Stefano Sorrentino showed in 90 minutes on Sunday why relegation-threatened Palermo had spent the best part of three weeks relentlessly trying to sign him from Chievo Verona. Making his debut in the Rosanero goal, the 33-year-old underlined his ability with a string of fine saves at Cagliari.
Josip Ilicic had given his side the lead in Sardinia, but Sorrentino was the reason why the Stadio Barbera outfit were within minutes of securing three crucial points. He may have been beaten by a late Thiago Ribeiro header, but his display in that 1-1 draw confirmed that he is one of the smartest signings made by any Serie A club this January.
Sorrentino has consistently been one of the Division’s top goalkeepers over recent years. His form has easily been good enough for international recognition – even if that has never arrived. The fact that the shot-stopper, who is younger than Gigi Buffon of Juventus and Napoli’s Morgan De Sanctis, has never even been called up is a footballing travesty. A run out at Coverciano is the very least he deserved.
In all honesty, his talent had probably merited a bigger club stage too. While he owes Chievo his consecration as a high-level ‘keeper, they became too small a stage for his ability. He had been at the centre of transfer talks before and Juventus notably showed an interest in 2010 after Buffon picked up an injury at the World Cup. However, for one reason or another, Sorrentino always remained at the Bentegodi.
It looked like he would stay there too this month after the longest transfer saga of the window. While Palermo and Chievo discussed and re-discussed terms, Sorrentino made his feelings clear after failing to show up for training. It wasn’t the best way to say goodbye.
“I don’t want to stir up controversy,” the former AEK Athens and Recreativo net-minder stated after completing his switch. “I gave my all to Chievo and I gave them a lot. They too gave me a lot as they allowed me to return to Italian football. But I’m not the only one to blame for the way this story ended.
“I’d like people to just reflect on a few things. There are two possible reasons why I didn’t turn up to training. I either had valid motives or I had suddenly gone mad. My thoughts on Chievo now are a mix of joy, anger and disappointment.”
Stefano, also linked with Inter and Roma this month, openly accepts that he’ll be jeered by the Chievo faithful when his new side arrive at the Bentegodi in three games’ time, but the €4m signing is more concerned with gaining the points that his outfit need to stay up.
“I feel like a kid again,” said the man whose father Roberto kept goal for Sicilian rivals Catania in the 1980s. “I’m happy to be here. I would never have come if I didn’t think that we could calmly avoid relegation. The situation is tough, but I think we have an important squad. Now I want to end my career at this club.”
Neither objective will be as simple as they sound. Palermo are second from bottom in Serie A after picking up just 17 points from 22 games. Meanwhile, Sorrentino is incredibly the 21st goalkeeper that the club have had since President Maurizio Zamparini – who is more commonly known for hiring and firing Coaches than signing goalkeepers – arrived in 2002. Nevertheless, survival is undoubtedly one step closer with Sorrentino in between the sticks.