Hellas Verona Club Focus: Season Preview 2013/14
Serie A is where Hellas Verona’s fans feel they deserve to be and they have waited 11 years to return to the division that they were champions of in 1984-85. Excitement has swelled as nearly 16,000 season tickets have already been sold for the Gialloblu’s first season back after 10 years of pain.
They returned to the big league after they finished the 2011-12 Serie B season in second place, avoiding the potential lottery of the play-offs by just two points.
Hellas had seemed cursed. Former club president Pietro D’Emilia died following a spell in a coma after a car crash in 2008, and a Serie A side that featured future World Cup winners Massimo Oddo and Mauro Camoranesi were relegated in 2001-02.
To compound this, Hellas had to watch on while Chievo, a club who traditionally floated around the regional leagues, secured their position as an established Serie A side and qualified for Europe.
Yet now, the Mastini are back, but they will have a fight to stay in a division they have waited so long to return. It is a fight they can win.
Verona have had a shrewd mercato, bringing in a number of experienced and affordable reinforcements whilst hanging onto their most prized assets. As a World Cup winner, Luca Toni clearly has the experience to be a great mentor for the youngsters at the Bentegodi and he has still got it as a player. At the age of 36, Toni featured 27 times for Fiorentina and scored eight goals last season.
Massimo Donati has arrived from Palermo with top flight experience and should add creativity to the centre of midfield even if he has been accused of inconsistency in the past. Bulgarian Nikolya Mihaylov is an impressive signing to fill the crucial position of goalkeeper with international and Champions League experience and is in the prime of his career at 25.
Ezequiel Cirigliano has come in on loan from River Plate and offers the grit and ball-playing ability in the midfield that is vital for a smaller side looking to scrape results.
Jacopo Sala has potential at 21-years-old and whilst he may not be a guaranteed starter, the experience of playing at a smaller club may allow him to display his talents in a way he struggled to do at Chelsea and Hamburg.
Hellas have done well to keep hold of two their most valuable assets who helped them win promotion. Daniele Cacia was Serie B’s top scorer with 26 goals and will be looking to prove himself in the top flight after Fiorentina once paid €4.5 million for him, only to send him on to Lecce after just three appearances for the Viola.
Jorginho is a highly regarded 21-year-old midfielder who has drawn attention from both Merseyside clubs but says he wants to stay at the Bentegodi. The Brazilian-born Italian will hope to be a key player in Verona’s midfield. If he performs well it could be a mutually beneficial arrangement as he could keep Verona in Serie A and earn himself a move next season.
Coach Andrea Mandorlini has been at the helm for a long time by Italian standards, having joined the Gialloblu from Romanian side Cluj in 2010. Fittingly for a manager of a side as unpopular as Verona, the 53-year-old is a controversial character who once joined in with the Verona fans to sing offensive songs about southern Italians.
Verona owe him much as the coach who revitalized a side that kept failing to win promotion from Serie B. He brought in a hard-working and pragmatic tactical philosophy to the club and they hope that will be the ticket to success in a relegation dogfight.
He is a strong character who will demand much from his players as he sets them up to grind out results. He is resilient and will relish the nastiness of the survival fight and transmit the belief they can stay up to his players.
The Bentegodi will be a hostile place for opposing teams, especially the big ones. The fans are passionate and will be excited to be back after years of frustration.
Season ticket sales have been impressive and Verona will have to capitalise on the vociferous home support and ensure their efforts on the pitch make the Bentegodi an unpleasant place for the visitors.
They have a tough start to the season, facing AC Milan and Roma in their first two but Verona will be up for the challenge. It is crucial that Hellas maintain the enthusiasm of a newly promoted side and a ‘never give up’ attitude if they are to overcome the challenges of being in the top division.
The club have had a decent pre-season, most notably with a win against Dutch Europa League representatives Feyenoord. The Gialloblu have not been flash in pre-season nor have they been hammered.
They have been competitive and they will hope this form carries on into Serie A. They got a good result in the Coppa Italia after they beat Palermo 1-0 with Toni scoring the winner.
The signs are that Verona will manage to stay up relatively comfortably. They have had a good mercato and brought in some experienced players who should have an immediate impact. Of the three promoted sides, Verona appear to have strengthened the most.
Hellas have kept hold of their best players and added to the squad and created a balance of youth and experience. Given the reputation of the fans and with Mandorlini on the bench, Verona can create a real us versus them spirit that could be responsible for the Mastini sneaking a few upsets against the big teams.
The tifosi will expect their team to make a real impact on Serie A. Verona have enough firepower to make they sure they do not whimper out of the division.