The time has arrived. On Saturday, Palermo will be breaking Bad – Bad Kleinkirchheim, Austria that is. The second and final phase of the preseason is set to begin at the annual hotel resort cast splendidly against the backdrop of the Alps. During this last warm-up till the season gets underway, the club will be expected to round out its roster as well as reach full game fitness levels.
While Palermo approach the last part of their preseason, Gattuso has been content with what he’s seen so far. There have been a handful of friendlies, with the most important test occurring last week against Hertha Berlin, a newly-promoted Bundesliga side. During that match, Palermo jumped out to a 1-0 lead thanks to a 25 meter golazo from Paulo Dybala. The Argentine has been deployed as a trequartista in Gattuso’s 4-2-3-1 formation, a switch that Paulo prefers and feels comfortable in since remarking that he played in such a role for most of his life. The Rosanero completely bossed Hertha around in the first half and were unlucky not to go up by another goal or two. In the second half, the differing levels of preparation was evident as Palermo really only had 60 minutes in their legs. Two goals, one on a deflection and another on an awful defensive mistake, gave Hertha the win. Yet, friendlies aren’t about the results; rather, it’s an opportunity to put methods into practice – something that the Rosanero appeared to have done.
Naturally, the team is taking shape but there are still holes left to be filled. Gattuso wants a finished squad as soon as possible and he’s relayed that information to Zamparini and Perinetti. One of the biggest areas to fill is the role of left back given Santiago Garcia‘s holdout. The refusal to show up for training has put the club in a tough place since they were counting on his services in Serie B. Zamparini did give a strong stance regarding the matter a week ago but has since then seemingly softened saying, “I think at the end he’ll go play for some foreign club and we’ll take someone else.” It’s disappointing that Zamparini isn’t keeping his word to prevent Garcia from going elsewhere and honoring his contract, but Palermo needs to find a replacement very quickly. Possible replacements for Garcia are Luigi Vitale, owned by Napoli, Cristiano Del Grosso of Atalanta, and Fabio Daprelà of Brescia. Palermo are also looking for another midfield player, one that can cover multiple roles. This is in addition to the arrival of Granddi N’Goyi who has joined his teammates in Austria.
Uncertainty still abounds in the back. Stefano Sorrentino still may or may not be on his way out. It certainly feels like the player wants a move to a Serie A side. According to Zamparini, Sorrentino is “indifferent” and “only those who have desire must stay”. Yet, Perinetti and team mouthpiece Guglielmo Miccichè have both recently stated that Sorrentino will remain in Rosanero. Add in the fact that despite rumored interest from Fiorentina, Sorrentino’s agent has said there hasn’t been any contact with the Viola and perhaps he could stay. Furthermore, previous possible destinations of Roma and Napoli have both made goalkeeper signings of Morgan De Sanctis and Pepe Reina respectively. There have been strong rumblings that still have Sorrentino leaving while shockingly Emiliano Viviano would willingly stay and start for Palermo in Serie B. Such an unexpected turn of events would give Viviano a chance to re-establish himself as a national team quality keeper while giving the Rosanero a solid defender between the sticks. And then there’s Samir Ujkani who has drawn interest from Lazio. Zamparini strangely commented that the club was committed to the young keeper and affirmed full confidence behind the Albanian. Let’s not forget that Ujkani won Serie A promotion with Novara several years back. Sadly, Francesco Benussi rescinded his contract by mutual agreement and joined Udinese earlier this week. Benussi expressed a willingness to stay in Serie B and a hope to fight for a spot, but ultimately the club decided to focus elsewhere. He was a good reserve for several years and we can only wish him the best.
As the club rounds out the preseason, the Serie B schedule will be revealed on August 1. The announcement will take place in the city of Palermo of all places, perhaps in a tribute to the “biggest” club in the league. Only 10 days later, Palermo will play in their first official match of the 2013-14 season, in the TIM Cup (Coppa Italia) against the winner of Cremonese and Viareggio. From that day on, Palermo will embark on the 42 match journey back to Serie A.
The road back to Serie A will be long. Regardless of the quality of the opponents and the supposed superiority of Palermo, it will not be easy. As such, squad unity will be a major factor. It’s been mentioned before but it truly seems that this squad, free of the old guard, has formed a close-knit bond with each other. Leaders will emerge and roles will be established, but if each player is on the same page, it’ll make Gattuso’s job easier. Given Zamparini’s impunity to patience, Gattuso will need all the help he can get. In order to get all his players on the same page, the media asked the Palermo coach how he communicates with them. His response? “I don’t talk a lot with my players; I speak with my eyes.” Legendary.