Chelsea: Roman's A Saint Compared To Tyrannical Zamparini
“He’s at it again,” ran the almost resigned headline in La Gazzetta dello Sport after Maurizio Zamparini took his sacking spree to three coaches in the last six games.
Gian Pier Gasperini had only just been rehired after replacing Alberto Malesani who had been replaced after just three games, when he in turn was shown the door at the start of the week following the home defeat to Siena which all but condemned Palermo to the drop.
Going into this weekend’s match at AC Milan, Giuseppe Sannino is back through the revolving door, having started the season in charge only to be replaced by Gasperini after Zamparini described a coach who had worked wonders at keeping Siena in the top flight last season as “the biggest mistake of my life”.
For someone who has chumped his way through 27 coaches since taking over the Sicilian club and spent something in the region of €10m on compensation or more than often keeping them on the payroll until he got tired of their replacement, the “mistakes” have been mounting up for some time.
The running joke amongst coaches is that “only take an overnight bag when Zamparini calls you”. Some have come and gone in the blink of an eye, others have been dragged back kicking and screaming but inevitably it has all ended in tears.
Current Udinese boss Francesco Guidolin must have been a glutton for punishment, having worked under the volatile president on no less than four occasions but on average it has been twice for most of them which works in Zamparini’s favour as league rules state that a coach cannot be in charge of more than one Serie A club a season.
This means that they can be rehired on a lesser salary to go with the ever diminishing returns on the pitch as they are no more than trainers with no say in any part of the club decisions - and at times that has included which players they can select.
Zamparini runs the club with an iron rule where only his word counts and that goes for the buying and selling of players.
Christian Panucci was brought in as team manager hoping to influence the direction of the club when targeting new additions, only to resign within two months when it became clear that his recommendations were falling on deaf ears.
On the training pitch, down through the years the likes of Stefano Colantuono, Delio Rossi and Serse Cosmi may have had little or no time to get to know their players but equally the squad changes that often that the fans have become confused as who in actually in the team; this is especially true during the winter transfer window when Zamparini makes sweeping changes.
Currently there are 27 players in a squad of 55 out on loan and what is staggering is that there are so many players tied to the club in the first place.
Some of those are on loan at the club such as Mauro Formica from Blackburn Rovers, Mauro Boselli from Wigan and QPR’s Alejandro Faurlin who should not get too comfortable while veteran Fabrizio Miccoli does not even bother getting to know the new faces.
Despite all the comings and goings, Zamparini has remained steadfast in his belief that everything he does is for the good of the club, claiming that he is the only person in the city who can walk through the streets with his head held high because he puts his money where his mouth his.
If anyone; be it fans, journalists or underlings of which there are many, get on the wrong side of such a combustible figure he will either swat them away or offer to fall on his own sword to await his “loyal subjects” to beg him to stay, but now after over a decade where the club has reached the Italian Cup final, played in Europe and finally slipped to the foot of the table patience is running thin.
The gruff-voiced Zamparini originates way up north in the region around Udine where he had been involved in a number of various business ventures before entering football in the 80s when you could pick up a failing club for a song such as other “luminaries” Enrico Preziosi and Luciano Gaucci, Massimo Cellino and of course on a much larger scale, Silvio Berlusconi, did.
Now 71, and in extreme rude health, Zamparini has always been a man for grand passions: five children, a supermarket entrepreneur with 3,500 employees, a private jet to ferrying him around the country, his foothold in football started with Pordenone in Friuli before taking over Venezia and progressing to Vicenza.
However, the move into the big time came about when his friend Franco Sensi who happened to own both AS Roma and Palermo was forced to offload the latter and he stepped in to lay claim to a club with potential for, if reports are to believed, a mere €15m or a euro as a write-off.
There was also the opportunity for a bit of asset stripping with most of the Vicenza squad heading south over the next two seasons along with Guidolin who had led the team to the semi-finals of the Cup Winners’ Cup where they lost to Chelsea.
A volcanic character at the best of times, and with the media demanding a sound-bite whenever a microphone was shoved in his face, running a football club seemed to play out some tyrannical fantasies.
Asked why he would want to sink so much time and money into a sport where very few reap the rewards, he replied: “I love being in the centre of the madness.”
Each coach has lived in a permanent state of siege, with the threats becoming more extravagant … “he lacks cojones …”, “he has destroyed my club …”, “I would rather get drunk than keep him here …”, while he once famously warned the players he would cut their balls off and serve them with a salad.
Football’s very own Hannibal Lecter has continued to feast on unwary coaches to such an extent that he has even landed his own title: Mangiaallenatori (coach eater) and even with Palermo set to drop into Serie B he is unlikely to lose his bite.