Serie A 2013-14 season previews: Parma pushing for top half in centenary season

Marco Luzzani

Having done some of the most impressive transfer business of anyone in Serie A, Parma are looking to break into the top half of the table again.

After his arrival two seasons ago, Roberto Donadoni has changed Parma's fortunes remarkably. The crociati have turned from relegation strugglers to European hopefuls, dreaming of the glory days of the nineties again. After a busy transfer market and a couple of impressive signings, Parma are looking to improve on last season's 10th place finish in their centenary campaign.

Last Season

Parma blew hot and cold last season, impressing in the opening months before falling away in the new year. The initial aim of surviving relegation was practically achieved by January, and unfortunately the players promptly started to perform like they were already on their off-season break. A two month winless streak ended any hopes of European qualification, and the crociati were made to settle for 10th place.

Who's Gone?

Ishak Belfodil: The talented young Algerian striker was excellent in flashes, though let himself down with unhelpful off-field antics. A training ground argument with the coach over a supposed lack of effort, combined with an unusually hot streak for Amauri, saw Belfodil fall out of favour. While he could yet develop into a great striker, few Parma fans will have been distraught to see him join Inter Milan.

Dorlan Pabón: Colombian forward Dorlan Pabón never really seemed to get along with Serie A, and struggled to break into the Parma first team while battling personal problems. After being sent on loan to Real Betis in January -- where he played excellently -- he's joined Monterrey in Mexico on a permanent deal.

Graziano Pellè: Italian striker Graziano Pellè was considered a Serie A reject, only scoring once in his 11 career league appearances for Parma. Pellè in name, but certainly not in nature. However, he's had the last laugh, netting an incredible 27 goals in 29 games on loan at Feyenoord last season, and promptly being signed permanently by the Dutch club.

Fabiano Santacroce: The ex-Napoli defender was used as a backup centre-back last season, and didn't convince when played. He's been sent on loan to Padova in Serie B.

Álvaro Ampuero: Young Peruvian midfielder Álvaro Ampuero has followed Santacroce to Padova, in a slightly more surprising move. After a promising start to life at Parma, there were hopes he'd be able to stake a claim for a first team spot this season. He'll now have to wait at least another year for that.

Francesco Modesto: Completing the mass exodus to Padova is veteran wing-back Francesco Modesto, who spent last season on loan at Pescara.

McDonald Mariga: Midfielder McDonald Mariga returned to the Ennio Tardini on loan from Inter Milan in January, though played just 31 minutes of football in an injury-plagued spell. He's now back at the nerazzurri.

Rodney Strasser: Midfielder Rodney Strasser played only 24 minutes after joining from AC Milan on loan. He unsurprisingly hasn't returned for another season and is now at Genoa.

Who's In?

Antonio Cassano: Parma wanted to mark their centenary with a big signing, and they've managed to pull one off. As part of the deal which saw Belfodil leave for Inter, forward Antonio Cassano has arrived at the Tardini. Looking to find his best form ahead of next year's World Cup, the creative attacker will be the key player for the gialloblù this season.

Mattia Cassani: A former regular in the Italian national team, 29-year-old Mattia Cassani has joined on loan from Fiorentina. He adds experience and useful versatility; able to play as a wing-back or in the central defensive trio. A useful, if unspectacular addition.

Felipe dal Belo: Centre-back Felipe -- who spent last season on loan at Siena -- has joined permanently from Fiorentina. Pre-season suggests he'll be a regular in Parma's back three, where he's a solid defender and excellent with the ball at his feet.

Gianni Munari: Veteran midfielder Gianni Munari has arrived from Sampdoria. He offers good cover, and is expected to be used in rotation with other central midfielders this season.

Afriyie Acquah: The energetic Ghanaian midfielder wasn't a hit at Hoffenheim, and failed to register a single Bundesliga appearance. He's now been loaned back to Parma, with the option of a permanent deal.

Pedro Mendes: The Swiss-born Portuguese U-21 international has an impressive track record, having spent time at Sporting CP and Real Madrid before arriving at Parma this summer. The centre-back will be used as a backup this season, though the fact he hasn't been shipped off on loan suggests Donadoni already regards him highly.

Keep An Eye On

Nicola Sansone. If the Italian newspapers are to be believed, Nicola Sansone has been chased by just about all of Italy's top teams. The Munich-born winger burst into the Parma first team last season, scoring six goals in 26 games and cementing his place on the left of the crociati's attacking trident. With the arrival of Cassano and Donadoni's pre-season preference for a 3-5-2, Sansone could find himself starting from the bench more often this season, though he's already too good to be ignored.

Predicted Finish

Parma's squad looks stronger now than this time last year, with expectations appropriately heightened. Repeating last season's comfortable mid-table finish shouldn't be too difficult, and there's no question that qualifying for the Europa League is the ultimate aim. However, this season looks too soon to break into the top five, and Parma will be satisfied to be in the top half of the table next May.

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