The signs were ominous for Cagliari. Their horror form looked set to continue when Eros Pisano headed Genoa into the lead at the Stadio Is Arenas on Sunday. Amid a biblical storm they recovered to secure a much needed victory. Having collected just two points from a possible 27 since their last success on October 31, a win was imperative. Daniele Conti nodded home the winner, after Marco Sau hauled Cagliari back into the contest.
The goal was the Sardinia native’s seventh from 16 appearances, including three in his last four matches. Only Palermo, Pescara and Atalanta have scored fewer than the Rossoblu’s 19, while Siena have registered the same number. Sau’s tally accounts for a third of their total.
His collection includes a delicate lob over Parma’s Nicola Pavarini, plus a solo run and finish against Lazio a fortnight ago. But Sau’s greatest feat arrived in November at San Siro. There he bamboozled Inter to net a brace in the 2-2 draw. Sau’s dribbling ability, close control, poise and finishing prowess came to the fore. Along with his origin and stature – at just 171cm – it is these qualities which have earned Sau comparisons to another Sardinian, Gianfranco Zola.
His second goal was fuelled by invention and class, reacting quickest when Mauricio Pinilla’s shot came back off the post. In one swift movement Sau sent Samir Handanovic, Walter Samuel and Andrea Ranocchia spiralling to the deck, finishing into an empty net. Coach Ivo Pulga was full of praise after the moment of magic. “He is a player of great skill and I’m convinced he will score many more goals like the one he scored yesterday.”
The No 27 has been given the opportunity this term to display his talents to the wider audience. This after spending five seasons at five clubs in the lower Divisions following his 2007 graduation from the Cagliari youth system. At the fourth, the Zdenek Zeman-led Lega Pro side Foggia, his 20 goals in 33 games garnered recognition. Sau backed that up with 21 strikes for Juve Stabia last campaign. This put the Vespe within touching distance of the play-off zone in just their second ever Serie B season.
That was proof enough for the Rossoblu. Then following the introduction of Pulga and assistant Diego Lopez in Week 7, Sau became a permanent fixture in the starting XI. During their barren run he was a rare shining light.
Speaking after the Inter contest, Juve Stabia sporting director Salvatore Di Somma claimed Sau could go on to achieve bigger things. “I knew Marco could have a positive impact in Serie A. He is a player of high technical quality. For Marco, Cagliari is only the beginning. I believe a player like him can do well for Cesare Prandelli. Sau sent a big message to Inter, but also in general to all big clubs. He can go further...he deserves to play at the highest stage.”
Napoli were linked with the player late last year. While nothing appears to be materialising this transfer window, it does tell of interest in the 25-year-old. It is also acknowledgment of the impact made in his maiden Serie A campaign.
Sau is hoping his hard work will pay off. “Is this my year? I hope so. I always give 100 per cent at training and I hope to reap the benefits.”
Cagliari’s hand may be forced sometime in the near future by financial issues. Just after Christmas director general Francesco Marroccu noted players had not been paid for two months. “We’ve already been contacted by clubs for our players and there is a temptation to sell one of our most wanted.”
While he mentioned Davide Astori, Radja Nainggolan and Pinilla – but not Sau – a second half of the season matching his stunning start could have suitors lining up. For now, as a home-grown symbol of this Cagliari, Sau will be hoping to steer the side clear of relegation trouble after helping end their bleak spell.