The year was 2004. If you would have asked a Rosanero supporter a question about Carlo Radice, surely nobody would have been able to answer. Then Luca Toni scored 30 goals in a single season, and Carlo’s name became more recurring, because Toni surpassed his record for most goals in one season.
Eight years later, Radice became a trending topic once again in Palermo. Eight years later, a Rosanero player surpassed another record set by Carlo Radice – one that is perhaps even more prestigious than Toni’s single season goalscoring tally. That player, today, is the best scorer in Palermo history. He is the captain, the number 10, one of the best players to have ever played in the Rosanero jersey.
Generally, I used to focus on players who aren’t playing anymore in Palermo, just to give to the readers some historical background surrounding this team. But I have to make an exception for him, because he made history just few weeks ago. Ladies and gentlemen, Fabrizio Miccoli.
Miccoli arrived in Palermo in the summer of 2007. The fans were still in shock because of the terrible ending to the previous season. After having dreamed of a Champions League berth, Palermo had a free-fall and ended in 5th place. Yet, the new stunning duo of Amauri and Miccoli made the town dream again. Their start was good, the duo scored three goals in the 4-3 victory against Livorno, but Palermo would surprisingly be eliminated in the UEFA Cup by Mlada Boleslav. The team, still upset by the previous season’s downfall, would never be able to battle for a UEFA seed. Miccoli, despite some injuries, scored eight goals, one of them being a beautiful free kick to beat Catania.
The following year Palermo trimmed down its ambitions, selling the stars and counting on youngsters. Miccoli risked to end his story with the Rosanero. Zamparini didn’t want to sell him, but Colantuono dropped hints that the #10 could have less space. Fortunately, Colantuono was sacked after only one match, and with Ballardini in his place, Miccoli became the pillar of the team. The first match of Ballardini’s era ends with a 3-1 win against Roma, Miccoli scored two goals and Colantuono became a distant memory. During this season, Miccoli surpassed his personal record for goals in a single season, scoring 14, while leading Palermo as top scorer, along with Cavani. Sadly, Palermo couldn’t get past Roma and missed the Europa League spot in the last matches of the season.
2009 started in style, thanks to the flamboyant remarks made by Coach Walter Zenga: “I want to win the Scudetto.” Half of Italy couldn’t stop laughing and even Miccoli joked about it too: “Scudetto? Yes, maybe with Saint Pio in the goal and Jesus as a striker.” Zenga’s team didn’t prove to be a top team at all and he quickly lost his job. In the second half of the season, with Delio Rossi on the bench, Palermo came close to an historical Champions League spot, barely missed out on again after a 1-1 draw against Sampdoria in a head to head match. Miccoli ended the season with 19 goals, 13 of them scored during the second half of the season, but Italy Coach Marcello Lippi wouldn’t consider him for the World Cup, and was able to bypass the question because of a knee injury that kept Miccoli out all summer long.
That summer Palermo, hoping for another big season with Miccoli and Pastore, was frightened because of an extraordinary offer from English side Birmingham for the Rosanero captain. After several weeks, Miccoli officially refused the offer, but as always, when Palermo had to step up without him, the team lost its bearings. In the Europa League, the Rosanero eliminated Maribor but not without trouble. In the group stage, Palermo had a decent chance to advance with CSKA Moscow, Sparta Prague and Lausanne as opponents, but the team would sputter to a 3rd place finish and crash out of the competition. A lot of ups and downs during the Serie A season eventually led to Delio Rossi’s dismissal. Rossi would be recalled a month later but Miccoli, never being completely fit, can’t get on as he did in the past years. Palermo gave its best in the Coppa Italia, reaching the final, but Rossi preferred Iličić instead of Miccoli, and Palermo lost the third Coppa Italia final in its history.
Another cycle ended for Palermo, and just like three years before, Zamparini decided to sell his stars. Despite rumors surrounding their possible sales, Migliaccio, Balzaretti and Miccoli remained in Palermo. It seemed that Miccoli was destined to leave the Rosanero after some misunderstandings from the previous year, but ultimately, Fabrizio stayed for the love of the shirt. The captain started his season scoring a goal against FC Thun in the dying minutes of a Europa League qualifier, but that goal proved to be not enough for the Rosanero to pass the turn. Coach Stefano Pioli was sacked before the start of the new Serie A season and was replaced with new Primavera Coach Devis Mangia. Initially, Mangia put his trust in the captain, but eventually he exiled him to the bench. Mangia’s team was a two-faced one: unbeatable at home, winless away. In the end, a home loss was enough for Zamparini to decide to sack Mangia too. Palermo fans took the sacking poorly and things did not start out well with new Coach Bortolo Mutti: A 2-2 draw against Novara after a 2-0 lead, a home loss against Napoli, and another loss in Verona against Chievo. Palermo began to seriously worry about relegation to Serie B. Mutti’s cure still hadn’t had an effect on the team, and most of all, it hadn’t had an effect on one player in particular.
Let’s come back to Carlo Radice. If you would have told a Rosanero supporter on January 17th after the defeat to Chievo, “In the next two weeks Miccoli will break Radice’s record,” you would have been considered mad. The cards were heavily stacked against you: A player out of shape, a team falling down, and a coach who was relegated in his past two seasons. With these assumptions, Radice’s record was the last thing to think about.
Then Palermo plays against Genova, and Miccoli scores (and he’s not the only one…).
In Milan, against Inter, everybody was waiting for the thrashing, but Miccoli scored a hat trick and the match ended 4-4. With that hat trick, Miccoli broke Radice’s record and officially made history, becoming the best scorer ever in the Rosanero jersey. With that hat trick Miccoli gave joy to a depressed town, and supporters started to believe again after having feared of relegation to Serie B.
Since breaking Radice’s record, Fabrizio Miccoli has shown no signs of slowing down. His blistering form has continued since the Inter and Genoa matches. In fact, since the start of 2012, Fabrizio Miccoli has registered seven goals and eight assists – almost single-handedly spurring his team on and winning matches. The joy is back in Palermo and they have one man to thank for it.
Palermo has fallen in love again with Fabrizio Miccoli. And Fabrizio Miccoli returns this love with goals and spectacle.