The summer transfer window is closed and the team’s roster is now complete. There were a lot of questions marks surrounding the team, staff and even ownership group. But, if there were any doubts before, it is now emphatically clear: Palermo is all-in for Serie A.
Since City Group took over the club a little over a year ago, they have invested nearly 40 million euro into Palermo. The majority of that can be attributed to player signings and wages, but they also put five million euro to help fund the new sports center / training ground in Torretta that finished last month. It’s a significant sum of money for a club that literally had to start over from scratch just four years ago.
We covered the majority of the transfers that took place over the summer and the expectation around the team heading into the Serie B campaign. Yet, the work of sporting director Leandro Rinaudo and City Group advisor Riccardo Bigon wasn’t quite complete. In fact, Palermo made five more signings in the final two weeks of the window – four of whom should have significant impacts on this season.
Realizing the shortage of options at fullback, Palermo brought in an interesting left back in Kristoffer Lund from Swedish champions Hacken. The Sicilians beat out a number of Serie A clubs and Galatasaray to sign him and spent an important amount to acquire him (around 2.5 million euro). The 21 year old Danish defender immediately slotted into the starting lineup upon his arrival for Palermo’s second match against Reggiana. He showed a lot of the promise and skill that led to him being a target – strong defensive ability, a high work rate, and the ability to contribute offensively (6 assists in 25 matches last year). He nearly scored on his debut as his volley from a corner kick forced a save out of the Reggiana keeper which allowed Fabio Lucioni to score on the rebound. Lund also made headlines last week when it was announced that he was called up by the United States National Team. His mother is American and he put in a request to switch from Denmark to the USA. While he’s a natural left back, he is able to play at right back or even in the middle if need be.
Working under the radar, Palermo nabbed a Serie A midfielder to bolster the position, especially after they granted the wishes of Dario Saric who left Sicily for Turkish outfit Antalyaspor. Liam Henderson arrived on loan from Empoli with an option to buy – which becomes mandatory should Palermo earn promotion. While he’s Scottish and played for Celtic for three years, the 27 year old has spent the last five plus years in Italy (playing for Bari, Verona, Lecce, and Empoli). Henderson was a starter for Empoli in Serie A for the majority of the last two years, having appeared in 63 matches during that span. He is also no stranger to Serie B either, as he nearly has 100 matches played in Italy’s second division. He is a complete midfielder and one with the personality and grinta to give some bite to the Rosanero lineup. Like Lund, Henderson immediately found his way onto the pitch. He made his debut against Reggiana and played the final 18 minutes and then started against Feralpisalo’ where he was a terror for the 60-ish minutes he was on the pitch, which included an assist.
Palermo double-dipped once again in midfield as they sent out Samuele Damiani on a strict loan deal to Juventus Next Gen in Serie C and had to find a replacement. Palermo struck a deal for Salernitana’s Mamadou Coulibaly on another loan deal with an option to buy. The 24 year old is a six foot pitbull who already has over 100 appearances in Serie B. He spent last year with Ternana where he was a steady presence. He has shown plenty of potential over the last couple of years but still needs to find the consistency that will take him to the next level. The Rosanero are betting on the Senegalese midfielder since the physical tools are there – they just all need to come together.
Rounding out the attack, Palermo decided to bring in another Serie A winger in Lecce’s Federico Di Francesco (son of Frosinone coach Eusebio Di Francesco). The left winger is yet another quality addition to a side that also brought in Roberto Insigne at the beginning of the window. Similar to Henderson, Di Francesco has spent the last two seasons in Serie A and has 158 appearances in the top flight. He is fast and he is tireless. The 29 year old shouldn’t be relied on as a goalscoring threat per se, but naturally he scored on his debut against Feralpisalo’ within a couple of minutes of being subbed on!
Palermo still had one eye on the future. On the final day of the window, they signed 21 year old Polish defender Patryk Peda from SPAL. However, the Rosanero chose to let him stay with SPAL in Serie C for the season to earn playing time. Peda is a tall central defender (6’3 / 1,92m) who had 21 appearances for SPAL in Serie B last season. There’s no pressure or expectations for him this year, so the Sicilians will monitor his progress and hope he takes positive steps in his young career.
Palermo are now three matches into their season. The first match was incredibly frustrating. Playing away to Bari, the Rosanero had a two man advantage for a large stretch of the match but were never able to find the winning goal. There was a missed penalty, a goal annulled for offside and plenty of chances gone wasted. While it was a draw, it felt like a defeat and the Palermo public were hoping it wouldn’t be a sign of things to come.
Fortunately, the Sicilians righted the ship over their next two matches with a win away to Reggiana (3-1) and a thumping of Feralpisalo’ last match (3-0). They now have seven points from three matches with a game in hand. Eugenio Corini had all his requests over the summer granted – he wanted a roster that essentially had 22 starters on it. The idea was to have a pair of players at each role who could be used interchangeably in the starting lineup or off the bench without missing a beat. And he was basically given just that. Now the ball is in the court of the coach and his players. City Group and the sporting director have done an outstanding job this summer, it’s the team’s turn to do theirs this season.