Just hours before Benevento’s return to Serie A was confirmed, it was reported that 33-year-old Loïc Rémy - a former France international and Chelsea striker - was close to signing for the club.
It was a move that came as a surprise, but only to a degree. Gli Stregoni have been linked with other ageing, past-their-prime strikers in recent weeks, with Daniel Sturridge, Mauro Zárate and Fernando Llorente all reportedly interesting the club. Indeed, sporting director Pasquale Foggia claimed that he had made an official approach to Napoli for the signing of Llorente last week.
While Rémy arrives as a free agent, there are question marks over whether the move is sensible. A player of Rémy’s note and experience will probably command a high wage, one which a club the size of Benevento surely can’t afford, especially if they are relegated next season.
Additionally, Rémy is approaching his mid-thirties and hasn’t scored over 10 goals in a league season since his loan spell at Newcastle in 2013-14, so whether he’ll be capable of being a consistent scorer for Benevento next season can also be called into question.
Remy’s acquisition seems to be reflective of the Stregoni’s overall transfer strategy as they prepare for life back in the top-flight. They are currently in advanced negotiations with former Torino defender Kamil Glik, who has spent the last four seasons at Monaco. There is no doubting the 32-year-old’s Serie A experience and quality, but, once again, you have to question whether this is building for the future or scrapping the team that got them promoted in favour of expensive older names.
It’s a risky strategy and one can may backfire if Benevento go down next season, as they could be left with a significant wage bill which a Serie B club could simply not afford. Pippo Inzaghi’s team are breaking Serie B records, promoted with a 24-point lead, losing one out of 31 games, conceding just 15 goals. Why tear all that down to start again with veterans who aren’t hungry for success?
Oreste Vigorito’s ambition is clearly to establish Benevento as a Serie A side, but he seems to be focusing on short-term acquisitions - in the hope that experience can keep Gli Stregoni up - rather than building for the future. The recent successes of Parma and Hellas Verona in the first seasons back in the top-flight prove that you don’t need an abundance of experience - or necessarily break the bank - to do well in Serie A.
In the case of Parma, they added experience in the form of Bruno Alves and Gervinho, but focused on inexpensive transfers and loan deals. They acquired proven, in-their-prime players such as Luigi Sepe and Roberto Inglese on loan with the option to buy, meaning that if I Crociati were relegated, they wouldn’t be obligated to buy the player.
After comfortably avoiding relegation in their first season back, Parma have continued to make smart, cheap signings - such as Andreas Cornelius and Dejan Kulusevski on loan and adding more Serie A experience in the form of Matteo Darmian, Gianluca Caprari and Jasmin Kurtic. Their strategy has paid dividends so far, with the Emilians currently competing for a Europa League place.
Hellas Verona also find themselves in the running for Europe in what is their first season back in the top-flight. They had a similar transfer strategy to Parma, signing experienced Serie A players such as Darko Lazovic and Miguel Veloso, while taking on loan (with the option to buy) Valerio Verre, Koray Gunter, Sofyan Amrabat and Matteo Pessina.
Their most astute signing, however, was Amir Rrahmani. He was brought in for around €2m from Dinamo Zagreb and quickly established himself as a key player for Verona. Six months after joining, he was sold to Napoli for €14m, meaning Hellas made an incredible profit on the Kosovan.
This is another way of smartly conducting transfer business: looking for undervalued players in lesser-known leagues. Atalanta are very good at this. They signed the likes of Robin Gosens, Jose Luis Palomino, Remo Freuler and Hans Hateboer from lower-reputation leagues for minimal fees, playing an important part in La Dea’s ascendance from mid-table nobodies to Champions League quarter-finalists.
In short, Benevento should adjust their transfer strategy. Instead of signing big-name players on high wages - ones which could backfire horribly if they get relegated back to Serie B - they should focus on loan deals (dry or with the option to buy), cheap players in foreign leagues and the occasional addition of Serie A experience - so that they can start to build for the future.