Hitting the Big Time – Serie A

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Hernan Crespo –  Welcome to 23rd July 2020. I would like to reflect on a season that has been an interesting adventure with highs, lows, love and fallouts.

We were predicted by the Italian media to finish the league in 19th place. To go back down to the second tier of Italian football with no more than a whimper and see the season of football in Serie A as an unusual upward blip in Modena’s history as being a perennial Serie B club, and to just settle for nothing more than seeing the 2019-20 season as nothing more than a jolly in one hand and to be thrashed by all in the other.

We planned our moves for players in to the club well in advance of winning Serie B. In fact most of the additions were permanent signatures of many of the players that had been on loan. The most significant was Federico Bonazzoli. We managed to negotiate a straight £5.75m offer to Sampdoria. Our goal machine in Serie B joined the Fenix with the bit between his teeth to show his previous clubs (Inter and Sampdoria) what they would be missing.

The other significant signature was Steffan Jensen. The Board bought the seventeen year old from Fc Midtjyland (Denmark) for £33m. Yes you hear me £33m more than what I had in my kitty to bring in players of my choosing. This £33m depleted my transfer kitty to zero. And would mean in order to compete in the market I would have to sell in January.

Back to the Summer.

Preseason was spent in the Dolomites building the team spirit and building the fitness levels to turn these boys into men for the challenges expected against every team in Serie A.

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Blood sweat and tears were shed. And the friendlies against five local teams helped us work on attacking tactics for the season ahead and helped boost our team relationships. A further four friendlies were used to help build game time for each player in the squad.

The Competitions

TIM Cup.

Cup

We played Pisa in August and played an experimental side that included regen youth products in Mario Tano and Lorenzo Lacchini. These two came through the first youth intake in 2018 and had shown that they were more than mustard in the under 18’s and under 20’s. The match VS Cittadella was a nailed biter. I had sent out a side mainly containing the second XI. They pushed out a 3-0 lead within the first 30 minutes. But a goal just before half time took the wind out of the guys sails. After peppering our goal with shots they eventually got their second in the 85th minute. The last 5 minutes were all about preserving our lead and protecting our goal. We scraped through.

Our 1st Round match Vs Inter saw our continued approach to play the youngsters. We played five from the under 20’s/18’s. As we thought if we go out the 1st team wouldn’t feel effected by any embarrassment and these youngsters would benefit from the first team experience against such a mighty opponent. To our benefit Inter put out a a side that was just as lacking in experience as us. A goal by Inter halfway through the first half saw the team pose questions amongst themselves with little reply until we introduced Cesc Mosca (RG) and Alessandro Ahmetaj. Both came on to immediate effect. With the latter setting Cesc up for his first professional goal for the club. With Alessandro then banging in the winner.

The Qtr Final saw us put up against Antonio Conte’s Juventus. This was a tactical battle that saw our kids outwitted, and overall out performed by an experienced Juve team. Our journey in the TIM Cup came to a noble end losing 2-0 at the Allianz Stadium.

Serie A

The first match in Serie A was at the Stadio Olimpico. We were guests of Roma. The boys were in buoyant mood from the off. And we took the lead on 12 mins from Federico Bonazzoli. Reassuring words at halftime gave the boys confidence to not just hold on to the lead but to go out and secure the victory. Campos scored in the 61st minute and Bonazzoli added his second to kill of the match in the 88th minute. We won. We won 3-0!!! We then go one to win our first four matches. Conceding only two goals in the process.

We then got found out by a very plucky Genoa. Bonazzoli put us in to an early lead but Lapadula had not read the script and spoiled the party at the Alberto Braglia. Genoa went home with the three points and we were disappointing in our performance for our first defeat in Serie A. Our next match resulted in a 2-0 away win for us against fellow promoted side Perugia. This win was the start of a ten match unbeaten streak seeing eight wins and two draws between the end of September and the middle of December.

December is rocked by then 2-1 away defeat to Udinese, but topped by the cup match against Inter (mentioned above). We then have an early Christmas present a 5-0 win against Carpi to have our parade rained on when Juventus thrash us 4-1 at the Allianz Stadium. This New Year angst then disappears after our biggest victory of the season a 3-0 home win against Inter. The perfect performance is followed by the kids losing the cup battle against Juventus. Our inconsistent form then bring us the league double over Roma. A fluky 1-0 win. But a win is a win. And we enter the small winter break third in the table behind Juventus and Inter.

The winter window….

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The winter window opened and within seconds Gennaro Ruggiero was snapped up by Napoli. We brought in Columbian Regen, Hernando Garcia from Millonarios. We then saw Stefano Tarolli get his big club move. AC Milan came in and Stefano pleaded with the move. Given we prevented him from making a mistake last year with a move to Lazio. We gave him permission to talk to Milan. And they met our valuation of £2.4m rising to £3.3m.

We then had our team leader Lorenzo Tonelli, head turned by Roma. Another case of a player wanting the big time. This time Lorenzo put the markers down to upset the club so we agreed the deal with Roma, and received £7m rising to £8.5m to get him out of the door.

We then had to work very quickly to get two loan signings through the door.

Roman Burkl from Dortmund joined with the promise of first team football. He came to not just replace Tarolli, but to push Brignoli for the number 1 jersey.

We then went bold and youthful to replace Tonelli with Alessandro Bastoni from Inter. In the hope that the boy’s enthusiasm and raw speed and strength.

A quick conclusion to that transfer window. The world would have been a better place if it hadn’t happen. It did so I had to find the best but cheapest replacements.

The second half of the season

With the winter break over the first game back was at Luigi Ferrari’s. Sampdoria won 2-1 and Lorenzo Tonelli played his last match for us and by getting sent off in the 80th minute. By doing so he took the shine off the reputation he had built up at Modena.

The next five games saw us go through a tough patch where the team spirit was extremely tested. Losing three but winning two.

The eighth of March saw us take on Bologna at home. A scrappy affair saw them score a very early own goal, and Miceli scored just afterwards to install a new found belief in the whole club. Youth player Cesc Mosca then sealed the victory with the third of the game.

The significance of this game was one that this kicked started our season. We then went on a run of not losing the next twelve games. The last twelve games of the season!

This included a 4-1 away win against Napoli. A 1-0 home win against Juventus. And a 5-2 away win against Inter on the last day of the season.

We finished the first season in Serie A in second place. That’s right, second place, one point behind Inter and one point ahead of third place Juventus.

League1

Modena football club have reached the big time. The club will welcome European Champions League football for the first time in their history.

Me, Hernan Crespo. I have accepted an approach from Paris St Germain. I have reached the big time.

Join me next time for the next chapter.