Tuesday January 31 2017
Palermo time-loop

Diego Lopez got off to a good start at Palermo, but it will be almost impossible for him to ultimately succeed, writes Richard Thomas

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it and Palermo fans must feel as if they’re stuck in a time-loop worthy of any sci-fi movie. New Coach arrives, sparks a reaction from the team, that dissipates within a couple of weeks, the President makes insulting public comments and the tactician is either fired or resigns. Rinse and repeat.

Palermo's surprise draw away to Napoli, in Diego Lopez's first match in charge, completely defied both the Serie A form book and the Sicilians' lowly League position. Prior to kick-off at San Paolo on Sunday evening, the Rosanero had lost 12 of their previous 14 Serie A matches - a truly woeful run of results that, unsurprisingly given President Maurizio Zamparini's track record, accounted for the departures of three Coaches.

Given the turmoil at the Stadio Renzo Barbera, that Palermo hung on for a 1-1 draw against a Partenopei team unbeaten since October in all competition has to go down as one of the shocks of the calcio season. Lopez, in his first role since leaving Bologna in 2015, has clearly made a positive first impression on his new players and, with a crucial home match against Crotone to come on Sunday, the Uruguayan will feel he has every chance of making it four points from two games in charge.

Nevertheless, any optimism generated by a good result in Naples pales by comparison to the bigger picture of the mess the Aquile currently find themselves in. On the pitch, they remain 10 points from safety, have still not won at home all season, have farcically had more Coaches [four] than League victories [two] this campaign and look destined to return to Serie B three years after being promoted.

Off it, majority shareholder Zamparini is still fruitlessly searching for a buyer to provide the club with fresh investment, while his recent rate of hiring and firing Coaches has been alarming even by his standards.

Staggeringly, 2016 saw eight different tenures in the dugout for Palermo [including two for Davide Ballardini], while Lopez is the 10th new appointment made by the trigger-happy President since Beppe Iachini departed in November 2015. Iachini's own two-year reign, when put in context by events before and since, is beginning to look as formidable and unrepeatable an achievement as Sir Alex Ferguson's 27-year stay at Manchester United or even Guy Roux's 44-year long dynasty with Auxerre.

The state of total chaos in Sicily is reflected by comments from senior figures within it. Shortly before his sacking, Eugenio Corini extravagantly compared the organisation at the club to the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima, adding that “when you choose this job, you know you can be sacked after one game.”

Zamparini himself then went a step further, bemoaning that Palermo's season has “already hit an iceberg and sunk” - hardly the message Rosanero fans will want to hear, but the sort of overly-dramatic and critical rhetoric they have grown accustomed to over the years.  

Zamparini's way of operating is, quite simply, unsustainable. When factoring everything in and considering his 15-year tenure as a whole, Palermo followers must accept - if they haven't already - that the nature of his leadership makes the club's fortunes a wildly unpredictable and never-ending rollercoaster ride so long as he remains in charge.

The President will never change his ways, so for each time he is lucky enough to hit the jackpot and lead the Sicilians into Europe, as he has done in the past, his decisions and conduct will also leave the club liable to the sort of disastrous campaign they are currently experiencing.

In the here and now, new arrival Lopez will do his best to conjure up some sort of fight to stave off relegation. Neither of his two jobs thus far in his career [at Cagliari and Bologna] have ended particularly well, and it would take something close to a footballing miracle for him to keep Palermo up. He would almost certainly have to achieve it in order to keep his job beyond the summer.

Even if the 42-year-old somehow achieved the unthinkable, the Zamparini template of never learning from past mistakes means the same sort of scenario could easily arise next season. Despite the good start to his tenure, the likelihood is that Diego Lopez will simply become the latest in the conveyor belt of names to be sent packing by his boss.

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Have your say...
Sad to see what's happening to Palermo. Had a right laugh when Lopez said Zamparini made a great impression on him. Bet he did! Don't Palermo have any sort of strategy for anything or even a youth academy? Probably not. Maybe Giampaolo Pozzo could expand his empire and buy Palermo. Can't be any worse than now surely!
on the 1st February, 2017 at 3:34am

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