Offseason Upheaval

Vazquez celebrates his goal surrounded by Rosanero coaching staff

It’s not that one expects things to change overnight, but there was hope that staying up in Serie A would create an opportunity to bring some stability back to Palermo.

Of course, with Maurizio Zamparini at the helm, hope turns into a plea for at least an ounce of realization that a club can only be successful when the organization is on the same page from the top all the way down to the players. So far, just 15 days removed from the miracle at the Barbera to stay in the top flight, Palermo already looks in danger of a season-long relegation fight in 2016-17.

A tearful Sorrentino embraces Gilardino after the Palermo match against Verona


How can that be when the transfer window hasn’t even opened? It’s a simple enough question that can be answered by the Palermo Exodus of the club’s vital players. Stefano Sorrentino, the captain, vocal leader and heart and soul of the Rosanero, announced he will be heading back to his former club, Chievo. It was a decision to allow him to be closer to his family and one that deserves to be respected for all that he has given while in Sicily. Zamparini announced on Wednesday that Palermo’s goalkeeping duties would be given to Josip Posavec – the 20 year old Croatian who arrived from Inter Zapresic in January and even made a start while Sorrentino was out due to injury. It’s a big risk dropping from Sorrentino’s veteran presence, skills and leadership to a young, foreign goalkeeper with a shaky defense in front of him. In true Zampa fashion, the Palermo patron piled on the pressure by claiming Posavec to be a revelation and just behind Milan’s prodigy Gigi Donnarumma in terms of talent.

Enzo Maresca celebrates his goal scored against Verona while Alberto Gilardino runs towards him


Several days ago, Enzo Maresca turned to Twitter to announce his departure from Sicily as well. His future beyond the Rosanero was less clear: is he retiring or is he looking for another club? It was telling that he did not mention Zamparini in his message, despite giving many others praise and gratitude for their work together over the last few years. Maresca’s role at Palermo was not as important as Sorrentino’s but he was still a clubhouse leader and confidant. For those who forgot, he was frozen out of the squad for a month after defending Beppe Iachini upon the coach’s first sacking. After being reintegrated, he made a couple of appearances before carving out a vital role in the starting XI during Palermo’s run to safety in the final four matches – playing every minute. Enzo also picked the best possible time to score his only goal in Rosanero, in the thrilling 3-2 win over Hellas Verona on the final day of the season.

Vazquez blows a kiss to the stands after scoring a goal against Verona


Naturally, the third certain exit is the club’s biggest star and where Palermo will bring in the most money with his sale: Franco Vazquez. It’s no secret that El Mudo will be elsewhere next season. The destination is still unknown, but both Vazquez and Zamparini have confirmed it will not be in Sicily. Franco’s story is one of the best in Palermo’s recent history. From being plucked out of Argentina as Javier Pastore’s heir to being discarded to the trash pile after unsuccessful loans abroad. It wasn’t until Iachini literally asked him to stay and trust him during the winter window of the Serie B season that Vazquez did a complete 180 on his career trajectory. The partnership he struck up with Paulo Dybala merely uncovered the gifts and skills Franco possessed all along. For the past two-and-a-half seasons, Vazquez has been at the center of Palermo and the club’s results often hinged on how he performed during any given match. His departure creates a large void in terms of budding or immediate talent. When Dybala was sold, there wasn’t much urgency to replace him since Vazquez was still there. With Franco’s sale, however, it is imperative that Palermo replace him with a player that can produce straightaway – there’s nobody else on the roster currently that can do that.

So, that’s that. Three departures right off the bat. But wait, there’s more! The sporting director position is also vacant at the moment after Manuel Gerolin will not be renewed. Gero-who? Exactly. Gerolin served as Palermo’s DS for the past season after being Zamparini’s adviser prior to that (since October 2014). For no real fault of his own, Gerolin’s job was entirely dependent on Zamparini’s demands. He really didn’t have much in the way of independence and the lackluster signings from the summer and winter underline that fact. Former DS Rino Foschi, currently with Cesena, was announced by Zamparini on Tuesday to take over as the Palermo DS after the eight year absence.

Foschi’s arrival would put Davide Ballardini‘s job in jeopardy, although rumors have already been swirling about the coach’s future at Palermo for a couple weeks now. The media has pointed out that Ballardini and Zamparini have not spoken or even met since the end of the season. Zamparini has responded by saying he’s never met with a coach under contract at the end of the season in his 30 years of football. Zamparini claims Ballardini is coach and there’s nothing to worry about…while also saying he admires Massimo Oddo (at Pescara) and Roberto Stellone (ex-Frosinone coach). Surely, that does a lot for Ballardini’s confidence. On top of that, Foschi had a previous, unpleasant run-in with Ballardini back in December of 2014 while the latter was the DS at Genoa. Foschi wanted to bring Ballardini on to replace the ousted Pierpaolo Bisoli. After an initial agreement, the deal fell through at last minute because Ballardini’s salary demands were not met. It left Foschi with a bitter taste in his mouth.

And that’s the state of just the very beginning of Palermo’s offseason. All signs point to more upheaval ahead. Meanwhile, the fans and certainly the players just merely want some solace and stability. At Palermo, that seems to be too much to ask for.