Few experiences in football promote such widespread melancholy as a club facing bankruptcy. English football appeared to mourn the demise of Premier League regulars Portsmouth, while Scottish football witnessed the crumbling and eventual rebirth of Glasgow Rangers. Italian football is no stranger to financial insecurity, with Modena and most notably Napoli among the recent clubs to go bankrupt. However, few clubs faced with bankruptcy have been met with such widespread support as Parma.
The news seemed to break the heart of the collective footballing community. The public outpouring of support was tremendous, from former players such as Gianluigi Buffon to the enigmatic Mario Balotelli voicing their desire to see Parma bounce back. The likes of Yves Baraye, who was signed in their first season in Serie D, have been instrumental in clawing the Gialloblu back into the top flight. The experience offered by Manuel Scavone and Desiderio Garufo has been invaluable since the pair arrived in 2016, while Pasquale Mazzocchi has proven to be a reliable presence on the right flank since their Serie C days.
However, few have garnered more praise or affection than Alessandro Lucarelli. The club captain and legend won the respect of the footballing community when he stuck by a relegated Parma, inspiring them to win back-to-back-to-back promotions to return to Serie A just three years after their exile from the Italian top flight. His presence was perhaps best felt in the dressing room where he delivered rousing speeches to motivate his teammates. He called time on his career earlier this summer having safely delivered on his promise to bring Parma back to Serie A.
He leaves behind a legacy that would be difficult to replicate, even for his son who had the pleasure of playing with him in a bizarre training match. That being said, Lucarelli wasn’t the only veteran to aid in rejuvenating the club as he was soon reunited with former teammates, namely Gianni Munari and Massimo Gobbi. The pair were among those to jump ship amid the chaos that saw Parma sent down, but now find themselves back at the Stadio Ennio Tardini. Albeit an ageing influence on the side, Gobbi and Munari are just two examples of key players entering the twilight of their careers at Parma.
Nowhere is this more obvious than up front where former Napoli striker Emanuele Calaio has scored 32 goals in 79 appearances for the Gialloblu. The 36-year-old has been a dependable goalscorer for any side in the lower divisions and hasn’t disappointed Parma fans. Pierluigi Frattali has been just as dependable between the sticks at 32, and 35-year-old Valerio Di Cesare has brought plenty of experience to the defence. Marcello Gazzola, a more recent arrival from Sassuolo, has been an important addition at 33.
Both Luca Siligardi and Fabio Ceravolo have brought much-needed experience of Serie A to the side, but this trend needs to continue if Parma are to retain their place in the top flight. The club have already recruited 35-year-old Bruno Alves, who has shown his worth at Cagliari. Napoli goalkeeper Luigi Sepe, who impressed during a season-long loan at Empoli in the 2014-15 season, looks set to claim the No.1 spot from Frattali.
Recent reports have linked Parma with former Pescara and Sampdoria midfielder Birkir Bjarnason who began featuring more regularly for Aston Villa at the turn of the year and made three appearances for Iceland at the 2018 World Cup. Over the summer there were reports linking the club with former players including Inter winger Jonathan Biabiany and Jose Mauri from Milan. The Frenchman, in particular, made a name for himself during two spells with Parma but found the going tough with the Nerazzurri.
Mauri was something of a golden boy at Parma, offering a beacon of hope for fans amidst talk of bankruptcy and instability. His first goal as a professional footballer coming against Juventus, a moment he would describe as one of the happiest of his life, he would later join the Rossoneri for free. A year on and a loan spell to Empoli looked like it could rekindle the early promise of his career, but the 22-year-old still seems to be treading water at Milan.
A return to Parma could be exactly what both players need to turn their careers around, and are definitely transfers Parma should be looking to close.
In an age where money talks and agent power is at it’s most grotesque, notions of loyalty and self-sacrifice are what Parma must exploit to rebuild again and secure their long-term future in Serie A.