“Parma is often considered an oasis of happiness. I wasn’t looking for an oasis.” That quote from Roberto Donadoni’s first Press conference as Parma boss tells you rather a lot about the man at the centre of the 12th Serie A coaching change within the last five months. It’s a cycle which Donadoni has bookended, curiously enough, having been sacked by Cagliari back in mid August.
“In spite of what the papers have published, I didn’t meet several trainers yesterday,” commented Parma director general Pietro Leonardi. “I went only to Mr Donadoni’s house and spoke only with him.”
Some Gialloblu supporters will wish the former Udinese transfer chief had been a little less decisive and pencilled a few more appointments into his diary. Whilst it’s true that Gigi Del Neri and Walter Zenga had both distanced themselves from the post, and that at this stage of a Serie A season most managers worth hiring are either in a job or hamstrung by the rule that prohibits tacticians from bossing more than one top flight club during the course of a campaign - there was a pint sized Parma legend that Leonardi neglected to interview.
Gianfranco Zola was available, interested, would have been an immensely popular choice amongst the fans, and proved during his spell with West Ham that he knows how to do the two most important things every Parma Coach has to do: a) play attractive football and b) help young players flourish.
Some might even question the need to dispose of Franco Colomba in the first place. Parma are 15th in Serie A with 19 points, having won five, drawn four and lost eight of their 17 fixtures to date. Impressive? Maybe not, but the Ducali are seven points clear of the drop zone and a win at home to Siena on Sunday could lift them into the top half.
In an increasingly competitive Division where powerful moneyed clubs fight over a reduced number of European spots, Parma appear to be one of the piggies in the middle – not good enough to qualify for Europe, too good to go down, left to mill around mid-table. In that case you could argue Colomba deserved patience from President Tommaso Ghirardi and gratitude for saving the club from relegation last term. Even Donadoni, the beneficiary of the sacking, seemed to suggest it was slightly harsh. “Parma’s position in the table is not so bad. I have to give credit to my predecessor Colomba, who I regard very highly.”
Then again it’s futile complaining about one sacking in a season full of them, when the likes of Massimo Ficcadenti and Devis Mangia have suffered far harsher dismissals.
Life goes on at the Stadio Ennio Tardini, and the very fact that Leonardi – renowned for his ability to see talent where others couldn’t during his time in Udine – thought of Donadoni and only Donadoni, suggests that those in calcio’s inner circle have seen another side to ‘The Don,’ one contrary to the public perception of a man who was an unpopular Italian national team Coach and has proved too prickly and argumentative to last very long at any club.
His work with Cagliari last season, before he made the very brave and very foolish decision to cross President Massimo Cellino, was arguably the best of his career. The former Milan winger took the Sardinians from 19th to 14th and succeeded where his predecessors and successors failed – by getting the Isolani to score. Cagliari averaged 1.2 goals a game under Donadoni, compared to 0.9 under Pierpaolo Bisoli and Ficcadenti.
Scoring goals isn’t a problem for Parma, but conceding them is. Correct that flaw and relegation won’t be an issue, but Donadoni might discover, as Colomba did, that escaping the mid-table mire isn’t easy for Parma’s piggies in the middle.