The column of the week from Richard Hough for all the Verona-lovers speaking english.
On learning that he had been banished, Romeo famously lamented: “There is no world without Verona walls, But purgatory, torture, hell itself”.
Following a mass exodus from the city in the summer, a number of Verona’s most outstanding players are now encountering life beyond Verona’s walls. In this article, we explore how they are adapting to life after Hellas.
After an outstanding breakthrough season in Serie A, Sofyan Amrabat joined Fiorentina in a move said to be worth around €20 million. Although he missed Fiorentina’s opening game of the season against Torino, he has since played in every game for La Viola, at the heart of their five-man midfield. Despite boasting a formidable-looking squad, Fiorentina have enjoyed mixed results so far this season (won 2, lost 2, drawn 1).
Lifelong Fiorentina aficionado and Serie A correspondent Chloe Beresford is confident that, despite an underwhelming start in Tuscany, Amrabat, alongside Gaetano Castrovilli, represents a sound long-term investment for the Tuscan club. Chloe places the blame for Fiorentina’s underwhelming start to the season squarely on the shoulders of coach Beppe Iachini and his rigid devotion to a 3-5-2 formation that is ill-suited to the players at his disposal. According to Chloe, it it may require a change in coaching staff to bring out the best in the Moroccan midfielder. Despite that, she’s seen enough of Amrabat to recognise his raw talent and potential.
Another player who made an outstanding contribution last season, Marash Kumbulla was amongst the most sought-after young players on the peninsula during the summer transfer window.
According to Wayne Girard, editor of @gentlemanultra and AS Roma commentator and contributor, Kumbulla has made an instant impact, completing a youthful defensive line-up alongside Gianluca Mancini and Roger Ibañez. It seems that the three youngsters have bonded immediately and Wayne is hopeful that they can form a formidable defensive triumvirate for many years to come. In just five appearances, Kumbulla has already scored two goals, helping Roma salvage a point against Milan and grabbing the match winner against Young Boys in his Europa League debut. Wayne is clearly impressed by what he’s seen so far: “His athleticism combined with this maturity could mean that we have a legacy player here. You never wanna get too excited, but sometimes a player just comes along with so much obvious talent…”.
Alongside Kumbulla, 26-year-old Kosovan defender Amir Rrahmani was central to Verona’s impressive defensive record last season. He signed for Napoli during the January transfer window for a fee of around €14 million, but continued to play for Hellas until the end of the season, making 36 appearances for the gialloblù last season.
Joseph Fischetti, Producer and Host of @ForzaNapoliPod and writer for@WorldFootballi acknowledges that it will be tough for Rrahmani to establish himself in a squad that boasts defenders of the calibre of Kalidou Koulibaly, Kostas Manolas and Nikola Maksimović. Fischetti suspects that we might not catch a glimpse of Rrahmani until Napoli enter the Coppa Italia in January, but with a condensed fixture list, the Kosovan giant may well be called upon sooner rather than later, as injuries and player fatigue begin to take a toll.
Matteo Pessina was another young player who made a massive contribution to Verona’s success last season. As well as deputising for Miguel Veloso, the versatile midfielder was more frequently employed higher up the pitch in an offensive role. He made 35 appearances for Verona last season and scored seven goals, but was recalled to Atalanta when his year-long loan period expired in the summer.
Pessina is yet to make an appearance for Atalanta this season, but is well regarded by the technical staff at Bergamo. Ahead of Atalanta’s recent match against Sampdoria, Umberto Marino, Atalanta’s general manager, spoke to Sky Sports about Pessina’s future at the club: “It’s an excellent opportunity for us and for him to play in both the league and the Champions League. He is back from a period of injury; we have a lot of faith in him. He has to integrate into the system, but we are all convinced that he can do well because he has quality, personality and did very well last year. He can add great value to our squad”.
Finally, spare a thought for Fabio Borini. The ex-Chelsea, Swansea, Roma, Liverpool, Sunderland and Milan winger made 14 appearances for Hellas last season and scored three important goals. Despite a decent offer to stay on at Verona, Borini decided to wait for a better offer and he is believed to be keen to return to England.
Unfortunately for him, nothing materialised over the summer and, without a club, he now finds himself training alone in the park.
Perhaps Fabio can take some advice from Friar Laurence who, upon learning of Romeo’s banishment from Verona, said: “Be patient for the world is broad and wide”.
As the season progresses, it will be fascinating to follow the fortunes of those who ventured beyond Verona’s proud walls.