The city of Parma is known for its history, architecture, music and especially its Prosciutto ham; but when it comes to the Serie A survival of its football club, it becomes very much a case of when pigs fly.
The latest of nails — and likely the final one — to Parma’s coffin came in the form of Antonio Cassano rescinding his contract with the club on Monday. The club’s official website released a statement reading that “Parma have today reached a mutual agreement with Antonio Cassano to cancel his playing contract.”
The news comes after Parma’s Sunday loss to fellow relegation candidate Cesena. Parma lost 2–1 at home in the dying minutes of the game, keeping them rooted to the bottom of the table.
Effectively, Sunday’s game against 19th-placed Cesena was Parma’s most important game of the season. Therefore it was all the more bewildering to see Cassano start on the bench. With his team trailing 1–0 at half-time however, coach Roberto Donadoni quickly hustled the Parma ace back onto the field as the second half resumed. It wasn’t enough however.
Cassano claims that the termination of his contract was not completely faultless however. Reports in Italy have it that Cassano had written to the new club hierarchy demanding six months worth of unpaid wages. Of course this was not the first instance of administration problems the club has had this season.
Parma were the darling story of last season and their giant killing exploits rewarded them with a sixth-place finish in Serie A, thus earning them a Europa League berth. However, an unpaid tax bill led to UEFA revoking their European license.
Parma’s absence from Europe exacerbated growing financial problems at the club and prompted former president Tomasso Ghirardi to sell. Since December Parma have been owned by a Cypriot-Albanian consortium, of which the Albanian owner has been accused of tax evasion.
Cassano leaving looks an awful lot like — without meaning to judge the Italian— rats leaving a sinking ship. Of course it will be the man captaining the whole operation, Donadoni in this case, who will be left to absorb the full brunt of the 32-year-old’s departure.
Indeed, Cassano was Parma’s best player and the difference he brings was apparent as soon as he stepped onto the pitch against Cesena.
Donadoni, abandoned by an administration that could not get its house in order, now finds himself abandoned by club’s only saving grace. In fact, it was Cassano himself who went and faced the Ultra’s ire following their defeat to Cesena, in an attempt to calm the atmosphere.
Parma director Pietro Leonardi has already cracked under the pressure, having been hospitalized on Monday due to stress.
Parma are in a real bona fide crisis, with Cassano’s departure now creating the perfect storm. With so many fuses blowing, the only one left is the coach, who himself has been on an ejector seat all season since only managing three wins and counting 16 losses in Serie A.
With Parma having come under new ownership, Donadoni’s fate was always precarious. With Cassano departing, Donadoni’s fate now seems all but sealed. With Parma last in Serie A and 10 points from safety, Donadoni’s position as coach becomes untenable.
The only question that remains: whether Parma can escape the administration quagmire they are in to survive the drop to Serie B?
Follow Ogo Sylla on Twitter at: @RossonerOgo_3