Serie A 2012-13 season review: Homeless Cagliari cruises to mid-table safety

Enrico Locci

Led by a virtually unknown coach and almost without a home stadium, Cagliari stayed clear of the relegation battle while playing some exciting football.

11th; W12 D11 L15
Cagliari Calcio

This was quite a turbulent season for Cagliari -- not in terms of results, but in terms of stability.The Isolani faced issues with their stadium, the IS Arenas, that no club in the top European divisions has had to deal with over the past decade. Additionally, Cagliari found themselves in a spot of financial trouble, and if that wasn't enough, club president Massimo Cellino was accused of fraud and embezzlement and imprisoned for sixteen days. We can safely say the season wasn't boring in Sardinia.

Cagliari started the season with Massimo Ficcadenti as coach, but he was fired in October after he failed to win any of the first six matches in Serie A. In his place, Cellino appointed Ivo Pulga, who had never before coached a professional side.

Despite their stadium problems and lack of home support, Cagliari had the same home record as Inter Milan and boasted a better one than, for instance, Sampdoria or Bologna.

Most significant match

Roma 2:4 Cagliari (1 February 2013)

Cagliari recorded a few exciting games this season. They played out a thrilling 2-2 draw against Inter at the San Siro and showed their quality in a 4-1 loss to Fiorentina (despite what the final result might suggest). But, without a doubt, the most significant game of their season was their win at the Stadio Olimpico against AS Roma, which brought an end to Zemanlandia in the capital. Cagliari have enjoyed playing Roma over the last few years, notching quite a few victories with memorable moments of Daniele Conti terrorizing his old team. This time, two different players were in the center of attention - Marco Sau in rossoblu and Mauro Goicoechea in giallorosso. A comical own goal by Roma keeper Goicoechea is one of those moments that will never be forgotten -- by either side.

Biggest surprise

Ivo Pulga & Marco Sau

Cellino's appointment of Pulga took everyone by surprise, but the decision was a masterpiece. Prior to his appointment at Cagliari, Pulga was a coach in the Modena youth system and had never managed a professional side. But he (and his assistant Diego Lopez) brought good football to Sardinia, and more importantly, they brought results.

Marco Sau was playing in Serie C two years ago, but his performances this season put him on Cesare Prandelli's list for the Azzurri in the Confederations Cup. Sau scored 20 goals with Zdenek Zeman's Foggia in Serie C, then last season in Serie B he scored 21 goals with Juve Stabia. This season, his first in the top division, he was once again in double figures with 12 goals for the Isolani.

Biggest disappointment

Stadium situation

Whoever is responsible for the ridiculous and embarrassing situation with Cagliari's stadium(s) likely deserves to be fired from their job(s). Cagliari spent much of the season playing behind closed doors, although Celino didn't help the situation by inviting supporters to those matches. By the end of the season, the rossoblu were homeless, forced to play on the mainland and wondering where they'd be come next season. Such a situation shouldn't and mustn't happen to a club in one of the best leagues in the world. Cellino wanted to build a new stadium, but as is so often the case in Italy, bureaucratic and political difficulties prevented the club from doing so. In any case, the issue should have been resolved much earlier.

What needs changing?

The stadium is by far the biggest issue Cagliari faces. The club needs stability, both financial and otherwise. The financial problems will likely be fixed by selling their star players, but after Cellino's surprise decision to change coaches again it's clear that stability is something Cagliaritani cannot really hope for. The lack of a permanent home only increases the feeling that Cagliari are on the brink of disaster.

Who's off in the summer?

Ivo Pulga is already gone. It would be really surprising if key players like Davide Astori and Radja Nainggolan are still at the club next season. Goalkeeper Michael Agazzi had a very good season and could move to a bigger club. Same goes for Victor Ibarbo, Albin Ekdal, Mauricio Pinilla, and even Marco Sau - there's very good chance they will stay in Sardinia, but they are all good players and there will certainly be clubs interested in them.

If Cagliari could keep one individual...

Victor Ibarbo

Assuming Nainggolan and Astori leave and Sau stays, keeping Ibarbo could be key for Cagliari's next season. The 23-year-old scored six goals in 22 starts and looks like someone who just might explode next season. If the Isolani can keep him around, it might help ease the pain of what is likely to be an extremely difficult year.

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