Coppa Italia: Round of 16 / Team rating: [6/10] / Top scorer: Leonardo Pavoletti (16) / Europe: N/A
Cagliari did what they had to and not a penny more, writes Stefan Girasoli after another not exactly outstanding season.
Cagliari were only ever aiming for mid-table comfort and they got a little too comfortable too early, eventually securing safety from the threat of relegation in the penultimate round. Even a final day win over Udinese would’ve propelled them into a very respectable 11th-place finish, but they took an early lead and put their feet up again, eventually losing 2-1.
It has been a championship of highs and lows for the Rossoblu, who spent €18m in the summer and €15m in January. There were some impressive names in the squad, from Rolando Maran’s ex-Chievo trequartista Lucas Castro to Liverpool defender Ragnar Klavan and veteran Croatia international Darijo Srna. It’s just a pity that the first two missed most of the season through injury.
Leonardo Pavoletti was even more decisive than he had been in 2017-18, bumping up his goal tally from 11 to 16 this time around. One has to wonder where Cagliari would be over the last couple of campaigns without the former Napoli centre-forward.
It was certainly an improvement over last season, when they were scrambling until the last day for safety, but the Sardinians can’t keep coasting forever and get away with it.
The Coach: Rolando Maran
The former Chievo tactician was brought in to provide stability and he did just that, a calm and steady influence at the helm with plenty of experience in relegation tussles. It’s a pity we only saw his vision in fits and starts due to the injury crisis.
Player of the Year: Nicolò Barella
The 22-year-old local boy has been the stand-out in this season’s campaign. Stories of January interest from Chelsea, Napoli, Inter and Juventus came as no surprise, with the only shock possibly being that he decided to turn down their advances. He has already become a regular Italy international and is mature beyond his years.
Highlight: Victory against Inter
In Week 26, the Sardinians pulled off a remarkable 2-1 win at home to Inter. Luca Cigarini played a delicious free kick, which was attacked by captain Luca Ceppitelli, although the final touch came off Ivan Perisic and it was credited as an own goal. Lautaro Martinez then equalised, but a stunning volley from that man Pavoletti just before the break proved to be the winning goal. Barella even missed a penalty that would’ve made it a stronger result.
Nightmare: Racist abuse
A real low point in Cagliari’s season was nothing to do with football, unfortunately, and that’s the racist abuse suffered by Moise Kean and Blaise Matuidi in the April fixture with Juventus. Matuidi protested furiously for the referee to take action and no retrospective punishment was given either, as a vocal minority of supporters shamed club and country.
Did You Know?
- Headers represented 44 per cent of all Cagliari’s Serie A goals this season.
- Leonardo Pavoletti hit a new personal best of 16 top flight goals, including six in his last seven games.
- The Sardinians won more games last season (11 to 10), but still ended up with two more points this year.