The transfer market officially kicks off in a week and a half and Palermo are already working on their go-to-market strategy.
In the midst of a potential sale of the club and with no sporting director officially named (Rino Foschi should be announced on June 30th when his contract expires at Cesena), Palermo have a lot of moving parts yet to be sorted. The silly season is always a strenuous and ridiculous time with wild rumors, abhorrent demands and never-ending deals; but, this offseason is critical for the Rosanero to get back to the basics of building a squad with a solid foundation to move forward.
Last season’s great escape revealed the many mistakes made organizationally. The coaching changes were the underlying factor but were supported by risky moves outbound (see: Andrea Belotti) and head-scratching moves inbound (see: Uros Djurdjevic, the return of Accursio Bentivegna to waste away on the bench, etc.). The point is Palermo cannot afford to operate in the same manner heading into the 2016-17 Serie A season.
Afford is a key word in this situation. Palermo’s financial situation and the way Zamparini runs the club means the Rosanero function by balancing the books each year and minimizing debt whenever and wherever possible. In order to balance the books, prized assets are typically sold off at premium value. Money generated from these sales goes towards all the costs of running a club as well as the purchase of other players to fill in the holes found with the squad. Many examples in the past have cemented this strategy: Amauri, Edinson Cavani, Javier Pastore, Abel Hernandez, Paulo Dybala. See where this is going?
Palermo’s entire transfer strategy relies on the sale of Franco Vazquez first and foremost. The Sicilian side’s relegation to Serie B several years ago had an effect on the club’s coffers that are still felt today. Keeping the wage bill low and selling off valuable assets allow Palermo to avoid pitfalls that have befallen numerous Serie A clubs in the past (Fiorentina, Siena, Parma, soon-to-be Sampdoria). Zamparini is hoping to pull in 25 million euro for El Mudo in order to fund the purchases needed this offseason. Yet, the Sicilian star isn’t the only asset that could be sold off to raise money. Achraf Lazaar is all but certain to be sent elsewhere and there’s even talk that Pipo Gonzalez will be sent packing too.
Outright sales isn’t the only way to save money. Zamparini would also like to lower the wage bill. In 2013, Palermo had a wage bill that topped out at 36.7 million euro. A season removed from Serie B saw the bill decrease to 32.6 million euro followed by an uptick to 39.6 million in 2014. Last season, Palermo ranked 12th in Serie A with a wage bill of just 24 million (tied with Torino). Heading into this season, Zamparini wants Foschi to keep the wage bill low and possibly even lower it even more. How does that happen? By letting go of the high earners. Stefano Sorrentino is already gone and on his way back to Chievo Verona – he earned the most money last year at a cool million. Enzo Maresca also left and with it his 550k euro wages. Now, there’s talk that even Alberto Gilardino (nearly one million euro in wages) could be sacrificed for a cheaper veteran alternative like Marco Boriello.
With all the sales and cost savings, what kind of arrivals are even likely? Foschi will be on the lookout for low cost moves across the board. Palermo’s transfer market strategy will be built on top performers in Serie B, possible integration of Rosanero youth players and prospective but solid Italian players. The official arrival of Carlos Embalo already highlights this direction. Other names linked to Palermo also prove this effort. Foschi will attempt to bring the versatile 26 year old Italian winger Camillo Ciano with him from Cesena. Ciano had an excellent season with the Cavalluccio Marino in Serie B with 11 goals and nine assists to his name. Another young Italian could make his way to the Rosanero via Livorno in Federico Ceccherini. The 24 year old center back was one of the few bright spots during a season that ended with the Amaranto relegated to Lega Pro. Being a young Italian who can still improve is definitely a positive and Livorno’s president has said the Sicilians have an easier path to the player due to the two clubs positive relationship betwixt them.
Of course, Palermo are targeting veterans as well. Atalanta’s Luca Cigarini is linked to the Rosanero for what seems like the 28th consecutive transfer window – but the regista is a Ballardini favorite. Should he be unattainable, Foschi is keen on Panagiotis Tachtsidis of Genoa or even a lesser known like Matteo Scozzarella from Trapani. The Rosanero could also bring in 31 year old Italian veteran Luca Rossettini from Bologna as a Pipo Gonzalez replacement.
Nothing is official until July 1st arrives. Nevertheless, the transfer market strategy is clear: low cost with an across-the-board focus on team-building through youngsters, in-house talent and acclimated veterans for the rigors of Serie A. Will Palermo be able to enact this strategy? The answers are right around the corner.