After a miraculous relegation escape in their debut campaign, another season of struggle lies in wait for Crotone, writes Andrew Beasley
Last year will forever be remembered as miraculous in Crotone. Davide Nicola’s team took just 14 points from their opening 29 matches, and looked doomed to relegation. Once the Stadio Scida was open for business, they picked up 20 points from the final nine rounds (which was more than Juventus managed in the same period) and beat the drop in their debut Serie A campaign. This earned Coach Davide Nicola a contract extension until 2019 and he celebrated by cycling from Calabria to Turin.
Another tough battle against the threat of relegation lies in wait once again. The Rossoblu may have won a couple of pre-season friendlies without conceding, but far harder challenges lie ahead. Beating teams from the third and fifth tiers of Italian football (Sicula Leonzio and Acri respectively) may help with confidence, but it’s no match for the cream of the Serie A crop.
Crotone will be Serie A’s most southernmost club in 2017-18. They are based in Italy’s poorest region, and are not blessed with anything like the finances of the top teams. Many of their top players last season were on loan, and have unfortunately returned to their parent clubs this summer. The most notable loss is unquestionably Diego Falcinelli, who scored 13 league goals and assisted a further three, but has now returned to Sassuolo.
It’s not all bad news, though. Marcello Trotta’s loan had ended, but Crotone have borrowed him from Sassuolo once again. Meanwhile another of the heroes of the great escape, Lorenzo Crisetig, has gone back to Bologna after his loan ended, but may yet end up back at the Stadio Scida. Marco Davide Faraoni has joined on a free from Udinese, and is a versatile addition to the squad, as he has experience at both right-back and right-midfield.
Just one player has joined the club for a transfer fee: Oliver Kragl. The 27-year-old German midfielder (who can also play at full-back) arrives from Frosinone for the grand total of €400,000 and has 85 Bundesliga matches to his name. Kragl played with Arlind Ajeti in Serie A, and the Albanian centre-back is another of Crotone’s loan signings this summer.
There are some prestigious names in there too, eager to make their mark in the top flight. Rolando Mandragora was tipped for greatness at Genoa, earning a transfer to Juventus, and spent all of last season out with a serious injury. Left-sided midfielder Giovanni Crociata is the latest tasty product of the Milan youth academy.
Add in some experienced hands like Chievo’s Mariano Izco and Real Zaragoza defender Leandro Cabrera, and it’s an intriguing mixture.
With the huge challenges in front of Crotone, they’re going to need the fans, so counting on the Stadio Ezio Scida from the opening round could well be crucial.
It’s likely to be a season of struggle for Crotone once again. Last year’s incredible run to escape the drop will be incredibly tough to repeat, even if they should start stronger with greater experience and their home stadium. They will have to do so without many of 2016-17’s heroes, and need to hope their transfer gambles pay off. Relegation and an early Coppa Italia exit could well beckon for Pitagorici, unfortunately.
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