As Palermo look for a third consecutive win, Alex Mott wonders what their season could have been like had they kept Giuseppe Sannino.
“I was wrong to send Giuseppe Sannino away. And in life, when you make a mistake, you have to admit it. I apologise. Sannino will remain with us even if we are relegated.”
It’s not often that Maurizio Zamparini admits he’s wrong. For a President who’s gone through over 20 coaching changes since taking over Palermo in 2002, owning up to a mistake is quite a big deal. So when the owner of the Rosanero told Radio Kiss Kiss earlier this week that he had slipped up in sacking Sannino, it was a moment to sit up and take notice.
The 55-year-old was relieved of his duties at the Sicilian club after only three games earlier in the campaign – losses to Napoli and Lazio, and a 1-1 draw with Cagliari were seen as the final-straw before September had even got into full-swing. At the time, the tactician was sanguine about his future at Renzo Barbera. “I am relaxed and have been for seven years,” the ex-Siena man admitted to reporters. “I was also happy with the way the players interpreted the game.
“I understand it is the job of journalists to go beyond the field and try to stir up stories, but this soap opera of Zamparini being a President who fires everyone has gone on for too long.”
Two days later he lost his job and watched as Palermo slipped mercilessly into the relegation zone. Gian Piero Gasperini was brought in until February, before Alberto Malesani was drafted in for a month. When that didn’t work out Gasperini was placed in charge once again, and now the Palermo saga has come full circle with Sannino the boss once more.
The instability and constant unease that surrounds the football club has manifested itself on the pitch as well. Just five wins all season and the third-worst goal difference in Serie A have seen the Islanders root themselves firmly in the bottom three, with hope of survival seemingly diminished.
But a recent revival has calmed the waters somewhat, with a pair of unexpected results turning the entire season on its head. Not since November 24 had Palermo won a game in the Italian top-flight, but in the last two weeks a pair of victories at home to Roma and away to Sampdoria have seen the Rosanero rise to 18th in the table and draw level on 27 points with Siena and Genoa.
Sannino has got the team playing exciting, expansive football – and has finally gotten the best out of star names like Josip Ilicic and Fabrizio Miccoli. An eminently winnable game against Bologna waits this Sunday, before the Sicilian derby with Catania and a match with free-falling Inter.
By the time May rolls around, there’s a genuine possibility that the Coach could have secured Serie A football for Palermo. It’s a situation that was almost unthinkable over the winter, but under the former Spezia midfielder, the Aquile have become the form team in the bottom half of the League – the Wigan of the peninsula.
Zamparini has admitted he was wrong to sack Sannino, and with the recent spate of results, he was right to.