Published On: Thu, Feb 7th, 2013

Palermo Club Focus: Zamparini Pulls A…Zamparini

“I want to break a record: I won’t replace another coach this season. I have already replaced one, that is enough. Am I sure? I will take bets. If I change the coach I will give you 100 to 1 odds.”

Maurizio Zamparini on January 28th, 2013.

The kiss of death. That’s what those words must have sounded  like to Gian Piero Gasperini. A vote of confidence is unsettling to even the most hardened of managers in the world of football. When your owner is Zamparini, it must feel like quicksand dragging you down to your almost certain demise. And for Gasperini that demise (or relief depending on how you look at it) came on Monday when he was sacked after being in charge for 18 matches. Despite Zamparini’s constant backing of the Piedmont native, the volcanic president showed that old habits do in fact die hard.

While Zamparini publicly backed his manager, it should come as a surprise to no one that his patience  finally ended as he saw his club slump to another defeat on Sunday, a 2-1 home loss to modest Atalanta. I had stated that despite all the positives Gasperini had shown in terms of football displayed by the squad, he needed to produce in terms of results. That did not happen. As the tactician himself stated, “victories became draws, and draws became defeats” in the dying minutes of matches. A recipe for disaster for most managers, and especially for one looking to avoid relegation.

Palermo’s newest manager, Alberto Malesani. How long he holds that position remains to be seen, but don’t be surprised if the answer is not very long.

The timing of his sacking can be questioned (especially since the January signings were made to fit his tactics) but let’s be honest. It’s Zamparini. Sounds like a simple answer, but sadly it’s the truth. Palermo’s recent history has shown that there is little-to-no long term planning at the club. Hirings are made and they are fired just as quickly (ask Giuseppe Sannino and Giorgio Perinetti). Heck, I don’t think anybody would be surprised if we saw Gasperini back on the bench before the season ends (or even Sannino for that matter).

While Gasperini’s sacking can be justified, Zamparini decided to out-Zamparini himself as he forced Pietro Lo Monaco out of the club. Officially, Lo Monaco resigned from his position citing a personality clash with the president. In reality, Zamparini kicked him to the curb and stated that “he arrived when we were third from bottom, and he left us at the bottom of the table”. Thus, it was clearly a performance related decision.

Wrong.

The relationship had soured, most notably due to some of Lo Monaco’s transfers in January (the sale of club icon Franco Brienza sparking contentious debates amongst fans as well). The upheaval at the club was seen as too radical, even though a change from top to bottom was needed given how poor Palermo have been this season. While Zamparini has every right to do whatever he likes with his club, it’s the timing of the sacking that has left people baffled about the entire situation.

Pietro Lo Monaco and Maurizio Zamparini during happier times. Just over four months later, the relationship is already over.

As I stated, Lo Monaco reshaped the entire squad. From top to bottom. New goalkeeper, new defenders, new midfielders and new strikers. To say that Lo Monaco was the busiest director in January would be putting it lightly. And the reward for his hard work? Being forced to resign after seeing his reassembled squad lose their first match sincethe closure of the transfer window. Knee jerk does not even begin to describe Zamparini’s decision making, but given how much he loves to flex his muscles and remind everyone who is the top dog at the club, we shouldn’t be too surprised.

It had become apparent that Zamparini had ceded power to Lo Monaco after the director was hired at the end of September. Given Zamparini’s love for wielding power, he could have intervened at any time to limit Lo Monaco’s influence. Instead, he allowed the now former director to build a new Palermo during what was the most important transfer window since returning to the top flight as the Rosanero look to fight off relegation. Now Lo Monaco is out, the club is full of players he brought in and Giorgio Perinetti (remember him?) is back in as sporting director after his summer signings (Brienza, Giorgi) were shipped out. Almost too surreal to be true, but unfortunately for Rosanero fans it’s all too true. And they are the ones suffering the most as they may see their beloved club return to Serie B for the first time since 2004.

As Palermo head into this weekend’s home match against Pescara, everything has changed and paradoxically, nothing has changed. Victory is the only acceptable result. Whether it be Alberto Malesani or Gasperini, the manager behind the bench isn’t important as long as the results arrive.  A win would see the Rosanero go level on points with the Delfini, while a draw or defeat would be disastrous. Pescara have the fewest goals for and most goals against this season, making them the ideal adversary for Malesani’s first act as Palermo boss. Three points are there for the taking, but if they don’t arrive, you can’t help but think that Sannino may receive a phone call or two since he is still on the payroll, right?

Follow Adriano Boin on Twitter: @Boin44

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