Milan, Inter and Juventus. Italy’s three biggest clubs had the name Francesco Lodi on their radar. Catania technical director Giuseppe Bonanno admitted concrete interest from the Milan pair. “There was interest from Inter in January and there is currently a request on the table from Milan. However, there is nothing official from Juventus, at least with us. We have not received any proposal from the Bianconeri, but I won’t rule out their interest in the player.”
From that, Lodi ended up at...Genoa. The deal was made official last Friday, with Panagiotis Tachtsidis moving in the opposite direction. A player in the past on the cusp of the Italy side goes from a Catania outfit battling for Europe to one fighting to avoid relegation. It looks a sideways step.
Lodi was for two and a half seasons an integral figure for an Etnei side which recently finished in the top half. He’s been led by tacticians now at Atletico Madrid and Fiorentina - at the same time Genoa’s bosses haven’t lasted long enough to create an impression. Under both Vincenzo Montella and Rolando Maran he was the midfield lynchpin and Lodi responded with 15 goals in his two full seasons at the club, plus 14 assists. He is well known for his dead-ball ability and for Catania President Antonino Pulvirenti, Lodi is ‘irreplaceable.’
Yet the 29-year-old sees the Genoa move as a career enhancer. “Catania was an important experience for me. I’ve grown and I’m now ready for Genoa, very ready.” Lodi arrives at a club searching for its identity. They hope to escape the problems of the last two campaigns. Lodi calls this a Year Zero, a chance to open a new cycle.
He takes the No 10 shirt and sees it as an honour. “This is a ‘heavy’ number and an important shirt, but I will wear it with pride.” Lodi believes he can co-exist with Francelino Matuzalem, given where he has come from. “I can happily play alongside Matuzalem, as at Catania I shared the midfield with Sergio Almiron in a similar role.”
New boss Fabio Liverani agrees. For Liverani, Lodi is critical. “Few teams can count on two quality midfielders like Lodi and Francelino Matuzalem. In his role, Lodi is second only to Andrea Pirlo.” The Neapolitan playmaker can also rely on experienced goalscorer Alberto Gilardino, plus the speedy wing-play of Mario Santana, given Liverani is expected to retain the trident midfield and attack the player was accustomed to in Sicily. He insists the Grifoni will be a team to take the game to the opposition rather than wait for an opportunity.
Genoa have lost two of their most experienced campaigners in Bosko Jankovic and Sebastien Frey during the transfer window, so Liverani will be relying on Lodi to display the sort of form seen regularly at the Stadio Angelo Massimino.The 37-year-old coaching novice is eager to prove he can avoid the wrath of President Enrico Preziosi. “I am not afraid, as I’m convinced there are all the conditions to do well here at Genoa.” He has spent two years coaching in the Genoa youth system, so understands the mechanism of the club.
Lodi said he was left disappointed by Azzurri non-inclusions in recent years. Perhaps a Genoa move indicates he has given up on that dream, but Lodi doesn’t think that is the case. He believes it can still be an objective. Moving to Genoa offers the chance to help lift the club to a place deserving of its history, as Lodi indicated earlier this week. He and Liverani are the most significant arrivals for a 2013-14 season in which Genoa cannot afford to fail again.
Think you know your Italian football? Share your knowledge, tips and comments to win cash prizes in OLBG's tipster competition - £5,000 monthly.