2016-17 preview

Club News - History - Records - Stadium - 2016-17 Squad

Following their unexpected heroics last season, Crotone’s tiny budget and modest squad suggests a long season battling against the odds, predicts Colin Millar.

Crotone ultimate underdogs

Even by the standards of Italy’s south, Crotone is economically desperate with spiralling rates of unemployment and a mass ‘brain drain’ heading north. The sensation of its football team gives the city a much-needed sense of pride.

Life in Serie B had all been focused on survival – they finished only a point above the relegation play-offs in 2015. The Pitagorici (the name originates from the great Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras, who lived in the city) have become a rare symbol of stability in Italian football. Chairman Raffaele Vranna has been in place for 25 years and refounded the bankrupt club in Italy’s eighth tier, while the highly-rated Sporting Director Beppe Ursino was appointed in 1995.

Despite the euphoria surrounding the club, it’s been a tough summer. Highly-rated Coach Ivan Juric promptly left for Genoa, while strike pair Ante Budimir and Federico Ricci, who netted a combined 28 goals, have returned to their parent clubs, as have promising defensive regulars Mihai Balasa and Eloge Yao.

Finishing nine points clear of third-placed Trapani and losing only six league games all season, Crotone showed they could outlast their most illustrious, richer rivals. Last season they forced Milan into extra time at San Siro, as Budimir’s strike made the Rossoneri sweat on the Coppa Italia win.

That suggests that, despite so much change, the remaining core group of players has the talent to make their mark. Whilst Carpi and Frosinone’s promotions were remarkable examples of clubs punching above their weight, Crotone will argue that those pale in comparison to their promotion due to the economic situation and the regions they represent. If they manage to prolong their stay in the top flight beyond one season, it really would be the greatest fairy-tale.

Coach - Davide Nicola

The 43-year-old was appointed in June after Croatian Ivan Juric – who had led the Calabrians to promotion in his first season at the club – departed for Genoa. Having already pushed Livorno up a flight in 2014, Nicola has since had a mediocre spell at Bari. Played 15 Serie A matches for Siena in 2004-05.

Star player - Raffaele Palladino

Formerly of Juventus, Genoa and Parma, the 32-year-old brings some vital top-flight experience and a genuine goal threat.  Deployed mainly as a winger by Crotone in their promotion push after joining from the Gialloblu midway through the season, Palladino may be used upfront following the departures of Ante Budimir (Sampdoria) and Federico Ricci (return to Roma).

Best buy - Marcus Rohden

The 25-year-old midfielder’s fine domestic form for Elfsborg saw him recognised at international level, where he has won six caps since his debut last year. Missing the cut for the European Championships, Rohden’s future remains bright. Crotone made him their most expensive signing this summer by spending €500,000 on the versatile midfielder.

Azzurri prospect - Leonardo Capezzi

Making his loan move from Fiorentina permanent this summer in a €400,000 deal, Capezzi’s stock continues to rise. Once hailed by David Pizarro as his heir at the base of the Viola’s midfield, the 21-year-old has been a mainstay in the international youth teams. An orchestrator who controls the tempo of games, his future looks extremely bright.

One who got away - Mario Balotelli

Raffaele Vrenna, the chairman of Crotone, was drawn into commenting on media rumours linking them to the Liverpool striker. “I believe we would be a great club for him, he would buy into our ideas and project. We would make him captain and we could use his 25 goals!” The striker remains unwanted on Merseyside.

Probable line-up

Cordaz; CECCHERINI, Claiton dos Santos, Ferrari; SAMPIRISI, Capezzi, ROHDEN, Martella; TONEV, Torromino, Palladino

Prediction - Relegation battle