Palermo’s crazypants president steps down after 15 years of surprisingly successful chaos
March 1, 2017
There may not have been a method to his madness, but there were some good results
The sacking of Claudio Ranieri has launched a familiar round of outraged headlines over modern football’s soulless disloyalty. Meanwhile, the one man who wouldn’t have hesitated to fire Ranieri as he lifted the Premier League trophy, Palermo president Maurizio “Get Out, No, Wait, Come Back” Zamparini has finally pulled off the ultimate sacking: himself.
Zamparini announced that a new president, representing a yet to be named American group of investors, will take charge of Palermo in the coming weeks, ending Zamparini’s 15-year campaign against logic.
The Reuters report on this story reads like a satire of modern football club owners. It includes lines like:
[Palermo] narrowly avoided another relegation in May after an extraordinary season in which the club employed seven different coaches, two of them twice.
Because it is often not clear whether a manager at Palermo is considered interim or long term, and because some coaches have been appointed several times, there is no consensus over how many Zamparini has employed since he took over in 2002.
However, Italian media generally put the total at 38.
(Football Italia puts the numbers at 29 different managers who were hired, fired, and rehired a total of 40 times.)
It’s generally accepted that managers need time and football clubs need stability to succeed. By that line of thinking, turnover fueled by the manic whims of an oversensitive tyrant (“I will cut off their testacles and eat them in my salad,” he said of his own players in 2003) would be the quickest way to drive a club out of business. But under Zamparini, Palermo achieved some remarkable feats, especially when compared to other southern Italian clubs.
A year after he took charge, Palermo signed eventual World Cup winner Luca Toni and returned to Serie A for the first time in over 30 years. Since then, they have finished as high as fifth three times, qualified for what is now the Europa League five times, reached the Coppa Italia final in 2011, and only suffered one brief return to Serie B before bouncing right back to the top flight the following season. All the while, Palermo helped propel the careers of an impressive number of young talents—most notably Edinson Cavani, Javier Pastore, and Paulo Dybala.
Now sitting 18th in the table and staring down another relegation, Zamparini, who has moaned about being unappreciated by the city of Palermo nearly since the day he arrived, has finally made good on his longstanding threat to step away from the button linked to the trap door under the manager’s seat. And while the next president will almost certainly provide more stability (the only way to provide less would be to put the Stadio Renzo Barbera on wheels), it’s far from certain that they’ll be able to match Zamparini’s achievements.
So farewell to Maurizio Zamparini, Italian football’s entertainingly mad scientist who challenged conventional wisdom. Whether he intended to or not.