THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

Club will struggle to keep players

icon promotion15 June ~ Six minutes in to injury time, Sassuolo secured promotion to Serie A for the first time in their history. Despite being reduced to nine men they recorded a 1-0 win against Livorno, making them the smallest town to ever make the top flight in Italy. Based near Ferrari's headquarters on the outskirts of Modena, the club has spent the majority of their 91-year existence in the lower leagues. They were playing in the fourth division seven years ago but reached Serie B in 2008 under the ownership of chemical magnate Giorgio Squinzi.

Having missed out in the play-offs in two of the past three seasons, Sassuolo managed to improve on their third-place finish from last season to claim the title.

Eusebio di Francesco took over as coach in the summer after an ill-fated spell in charge of Lecce, where he was fired after only 13 games with the club rooted to the foot of Serie A. Di Francesco has fashioned a swashbuckling team, utilising a 4-3-3 formation with two attacking midfielders and three strikers. As a result, they scored the second-highest number of goals in the division and finished the season with the best goal difference. They also conceded less than a goal a game, highlighting that they managed to strike a balance between solidity and flair, losing only once at home all season.

Their last line of defence is Alberto Pomini, who has been with the club since 2004, when they were still marooned in Serie C2. Emanuele Terranova is a fixture in the heart of the back four and has also contributed 11 goals, ending the campaign as joint top scorer. The sterling efforts of captain Francesco Magnanelli, stationed in front of the defence, has allowed midfielder playmaker Simone Missiroli to provide an impressive 12 assists.

They also made optimum use of the loan market, drafting in forward Richmond Boakye and central-midfielder Raman Chibsah from Juventus, plus winger Andrea Catellani from Catania. But the undoubted star of the side is teen-prodigy Domenico Berardi, who has attracted admiring glances from both Manchester teams. The 18-year-old attacker is naturally two-footed and also a threat at set-pieces. The club will struggle to retain the services of their joint top scorer beyond the summer, although they have already agreed an extended deal with Di Francesco, who will remain in charge for the next two years.

Sassuolo will aspire to make their 41,000 population proud next season. The odds may be stacked against them but they are sure to savour the experience after such rapid progression. Scott Johnson

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