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“I don’t want to embarrass anybody anymore, my decision is to end my experience here in Palermo”.
I used to divide Palermo’s recent history into two parts: the Corini Era and the Miccoli & Migliaccio Era. The quote above definitively closed the first era, the era of the great Palermo: a team that conquered Serie A and gained its first UEFA appearance, a team that dreamt of the Scudetto in the first half of 2006/07 season, a team whose soul was Eugenio Corini, the captain.
Corini arrived in Palermo in the summer of 2003, coming from Chievo Verona. In Verona, Eugenio had made history, conquering Serie A for the first time, and had shocked the world while battling with AC Milan for a Champions League spot. Corini, who was 33 that summer, decided to start a new experience in Serie B, instead of playing his remaining years in Verona, without pressure and without ambitions. With Corini and Palermo it was love at first sight, the supporters worshipped him from the very first day he arrived and the team recognized him as the natural leader. That team dominated Serie B that season and Corini scored 12 goals despite being a midfielder. With Corini, the team was a tank, an insurmountable and invincible opponent. So one could imagine the fear of an entire town when just in time for Palermo-Triestina, the match that brought us to Serie A, Corini was injured. Another Rosanero idol, Daniele Di Donato, replaced him in the best way, and things went well.
After that match, the players celebrated on the pitch, and it was funny to see Corini there, running and jumping like a child. People thought for a second: “Hey, wasn’t he injured?”, but then the thought quickly passed and everyone started celebrating too.
Corini had something different from the other players. He was always polite, respectful, both on and off the pitch and he was never a snob, especially towards the fans. Before playing the last match of 2003/04 season, he went to Curva Nord with the Ultras, something you wouldn’t expect from most of the players nowadays.
In Serie A, Corini became the captain of the team, leading once again a tremendous newcomer to the elite of Italian football. Despite playing a wonderful season, Corini didn’t score a single goal, missing three penalties. After missing his third penalty against Udinese, Corini showed great unselfishness leaving the task of penalty taking to Luca Toni, giving the Palermo striker a chance to battle for the top scorer chart.
Il Capitano found the net again in 2005/06 season, scoring a stunning free kick against Inter in the Rosanero home debut, and began taking the penalties again after Toni’s departure. Unfortunately, that season didn’t give Palermo supporters a lot of satisfaction and, despite a good start, the Rosanero ended up in 8th place. In the UEFA Cup, things turned out a little better as Palermo reached the Round of 16, but were then eliminated by Schalke 04. Palermo won the home match 1-0, but in Germany, while the result was at 0-0, Corini was ejected after touching the ball on the goal line with his arm. Schalke won 3-0 and Palermo ended its European adventure without its captain.
Palermo obtained an unexpected UEFA spot after the Calciopoli scandal and the town started dreaming of Champions League thanks to a Juventus relegation to Serie B. The Rosanero had a great start, eliminating West Ham from the UEFA Cup and battling with Inter and Roma for 1st place, spurred on by Amauri’s goals. But when Amauri got injured, Palermo risked a harsh tumble from the top spot and even risked missing out on the last UEFA spot. Corini, once again, helped the team avoid a total collapse, and at the end of the season he led the team in scoring with 10 goals.
That season left a lot of delusion with the team. It seemed like it was the only chance to reach a Champions League spot. Palermo admired a champion like Amauri but was frightened because of his injury, and something even worse was going to happen.
“I don’t want to embarrass anybody anymore”, here we are again. Corini’s contract expired in the summer of 2007 and a new contract was ready for him, but he was 37 and his family lived far away from Palermo. He needed time, he needed to understand if he could stay in Palermo for another year, without his wife and without his children, or if it would be better to play near home. Zamparini didn’t give him time, he offered him a good contract and he was convinced Corini would sign immediately.
Corini didn’t sign that contract, he decided to avoid exploitations and accepted Torino’s offer.
Palermo-Torino, the 3rd match of the 2007/08 season, was a strange match. All Torino players were booed everytime they had the ball, but when the ball went to Corini, there was only silence. Nobody wanted to boo the former captain, maybe somebody was tempted to cheer for him. Regardless, one thing was certain: nobody wanted to see him with another jersey.