Straight from the dark heart of Italy
It has been one of the great mysteries of the season how Delio Rossi has survived so long in charge at Palermo.
The coach has given Maurizio Zamparini plenty of opportunity to wield the axe, not that the president needs much of an excuse: Rossi would be the 13th coach he'd fired since buying the club in 2002.
Even by half-time yesterday, the craggy Rossi must have thought that his time would be better spent drawing up his removals list than attempting to lift a side already five goals and a man down at home to Udinese.
The second half was marginally better, the visitors taking pity and only scoring two more (with Palermo having another player sent off). The 7-0 defeat is unsurprisingly Palermo’s worst ever top-flight loss and only one shy of the all-comers' record, set by Milan in a 8-0 demolition of Genoa in 1955. Perhaps visiting coach Francesco Guidolin had sympathy for Rossi, having in the recent past been sacked and brought back three times by Zamperini.
The gravel-voiced Palermo supremo was at his most combustible in the post-game inquest, giving his coach “one percent” chance of remaining while accusing him of destroying the team before his very eyes.
Certainly, Rossi didn't do his cause much good by leaving his most in-form defender Ezequiel Munoz on the bench when he was already missing Mattia Cassani and Dorin Goian at the back – instead starting Sinisa Andelkovic, who had played in the two defeats before this game and, like fellow centre-back Cesare Bovo, had it found it difficult to contain fast and mobile strikers.
So it was that Udinese livewires Antonio Di Natale and Alexis Sanchez helped themselves to a hat-trick and four goals respectively – the pick being the third goal scored by the fleet-footed Chilean.
Zamperini had already handed out none-too-subtle warnings about the coach needing to toughen up (“This team lacks cojones”) and getting it right at the back before playing the fancy stuff further up the pitch. Rossi never heeded the advice.
Apparently heading the list of those ready to leap into the lion’s den is another fiery fellow, Serse Cosmi, who only last Sunday was being linked with the AS Roma job after Claudio Ranieri’s resignation in the wake of his side imploding in Genoa.
Even so, Giampiero Gasperini is the favourite to take over next season, so candidates like Gianni De Biasi (who played for the club in the 1980s) and Franco Colombo are mere benchwarmers: Gasperini, who also played for the club in the early '80s, left Genoa early in the season so he cannot take up another post in the top flight in the same season.
Then again, Zamperini may not follow through with his threat. He has already backtracked once on getting rid of Rossi, changing his mind 24 hours after December's home draw with 10-man Bari.
There are of course no positives to be taken from a seven-goal thrashing – apart from the fact that it could have been eight – but in Rossi’s defence Palermo are still in the running to qualify for Europe either through their league position or by winning the Italian Cup, having reached the semi-finals where they will meet AC Milan.
Before Sunday’s shambles, the Rosaneri faithful had already sent their president an open letter calling on him to stick by Rossi but even they must be wondering if it is maybe time for a change.
Red faces too at Juventus where there was no sign that Andrea Agnelli’s pep-talk had the desired effect as the team limped to another defeat – this time at home to Bologna.
SERIE AAAARGH!, Fri 25 Feb: President Agnelli gives King's Speech to stuttering Juve
Delneri’s closest ally Beppe Marotti admitted that the coach was under “close scrutiny” – which basically means that a negative showing against Milan next weekend and it's curtains, with reports suggesting that Pavel Nedved will be made caretaker until end of the season.
Coaches are well aware that the only certainty is the uncertainty surrounding their employment prospects but with Ranieri resigning last week rather than waiting for the axe to fall, longevity in the job is a rare commodity.
In fact, the longest-serving coach in the top flight is Luigi De Canio at Lecce (hired 9th March 2009), probably only because he brought the team from Puglia up from Serie B – and unsurprisingly he is now hanging on by his fingertips.
And trailing De Canio by just a few months just happens to be Walter Mazzarri, who only took over at Napoli in October 2009 which says everything about the long-term planning clubs are willing to invest in the men on the bench.
As all ancient would-be conquerors would no doubt testify, you can't march on Rome without a large
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