Club cut adrift after finishing sixth last season
2 February ~ Parma’s clash with Milan at San Siro on Sunday night was dubbed the battle of the crisis clubs in Italy, but Parma would presumably give anything in exchange for the mid-table mediocrity currently being experienced by the Rossoneri. Their 3-1 defeat at the weekend was the 17th of a disastrous season that has seen them plummet to the bottom of Serie A, ten points adrift of safety and with just one win since early November. It is an extraordinary collapse for a team that finished sixth and qualified for the Europa League last term.
Parma were never able to take their place in Europe’s secondary club competition, denied entry by the Italian Olympic Committee last May due to an unpaid tax bill. From there, things began to spiral out of control: the club’s president Tommaso Ghirardi carried through his threat of walking away after seven years in charge, telling the authorities at a press conference that they “should all be ashamed… you’ve managed to kick me out of sport [and] make me abandon my biggest passion”. Despite their best season in a decade, off-field events saw Parma lose the man who had put them back on the right path after the Parmalat bankruptcy scandal that threatened the club’s existence in the mid-2000s.
Parma thus began the 2014-15 season in flux. Ghirardi was unable to shift the club until December, when Albanian businessman Rezart Taci bought out the Italian’s shares. Taci is yet to resolve the state of affairs that has seen the club’s staff go unpaid since August; with no money coming in, it is little surprise that the Gialloblu’s players have been unable to recapture last season’s form. Parma have been consistently woeful this campaign, winning just three of their 21 league games, losing twice to second-bottom Cesena and being thrashed 7-0 by leaders Juventus.
This year’s squad is also significantly weaker than 2013-14’s. Striker Amauri and central-midfielder Marco Parolo were two of Parma’s most important players last season but both moved on in the summer. Winger Jonathan Biabiany, meanwhile, has been sidelined with a heart condition, while the mercurial Antonio Cassano rescinded his contract last month after becoming disillusioned with the situation engulfing the club.
Roberto Donadoni is still in charge of the team, although speculation about youth-team coach Hernan Crespo replacing the former Italian national team boss refuses to go away. Regardless of who is in charge though, it is difficult to see the Gialloblu escaping this desperate predicament.
Last season, Parma went on an incredible 17-game unbeaten run that included a thrilling 4-2 victory over AC Milan at San Siro. Sunday’s 3-1 reverse at the same venue against the same opposition was symptomatic of the team’s decline. There may be 51 points left to play for but, unless they get their act together immediately, Serie B beckons. Greg Lea @GregLeaFootball