uefa.com's mid-term report on UEFA Cup contenders Parma AC.
In a season of otherwise abject misery, Parma AC can at least take consolation from their successful UEFA Cup run. However the priority for the club after Christmas is not Europe – but ensuring they extend their eleven-year long tenure in Serie A.
Impressive silverware collection
Since winning promotion to the top echelon of Italian football for the first time in 1990, Parma have never finished lower than seventh and have garnered an impressive array of silverware along the way – including two Coppa Italias (in 1992 and 1999), one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup (1993), two UEFA Cups (1995 and 1999) and one UEFA Super Cup (1994). However that glory seemed like a distant memory at the midwinter break of the 2001/02 season as the club languished in 16th place with just three wins from their opening 16 fixtures.
The last year-and-a-half has been a turbulent one at the Ennio Tardini stadium as high-profile stars such as Hernán Crespo, Gianluigi Buffon and Lilian Thuram have all departed and big-money replacements such as Johan Micoud, Savo Milosevic and Hidetoshi Nakata have failed to show the requisite consistency to adequately replace them.
Five different coaches
Worryingly, Parma have had five different coaches in the last year; Alberto Malesani was sacked at the beginning of January and replaced by Arrigo Sacchi. However the former Italian national coach quit less than a month into the job, citing stress. Renzo Ulivieiri replaced him and by the end of the season had helped guide the side to fourth and a place in the qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League. However a disastrous reverse against Lille OSC in the third qualifying round denied the club a place in the first group stage and condemned them to participation in the UEFA Cup.
Worse was to follow as a run of just one win from Parma’s opening eight league games saw Ulivieiri resign. Daniel Passarella winged in as replacement after Carlo Ancelotti rejected Parma’s advances and took over at Milan AC. Passarella, the former Argentinian national coach, spoke optimistically about the prospect of Parma finishing in the top four but despite a winning start in the Coppa Italia, he lost his first five league games in charge and was also sacked.
Carmignani takes over
Pietro Gedeone Carmignani took over as caretaker boss and lost his first game in charge 1-0 at Torino Calcio. "We are desperate,” he admitted after the game. “Without the brains and the legs, the situation is critical.” Within a week spirits at the club were raised by the arrival, yet again, of Arrigo Sacchi, who was appointed director of football with Carmigignani continuing as caretaker coach. The new management team appeared to work well as Parma beat fellow strugglers AC Fiorentina in their last game before Christmas. Sacchi confirmed after the game that Carmignani would remain as coach until the end of the season at least.
'A great man'
For his part, Carmignani made it clear that he valued Sacchi’s arrival and input. "Arrigo is a great man who has shown here in Parma that he knows how to involve everyone with his enthusiasm," he said. “I have had a long chat with the president and he has told me his aims. I have, however, replied that I have to get results - that is the only thing that counts in football."
Away from the horrors of their Serie A campaign, Parma have shown fleeting glimpses of their abilities in the UEFA Cup. Interestingly, in every round their results away from home have been notably superior to their Ennio Tardini performances. HJK Helsinki were beaten comfortably enough 3-0 an aggregate in the first round (1-0 in Parma, 2-0 in Helsinki). In the next round a fine 3-1 win away to FC Utrecht set the Serie A side up for a second round win, despite a 0-0 drew in Italy in the second leg. Meanwhile in round three, Parma showed admirable fighting spirit to recover from a disappointing 1-1 home draw to win 3-0 away to Brøndby IF in the second leg just as the Danish side were scenting an upset.
Fighting spirit needed
More of the same fighting spirit will be necessary if Parma are to overcome doughty underdogs Hapoel Tel-Aviv in round four in February. Israeli Premier League pacesetters Tel-Aviv have already disposed of Chelsea FC and FC Lokomotiv Moscow in their march to round four so Parma will underestimate them at their peril. Mind you, the Gialloblù would doubtless trade a fourth round defeat against the Israelis for Serie A survival come the summer.