Crotone are in Serie A for the first time in their history after finishing second in Serie B in 2015-16, which a remarkable achievement for a small club from southern Italy.
Hailing from a city in Calabria with around 62,500 people had been regulars in Serie B for over a decade and now they are the first Serie A representatives from that region since Reggina in 2008-09.
Raffaele Vrenna has been the Pitagorici president in two stints since 1992 and he has built a club that has risen from the Promozione to Italy’s first division in two decades.
It is remarkable that Crotone have made it to Serie A because of the large turnover in playing and coaching personnel. For instance, Gian Piero Gasperini was the coach in two spells from 2003 up to 2006, current Cesena tactician Massimo Drago coached the Squali from 2012 until 2015, and Ivan Juric left for Genoa after achieving promotion with the Calabrians last season. It is rare for coaches to last a season or two at the club.
Sporting director Peppe Ursino has usually targeted young talent over veterans and it seems that the club will persist with those methods.
Although the club is not known for producing outstanding graduates from their youth academy, they have been able to recruit starlets from the primavera squads of the best Serie A teams and bring them in on loan deals.
These youngsters earn playing time that they would struggle to get at their parent club and they usually have breakthrough campaigns with the Calabrian side. The likes of Alessandro Florenzi, Nicola Sansone, Federico Bernardeschi, and Danilo Cataldi are a few players who got the opportunity to experience senior football with Crotone.
From last season’s squad, winger Federico Ricci is back at Roma, defender Eloge Yao has returned to Inter and Ante Budimir was sold to Sampdoria. Transfer speculation has linked centre-back Gian Marco Ferrari with a move away from the Stadio Ezio Scida.
There have been some obscure signings so far this summer such as Nigerian striker Simy from Portuguese Segunda Liga club Gil Vicente, Swedish central midfielder Marcus Rohden from Elfsborg, and free agent Andrea Nalini from Salernitana. The Pitagorici have also recruited players with Serie B experience like Federico Ceccherini from Livorno and Mario Sampirisi from Vicenza.
Vrenna was keen to acquire enigmatic striker Mario Balotelli from Liverpool but it didn’t eventuate due to his high salary demands.
There aren’t many players over 30 years old at the club, with Alex Cordaz and Raffaele Palladino being part of that group, and aside from the latter, Aleksandar Tonev and Adrian Stoian are a couple of players that have had Serie A experience with Frosinone and Chievo respectively.
Crotone have replaced Juric with Davide Nicola, who has coached in Serie A previously but with little success. His Livorno side defeated Empoli in the Serie B play-offs in 2013 but he was sacked during the 2013-14 Serie A campaign and he was sacked from the Bari job in Serie B last season.
Despite the lack of Serie A experience in the squad and hiring a coach that has a mediocre record in Italy’s top flight, Crotone are sticking to their guns. There have been some clubs like Sassuolo, Carpi, and Frosinone, who have made their Serie A debut in this decade and the Calabrian side have continued the trend.
Remaining in Italy’s highest division will probably be a mammoth task for the Squali but the Calabrian team will persist with methods that have brought them success in the past and they are keen to do things their way.