Zamparini - A bittersweet president
Behind every club's kit there is a story. For Palermo, it was claimed by a club founder that the choice of pink and black was to represent the sweetness and bitterness of the club's yo-yoing results. Never has that affliction been more evident than under their controversial owner, Maurizio Zamparini.
Three years ago, at their peak, the club was challenging for the Champions League. Now they face an uncertain future after relegation back to Serie B, the division Zamparini had originally dragged them from. Under the guidance of Delio Rossi, they finished 5th in 2010 and optimism was flowing through the city.
Astute sporting director Walter Sabatini's role was multifaceted. As well as sourcing exciting young talent such as Javier Pastore and Josip Ilicic for Delio Rossi to mould into a team, Sabatini also served as mediator between owner and coach. As Zamparini began nitpicking Rossi's tactics as early as the end of the 2009-10 season, the cracks between the pair took formation.
In November 2010, the peacemaker departed the scene citing 'personal reasons'. Although Zamparini enjoyed hero status in the city for bringing Palermo to Serie A after a long absence, it was viewed he was jealous of Rossi's success.
Accused of wanting to be centre of attention, it's a perception Zamparini has oft tried to distance himself from. Claiming he is keen to avoid the spotlight, he takes a taxi round the city during Palermo's most high pressure fixtures - the end of the most recent campaign likely seeing him rack up a considerable weekly fare.
As Zamparini's comments to the press continued during Rossi's reign, things finally came to a head in early 2011. On the back of two losses a 7-0 defeat by Udinese seemed catastrophic on the surface, but to those in attendance the result was a freak one as the club sat in 8th position in Serie A. Without Sabatini to provide diplomacy and logic, Zamparini promptly dispensed with Rossi's services.
"The team has been completely destroyed," he raged. "He [Rossi] ruined my Palermo. Rossi has destroyed this squad."
Yet amazingly within weeks, Rossi was back in the dugout. A microcosm for Zamparini's volatile style of management, it was a habit present long before Rossi had arrived at the club, with 15 previous incumbents of the manager's role since 2004.
Zamparini clamoured to restore the best working relationship of his time with the Rosanero, but it was too late. The scars of the past still bore deep and Rossi confirmed he would not be returning after the 2011 season, citing personal differences. With playmaker Javier Pastore previously announcing he would remain provided Rossi did, the Argentine quickly departed the scene.
Deconstructing Rossi's side like an angry partner discarding the mementos of a past relationship, Zamparini allowed Salvatore Sirigu and Pastore to depart for Paris Saint-Germain, before Antonio Nocerino moved to AC Milan. Opting to hire Stefano Pioli as manager, Zamparini also found a replacement for Sabatini in Sean Sogliano (head scout Luca Cattani previously acting as an interim ). Yet Zamparini's oldest habits became too hard to break as he tried to usher in a new era at the club.
Pioli was fired two months into a two-year contract, having yet to take charge of a Serie A game when he left the city. Zamparini pined for his former manager in the press: "I want Rossi back," he admitted - but it was too late.
Eventually opting to elect the head of the club's youth team Devis Mangia into the manager's role, it was now Sogliano's turn to depart, citing the difficulty of working with Zamparini as the reason. Mangia would last just seven more weeks, replaced by the experienced Bortolo Mutti. The club's initial priority of European qualification had now been replaced by that of survival. Having contested the previous season's Coppa Italia final under Rossi, it now felt a distant memory.
A 16th-placed finish was far from convincing and became the precursor to another exodus of players. Italy internationals Mattia Cassani and Federico Balzaretti were joined by Matias Silvestre in leaving the club as Zamparini once again hailed the beginning of a new project.
By now the instability was beginning to take its toll. The re-signing of club legend Franco Brienza alongside youngster Paulo Dybala served as the bright spots on a dark transfer window. As the 2012-13 season approached, so did a new manager in Giuseppe Sannino. Sacked in September for the second consecutive season and the third year in four, the coach would be gone before November, replaced by Gian Piero Gasperini.
A spate of January arrivals could not halt the slide and in dire need of consistency, Gasperini was replaced by Alberto Malesani in early February only to be reappointed before the month's end.
After sacking Gasperini a second time, Zamparini plunged to a new level of rashness by rehiring Sannino in mid-March. Unable to engineer a way out of the relegation spots, the club's fate was confirmed with an 18th-placed finish and Sannino rescinded his contract.
Now replaced by Gennaro Gattuso, the World Cup winner made a blunt opening statement when hired: "Zamparini? I only fear death," Gattuso told Gazzetta dello Sport earlier this month. The former Milan midfielder arrives at the club after a brief spell of management in Switzerland with FC Sion, a club whose owner, Christian Constantin, bears an uncanny similarity to Zamparini, sacking 29 coaches in the last decade, including Gattuso.
A young manager and still very much untested, Gattuso's potential is there. A keen purveyor of the game during his time at Milan, he would often read the daily sports papers, watch games on TV or, if one was not available, seek a DVD from the club's performance analysts.
With no manager guaranteed a future under Zamparini, the man himself could not hide the trigger happy facet of his personality recently: "When will I sack [Gattuso]?" he said when asked recently. "He's going to bring me a fish tomorrow and cook it for me. He's got a shop in Gallarate near my office and of course I'll sign the papers for his dismissal before I employ him." His joke hit somewhat too close to home for some and proved that the club's once biggest asset was now, perhaps, their biggest burden.