Italian football has witnessed its share of colourful characters, especially erratic club presidents, but Monday marked an end of an era as the Rosanero president resigned from his post.
Volatile. Volcanic. Eccentric. Controversial. You can read through your dictionary or thesaurus to find other words to describe Maurizio Zamparini, but the first four mentioned aptly suit the outgoing Palermo president, who resigned on Monday.
For almost 15 years he has been the Rosanero patron and while his reign has been marked with instability, it certainly has not been boring.
Sacking coaches at an alarming rate was a common trait of Zamparini’s and developed a reputation for being arguably the most famous mangiallenatori (coach-eater) of them all by making close to 40 coaching changes during his presidency.
Aside from lacking patience with his coaches, the 75-year-old had a phenomenal eye for identifying young talent or unknown players and then selling them for huge profits. Players such as Javier Pastore, Edinson Cavani, Paulo Dybala, and Franco Vazquez made their breakthroughs in Sicily before transferring to bigger clubs.
It was in 2002 that he bought Palermo after having been president of Venezia for 16 years. After acquiring the Sicilian club, he transferred 12 players from his former team.
Zamparini started with a bang in the first season of his Palermo presidency, sacking coach Ezio Glerean after just one round into the 2002-03 Serie B campaign. For good measure, he changed coach again later in that season.
Palermo won Serie B in 2003-04 and earned promotion to Serie A along with fellow Sicilians Messina. It wasn’t smooth sailing though as Silvio Baldini was sacked after 24 league matches despite being in third place but his successor Francesco Guidolin was able to take them to the top.
Guidolin lead the Rosanero to sixth place in Serie A the following campaign with a squad that featured the likes of Cristian Zaccardo, Andrea Barzagli, Fabio Grosso, Simone Barone, and Luca Toni. The aforementioned players were also a part of Italy’s squad at the 2006 World Cup, which went on to win the tournament.
Most of those players were eventually sold by Zamparini but he acquired Brazilian striker Amauri from Chievo in the summer of 2006. With the future Italian international leading the attack, the Sicilians were battling with Inter for the Scudetto but a serious knee injury ruined his campaign and the Rosanero dropped down to fifth place.
Qualification for Europe was achieved once again in 2009-10 when Palermo finished fifth, thus qualifying for the Europa League again but they missed out on the Champions League play-offs by two points.
The coach responsible for that achievement was Delio Rossi, who also took the Rosanero to the 2011 Coppa Italia Final in which they were defeated by Inter. Midway through the 2010-11 Serie A season, Zamparini sacked Rossi after the Sicilians were humiliated 7-0 at home by Udinese but he reinstated the tactician after Serse Cosmi had an unsuccessful stint in the role.
Stefano Pioli replaced Rossi in the summer of 2011 but after a shock elimination to FC Thun in the Europa League play-offs, he was fired before the Serie A campaign commenced.
Palermo were relegated from Serie A in 2013 after Zamparini made four changes in coaches and he also sacked Gennaro Gattuso early in the 2013-14 Serie B campaign before Giuseppe Iachini took the reins and brought the Sicilian club back into Italy’s top flight.
If there was a season that defined the trigger-happy nature of Zamparini, it was the 2015-16 season in which he changed coached no less than eight times. The sackings have continued into this season and currently Palermo are in the relegation zone with a sale to American investors expected to be completed in a fortnight.
Zamparini’s reign is over, but he will go down as one of calcio’s most colourful characters. Regardless of what the future owners do, it is unlikely they can match the volcanic nature of their predecessor.