Palermo continue to prepare for the upcoming 2015-16 Serie A season under the watchful eye of Beppe Iachini.
The Rosanero are in phase two of preseason training, moving from their annual digs in Bad Kleinkerchheim, Austria to the mountainous commune of Temù in Brescia, Italy. There are plenty of new faces replacing those already departed – with more to arrive and leave before the summer ends.
Starting from the back, Palermo can still count on Stefano Sorrentino between the sticks. The backups, however, will be brand new as Simone Colombi joins on loan from Cagliari to replace Samir Ujkani. The man affectionately referred to as “Ziu Bubu” joined Genoa earlier this week on a free transfer. Third string keeper Andrea Fulignati will get playing time and experience with his move on loan to Trapani and Palermo Primavera’s own Fabrizio Alastra will most likely take over the final goalkeeper spot.
The defense is still missing at least one key signing to pair alongside stalwarts Giancarlo “Pipo” Gonzalez and Roberto Vitiello. The club brought back several players who were out on loan. Slovenian man Aljaz Struna spent the past season with a wildly successful promotion-winning Carpi side and brings with him versatility in nearly every defensive role with the option of playing in the midfield if need be. The unknown Julian Velazquez is also back after spending half a season with Romanian side Gaz Metas Medias out of necessity. Palermo purchased him last winter but had to circumvent the rules since he was a non-EU player and the Rosanero had no spots available for him. Not much has been said of him so far this preseason. Edoardo Goldaniga was co-owned by Juventus and Palermo but is now fully owned by the Rosanero, in part due to the Dybala deal. The young Italian is coming off a good year with Perugia and could be a pleasant surprise going forward. Claudio Terzi and Milan Milanovic are all but certain to leave the club this summer although the former has a better chance than the latter at sticking around. Danilo Ortiz was brought in last January but never even saw any playing time. He wasn’t bitter about that fact in a very graceful interview after leaving the club this offseason and he’s returned back to Paraguayan side Cerro Porteno. Sinisa Andelkovic has proven a capable backup and should remain in that role for 2015-16.
Sadly, Emerson Palmieri returned to Santos earlier this week due to failed negotiations over the renewal of his loan deal. The Brasilian club insisted on putting a buy-back clause into the loan that the Sicilians did not want to agree to. It’s an unfortunate loss as the young wingback showed enough promise to warrant his renewal despite a limited amount of appearances last term due to various injuries. Achraf Lazaar will reprise his role as the starter at LWB and has tremendous opportunities for growth. If the Moroccan is able to improve defensively, he could become a very good commodity. Fabio Daprela’ is now likely to stay with the club as Lazaar’s backup but also his ability to play in the back three – a place Iachini has used him on numerous occasions this preseason. On the right side of the pitch, Andrea Rispoli is now fully owned by Palermo after Parma’s bankruptcy. He’ll man the flank until Michel Morganella returns from his rehabilitation efforts. He’s been in talks with the club over a renewal but there’s a slight possibility it could fall through, meaning Palermo would need to find a replacement.
The midfield is full of talent and potential and easily Palermo’s biggest area of strength. The club lost captain Edgar Barreto to Sampdoria but can still count on the brilliant Luca Rigoni and last year’s surprise Ivaylo Chochev as well as the promising Robin Quaison. The veteran Enzo Maresca has an unclear future and could depart. If that happens, the Rosanero will miss his veteran leadership. The club got younger with loads of potential though, by snapping up Pescara playmaker Gaston Brugman and PSV’s Oscar Hiljemark coming fresh off of winning the Euro U-21 Championship with Sweden. Quaison was instrumental in convincing his national teammate to join the Sicilians and Hiljemark’s agent called him a midfielder in the mold of Claudio Marchisio. Oscar has already been dubbed “the Golden Boy” and big things will be expected of him this term. Another unheralded (because it’s probably been forgotten) signing in the midfield was Ahmed Benali. Palermo scooped up the ex-Man City youth product after spending the last three season with Brescia. He was outstanding for the Rondinelle in Serie B last season, appearing in 35 games and scoring 9 goals. He adds to the impressive depth in the Rosanero midfield. Beyond those names, the club still has Mato Jajalo and Francesco Bolzoni on the books – although the latter could easily be on his way out depending on how the rehabilitation from his Achilles rupture goes. Nicolas Viola is back with club but it is all but certain it’s only temporary. Finally, Francesco Della Rocca will most likely be looking for another destination unless something unforeseen occurs.
The attack has the most question marks around it. The departure of Paulo Dybala to Juventus leaves a huge void to fill. Other departures include the giant Simon Makienok who was sent on loan to Championship side Charlton and the unfortunate Joao Silva who doesn’t have a team yet but wasn’t called up to preseason training. The primary responsibility up top now falls to the capable shoulders of Italian international Franco Vazquez. He’ll be a fixture in Iachini’s attack although his main partner is yet to be determined. First up is naturally Andrea Belotti. The Italian U-21 was the only Palermo player to appear in all 38 matches for the club last season, although the overwhelming majority of them were in a substitute role. Belotti’s name has been accosted to a ton of transfer rumors as many Serie A sides are looking to sign him despite the continual confirmations from Iachini and Zamparini of his permanence in Rosanero. It would be a mistake to sell him without letting him develop further. Palermo made several signings to help round out the attack with at least one more to join before all is said and done. Macedonian international (and captain) Aleksandar Trajkovski arrives from Belgium’s Zulte Waregem. He has received plenty of praise this preseason but also some constructive criticism from Iachini as he continues to learn what the coach wants from him. The club made a marquee signing when they acquired 19 year old Brasilian Matheus Cassini from Corinthians. The striker is reminiscent of the Paulo Dybala purchase, especially when you see how incredibly young he looks and realize that Cassini had never featured for the senior team at Corinthians, merely showing bundles of raw talent with the youth team. At least Dybala had a handful of appearances at the senior level for Instituto. Much will be expected of Cassini but it has to be emphasized that there will need to be a lot of development necessary before he becomes a regular in the Rosanero lineup. It doesn’t sound fun but Cassini will almost assuredly need a year before he’s truly ready for Serie A (go back and look at Dybala’s development and it’s a good plan to follow). Finally, Accursio Bentivegna is taking part in preseason training after seeing several appearances with the senior side late last season. The Palermo born-and-bred youth product is a tantalizing talent and was named as one of ten youngsters to join Team Messi. It would be great to give the picciotto a chance, but it seems likely that he will be sent on loan to get consistent playing time for the upcoming season. It’s rather unfortunate because if he wasn’t an Italian and a product of the club’s youth team, but some foreign kid, he’d probably have so much hype surrounding him that it’d be a no-brainer but to give him numerous chances at sticking in Sicily.
Nevertheless, it’s great to be nearing another season of Palermo Calcio in Serie A. The club continues to train and take shape and the Rosanero’s strongest sticking point is how close-knit the group appears to be. With each passing day, Iachini’s Palermo will be more ready to compete when opening day arrives.