic from Spezia on a free transfer. I was delighted with this bit of business as Datkovic has been one of the most solid centre backs in Serie B in this entire save. His last two seasons have been averaging around a 7 and, at 26, he’s entering the prime of his career.
Next in was the big signing of the summer – striker Nikos Vergos from Omonoia Nicosia in Cyprus for £1 million. He got goals in Cyprus and is a former Real Madrid loanee, so the Greek has some pedigree. He also has all the right attributes I’m looking for in my strikers so I’m hoping he’s able to weigh in with at least ten goals this season.
I needed an attacking midfielder (for tactical reasons I’ll get to) and the best I could find that was willing to join us was former RB Leipzig man Zsolt Kalmar. The Hungarian is a technical step up on some of the players we have and is fairly versatile too which is a plus. Add into that his PPM “dictates tempo” and I think I’ve found a solid little playmaker for the team.
My final NEW signing for IMMEDIATE IMPACT was a winger in the form of former Lazio man Christopher Oinko…Oink…Oikonomidis. A veteran of Italian loan spells, the Aussie has all the tools to be a really useful player out wide for us. Plus, he has that sweet, sweet EU citizenship which makes squad regulations that much easier.
Add in the fact that we’ve got Nicola Dalmonte and Shaqir Tafa on loan again and I think I’ve done OK. Just in case things do wrong though, I have got an ace up my sleeve. Arriving on a free in January is a young striker from Japan who I think could be very special indeed. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Yohei Kajiyama…
And this is the overview of all the deals…
So, while we have been fairly solid for the last 18 months playing our 5-3-2, it did leave us lacking in goals at times and we very often struggled to create chances or break stubborn sides down. That was a problem heading into the top flight so I’ve went made and decided to play 4-2-3-1 which is likely to go horribly *thumbs up emoji*.
We won some, we lost some. Who actually cares?
Very kindly, we were given a derby against Avellino in the Third Qualifying Round. I say this is kind because Avellino are crap in game and in real life. And so it showed, as we won 2-1 and were fairly comfortable in doing so with goals from Datkovic and Dalmonte sending us through to face Sampdoria in the next round.
Here we go. The opening day of the season. This is exciting. We’re at home which is great news and we’re against Sassuolo, a side that are decent but not unbeatable. I pick the team and wish them luck.
Ref blows his whistle.
Goal Sergio Leon.
OK, let’s stay cal… Datkovic concedes a penalty. 2-0 after 11 minutes.
Right, we need to sta… Defrel scores. 3-0. 13 minutes.
I go to shout to calm down. Barison concedes a penalty. Leon scores his hat trick. We’re four down in less than half an hour.
Fortunately, Shaqir Tafa comes on after this and helps us to settle down and we keep it at four but we are colossally embarrassed. If you want an indicator of how far off Serie A level we are then look no further. The Torino away day is a nightmare waiting to happen.
And so it proves to be. Gustav Olsson – back in the side after Terracciano’s dodgy league showing – injures his neck jumping and comes off as a precaution. Alessandro Bernardini joins him in the physio’s room not long after. Terracciano damages his shoulder jumping. He has to stay on now. We’re holding on just about until Alberto Grassi scores late on. I throw it on attacking and lift the tempo and the pressing to try and do anything. Mihai Balasa gets space late on and puts it into the mixer. Pettinari is there but can’t really get a good before GOAL! We’re level! It’s an own goal from Zappacosta! It’s a goal, it’s scrappy but I don’t give a s**t! We’re level right on the stroke of 90 minutes.
And so I thought that was it. Until the dying seconds. I never took it off attacking and the boys smell blood. Torino get a corner, Balasa wins the ball and Dalmonte breaks down the right. I think nothing of it as the clock winds down but he skips past a challenge and crosses to Vergos who volleys an absolute beauty off the bar and in for his first goal for the club! WE F**KING WON A GAME IN SERIE A!
I could not believe it as we had stolen that one completely but a win is a win. That also leaves us sitting 10th in the table, likely the highest you’ll ever see us sitting in this series.
And that about wraps up everything for this update. I’ll rejoin you (hopefully) at the end of January to see whether or not we really have embarrassed ourselves in Serie A or if (and it’s a big if) there might be a chance we can survive.
What do you think of the signings we’ve made? Can we stay up this season? Let me know on Twitter, in the comments or on Slack (look for #thelongballfm).