seasonNine.episodeThree | Ritorno
Those followers of mine who have been on the whole journey with me will know that I have a love-hate relationship with Parma. Probably not quite on each spectrum, but I’ve gone from loving my time here to wanting to leave.
This football club has a way of giving just enough to keep you interested, but then cruelly takes away the second you let your guard down.
The philosophy stays the same. The scouts are working overtime identifying youth players we can bring through into the first team, and those youth players are doing us proud. We’ve had a season that surpassed even the most optimistic of supporter.
We haven’t done any business this window, either. We’re going with what we have as we’re settled now and everything is going well.
You will be aware that we’ve released a lot of the uncommitted. None more so than Simone Scuffet, the goalkeeper whose actions nearly forced me to walk out in Parma. Well, it should be fitting that he stars in the finale of the season.
Read more to find out why.
Things continued to go well and we picked up from where we left off.
Our form was embarrassing. In the sense that we just blew the competition away. We continued the theme of hammering teams for four goals, Ascoli and Torino the latest victims. Bologna were the only real contenders this period, holding us to a draw in the semi-final of the Parma Cup.
We continued our excellent form and pushed that lead at the top of the table by another couple of excellent wins against Bari and Udinese.
Barcelona reminded us of our status within world football, however, it wasn’t as clear as the score suggests. We created plenty of clear chances, but we just couldn’t find the net. We took a weakened team to Sampdoria as the first team recovered and they did us proud holding onto the draw. We pushed through to our fifth final in five years in the Coppa Italia with an excellent 4-2 win over Bologna.
Napoli and Milan were have brushed aside as we continued to steamroll our way through every opponent in the league, but it was the match against Barcelona where we came into our own. Our second goal to secure the win in extra time was one which Barcelona would have been proud of.
Into the Champions League quarter-final, we go, with a bit of an easier ride this time against RB Leipzig.
Talking of Leipzig, they too were beaten by four goals. Which pretty much wraps up our passage into the semi-final, notwithstanding a complete fuck up. Which would be something, even by our standards. Benevento should have stayed at home, they, unfortunately, caught us on a great day. Leipzig got our youth team and even then couldn’t beat us. I don’t really need to mention Bologna and the four goals…
This is where the season turned a little sour. Despite beating Real Madrid by three goals to nil, in their own backyard, nonetheless, we still went crashing out of the Champions League. Despite having the advantage right up until the 92nd minute we couldn’t hold on to get to the final. I rarely get angry when managing, but this was one of those moments where I had to step away. Two goals in the final five minutes knocked us out. I’m starting to wonder if the Champions League is a stretch too far for us.
With the league wrapped up and us on target to finish with a record points haul, we headed to the final of the Coppa Italia to face Scuffet and Juventus. Having gotten the better of him three times already this season, scoring nine goals in the process, I’m starting to think selling him to our rivals was a stroke of genius.
The game itself was a bit of an anti-climax, based on previous meetings this season. A goal on the hour mark for us through none other than Boubacar Konté was much deserved, but in fairness, a draw at that point was probably fair.
Juventus pegged us back 10 minutes later, however, and the match went into extra time.
This is where things got interesting. With extra time a bit of a damp squib, we got to penalties, where I was starting to think that the game was lost. We don’t really have anyone who can take penalties, except for a couple, and one of those, Komes, always misses having missed all three he’s taken this season.
Needless to say, he missed again, but Juventus missed one of the opening five as well so it was level, up until the score read 9 : 9 which meant it was down to the goalkeepers.
You can see where this is going.
After Vicente scored for us it was down to Scuffet to keep Juventus in it. However, it wasn’t to be. Scuffet handed us the victor and the treble, which he ends the season empty-handed. I’m not bitter.
I expect more players to leave me over the summer, however, I would like to remind them of this. The grass isn’t always greener.
Into the final game of the season, we sat on 101 points, with the record standing at 102. We faced Inter Milan at Ennio Tardini and it seemed fitting we should win by four goals to take our season to heights not seen by any other Italian club.
Having missed out by three points last season, to win by such a margin this season was incredible, considering we’ve not really strengthened the squad with any big name players. 105 goals and 104 points. This, I think I am safe to say, will never be topped.
Notwithstanding the Champions League disappointment, where we really should have been into the final, it has been a sensational season.
Losing the players we did over the summer, I expected another season of pushing to stay in the top four to keep our Champions League participation going. I never expected the season we had.
Uriel Antuna finished with the highest average rating of all players this season. The Mexican winger netting 8 goals and 9 assists in his 25 appearances this season. With nearly 4 dribbles per game, he’s a player who gets fans off their seats.
The top marksman goes to Mario Bazan, with 28 goals (0.82 p/90). He also finished with 16 assists, too. He has been a revelation this season. After his 23 goals in 35appearancess last season, he continues to go from strength to strength. And at just 24 years of age, he is yet to hit his prime years. He also created 43 chances this season, 9 more than anyone else.
The most assists came from Robert bronic, the young Croatian winger who defies his age and inexperience and continues to push Antuna for his place on the right wing. With 5.40 dribbles per game and 8 goals to go with his 15 assists, he really is turning into a world beater!
With the two systems in place now, the 4-4-2 which we use against the bigger sides, and 4-2-3-1 in the games we’re expected to win, we really are showing what we’re capable of and getting every ounce of effort available out of the players.
Thanks to another strong Champions League showing, we’ve made great strides financially. It also means that we have been able to finance our new stadium without incurring any debt, which is fantastic news as I’ve been so prudent that it would have been a kick in the teeth to get into debt for a new stadium.
As always we rely a huge amount on TV Revenue from the Champions League. I was reliably infomred that we only stayed in the black through selling players, and I think it’ll be the same this season. Buy low, sell high is the philosophy and to make sure we have the players ready to come through if needed.
We’ve had a big boost in sponsorship, and this is set to rise much more in the coming years when the new stadium is built. Despite getting to the semi-final of the Champions League, revenue from TV deals is down 18%
Overall I would say we’re in a healthy place. Revenue is only slightly down on last season, primarily due to the TV Revenue being lower.
Last season we talked about reducing player wages, and we’ve managed to bring them down 3% from last year to €75m per season. With that came loyalty bonuses and staff wages.
Spending overall is down in most areas, which has seen a 10% decrease over last season. However, next years accounts will show €102m deducted as we begin work on the new stadium.
I’m pleased we’ve managed to bring spending down and look to continue this trend into next season. Without Champions League success, I’ve had to offer a few new contracts. My Director of Football isn’t the best when it comes to negotiations, and it looks like we might be losing Antuna for €20m because of a release clause he gave him.
A bumper new stadium sponsor helped with the finances, but the competition prize money was down as previously discussed. Broadcasting revenues continue to grow and we need to be competing at the top levels to grab a share of that.
Great growth for us financially. Removing the reliance on player sales will be key for me over the next couple of seasons.
PLANS FOR NEXT SEASON
Our under 20s won the UEFA Youth League, beating RB Leipzig in the final on penalties. Showing that the investment in youth is certainly worthwhile. We have a few good players coming through who are not quite there for the first team but it won’t be long until they are.
A location for the new stadium has been found and will be ready in two years. We will see an initial 9k capacity increase over our current capacity, but there should be room for expansion should we need it. A €42m sponsorship is helping to fund the new stadium, who agreed as part of the deal to have the stadium named after them, but more to be revealed soon.
Next season, what is the objective? To be honest, after this season we have to think we can win the league again. We’re still not good enough to win the Champions League, so if we can get out of the group stages again, then it’ll be a success for me.
We’ve got a few of the stars grumbling that they want to leave for Europe’s elite, so as always if they want to go they can go. Scuffet found out the hard way that leaving Parma isn’t always the best career move. But I somehow doubt that’ll come into their thinking.
Until next time, arrivederci.