Since replacing Giovanni Stroppa as Coach, Cristiano Bergodi has changed a number of things at Pescara, all of which have contributed to their small revival. He has brought experienced defender Christian Terlizzi into the line-up and paired him with the young Marco Capuano, he got rid of the back three Stroppa was using at the time, switched to 4-3-1-2 and then moved Vladimir Weiss in-field as a trequartista.
Yet arguably none of those are as important as the move to bring Brazilian Romulo Togni into the XI, having not seen a single minute of action under Bergodi’s predecessor, and give him control of the Pescara midfield by playing him in front of the defence.
He moved to Pescara in 2011, when they were in Serie B, but the presence of Marco Verratti meant his pitch time was limited to 10 starts in a 42-game season. The transfer of the Italian to PSG should have led to an opening for the Brazilian. Stroppa, however, had no use for him, and even in a League where a Coach can name 12 substitutes, he was only on the bench three times in Stroppa’s 13 games.
He was unhappy, and there were stories surfacing that he expressed a wish to return to Brazil due to his lack of playing time.
“These rumours are false. I never said anything like that,” he claimed. “I waited for my chance with professionalism, but I only found out two months after the season started, from local newspapers among others, that I was not included in the squad list.”
Quite simply he was being frozen out, only appearing on the bench when injuries forced the Coach’s hand. His contract expires at the end of the season and it looked almost certain that he would head home. That was until Bergodi was appointed.
He threw him straight into the line-up for his first game, a 1-0 defeat to Roma, seeing something in Togni that the previous incumbent did not. He already tops Pescara’s passes-per-game list by a comfortable margin and only Antonio Balzano makes more tackles per game.
“He has suffered moments in which he was on the fringes of the first-team. I have played him and the team with him is doing well,” Bergodi said last month, acknowledging the role played by the Brazilian in revitalising Pescara.
Bergodi’s biggest return from inserting the Brazilian came before the winter break, when Catania visited the Adriatico. Togni scored a 95th minute free-kick to give Pescara a huge three points and a positive fortnight away from football.
“He has sacrificed so much in training and this is his reward,” Bergodi commented after the match once he had calmed down from his celebrations. The player himself also struggled to contain himself, after scoring what was only his second goal for the club, with a few tears noted in all the chaos.
“It was fate that I would score in the last minute. I felt extraordinary emotion,” he said in his post-match interview.
Though perhaps not as great as the emotion he would feel should he lead the team to salvation.