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After a miraculous first half of the season, the sharp dip in form has been startling. And Setti is being investigated

Richard Hough

The column of the week from Richard Hough for all the Verona-lovers speaking english.

In a week in which Verona marked the anniversary of its greatest ever achievement (12/5/1985), a dark cloud has settled over the Bentegodi.

After a miraculous first half of the season, the sharp dip in form has been startling

Despite everything, with 43 points on the board (three points ahead of 11th place Bologna who Hellas host on Monday evening), Hellas remain on track for a tenth-place finish. On top of last season’s ninth place (with 49 points), by any objective standard these have been exceptional seasons for Hellas, matched only by the ‘Luca Toni’ inspired 2013/14 season (tenth place finish/54 points) and the Cesare Prandeli season of 1999/2000 (ninth place finish/43 points). But, since achieving this season’s principal (indeed only) objective – salvation, a degree of complacency has crept in, which risks undermining everything Hellas have achieved under Juric.

Once again, by any objective rationale these are great times to be a Hellas fan. Against all the odds, with a miniscule budget and a high-energy and offensive brand of football, Verona have achieved the seemingly impossible.

But, in recent weeks the mood has changed.

On the pitch the dip in form has been catastrophic. With just five points from the last eleven games, Hellas have lost to Crotone, Inter, Fiorentina, Sampdoria, Lazio, Atalanta, Sassuolo and Milan. Goals, which have never come easily, have proved exceptionally hard to come by of late. In stark contrast to the earlier part of the season, when Juric’s men caused a number of eye-catching upsets, Hellas seem to have reverted back to the kind of form that saw them alternate between the foot of Serie A and the top half of Serie B.

Hellas, as Juric conceded after Thursday evening’s defeat against Crotone, have got into the habit of losing. Mission accomplished, his side has lost its purpose, identity and spirit.

Individual players have lost form, performances have lacked cohesion and energy.

Speculation about summer departures have clearly had an impact. Zaccagni is a shadow of the player that took Serie A by storm in the first half of the season. Silvestri, another who earned an international call up in the first half of the season, has now been sidelined and will see out the remainder of the season from the bench, as he too considers a lucrative (and well-deserved) summer move. Where once every player was out-performing, now all are struggling.

Off the pitch, a very public spat between the ever-forthright Juric and the club’s unpopular president Maurizio Setti has darkened the mood even further. Juric’s initial outburst (after the draw with Torino) was that the club had showed a lack of respect for everything he had achieved, and that his ambition wasn’t matched by the society. His outburst suggested an almost complete breakdown in his relationship with the club’s president, a remarkable state of affairs, given how well everything seemed to be going until just a few weeks ago.

Setti responded a few days later, reassuring his coach that he remained central to his plans for the future. Juric subsequently expressed regret for any offence caused, claiming he had been misunderstood, but the nature of the dialogue between the two key stakeholders suggests a schism between the coach and the president that might just be beyond repair. The fundamental divergence seems to be that Juric believes Hellas should be pressing for a European place, while the President is content to settle merely for salvation.

Clearly, Setti has taken his eye of the ball, certainly in terms of his relationship with his coach and, as the team was preparing for the match against Crotone on Thursday night, it became clear why.

On Thursday morning it emerged that Setti was under investigation for financial irregularities. More specifically, he is being investigated by the Public Prosecutor of Bologna for embezzlement and self-laundering (a criminal offence under the Italian penal code). The Guardia di Finanza, Italy’s financial police, have seized assets worth  6.5 million euros, the sum alleged to have been unlawfully transferred from the football club to restructure other concerns in order to avoid their bankruptcy.

In response to the accusations made against him, Setti reiterated the absolute regularity and correctness of his dealings, and rejected all the accusations made against him, stating that he had always acted with full transparency and in the best interests of Hellas Verona and its fans.

It was against this backdrop of despondency and intrique that Hellas travelled south to play against a Serie B bound Crotone on Thursday evening.

Hellas went a goal down within a couple of minutes and Crotone doubled their lead midway through the second half. Hellas snatched a late consolation (a Salvatore Molina O.G.), but in truth deserved little from the game. Juric, observing much of the match from the bench (uncharacteristic for a coach who normally paces up and down the touchline), was shown a late red card for his angry reaction after Ilic went down inside the box.

It was an abject performance, in keeping with the mood engulfing the club at the moment.

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