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Giovanni De Luca: The Lost Prodigy

Started on 13 November 2022 by Jack
Latest Reply on 10 January 2023 by J_ames

Avellino win in Semi-Final first leg

Avellino 1912 have put one foot into the Serie C Play-Off Final with a 2-1 home win over Pro Sesto.

Massimo Rastelli’s side have come all the way from the First Round against Virtus Francavilla to the semi-final with other wins including Cerignola and two penalty shootout victories against Rimini and Crotone to put them in this position following a 5th place finish in Serie C/C.

Simone Auriletto put Avellino 1912 in the driving seat in the 25th minute as the right-back scored only the second goal of his career with a header from point-blank range.

34-year-old striker Jacopo Murano made matters worse for Giovanni De Luca as he scored from a corner for his team to make it 2-0 in just 33 minutes.

On-loan Ascoli winger was able to pull one back for Pro Sesto just after half-time, but Biancocelesti will be heading into the second leg at Stade Breda with a one-goal deficit.

Juventus Next Gen have had quite the season, and I'm guessing they were able to use more first-team players this season compared to last.

It's been a good season for Gio at Pro Sesto, especially considering the amount of money that he's saved the club this year via wages, and to be the top scorers of the league: that's bonkers. It's the number of draws that have (ultimately) been your downfall, but overall, it's still a good season.

Fingers crossed you're successful in the playoffs :D

Buso leads Pro Sesto to Final

A Nicolò Buso brace overturned a one-goal deficit to push Pro Sesto into the Serie C Playoff Final.

Pro Sesto went into the second leg of their semi-final against Avellino 1912 2-1 down from the previous fixture at Partenio-Adriano Lombardi with goals from Avellino’s Auriletto and Murano leading the way.

However, after half-time in the second leg this evening it began to fall apart for Avellino as they went 1-0 down to a Buso goal which hit the inside of the post before going in in the 65th minute of the game.

With the game heading towards an extra-time finish, Nicolò Buso burst through on goal again to place a shot past Francesco Forte in the 77th minute, putting Pro Sesto 2-0 up on the day and more importantly, 3-2 up in the tie.

Giovanni De Luca was able to see out his side’s victory in the remaining 18 minutes that ensued as Avellino tried to get back into the game.

Pro Sesto will now play Catanzaro in a one-legged final at Stade Breda on Saturday. Stefano Sottilli’s side finished in 3rd place in Serie C/C with only Reggina and Crotone finishing above them.

Catanzaro are unbeaten in the Serie C Playoffs, winning 2-1 against Triestina, 4-1 against Lecco and 3-0 in their semi-final against Cesena over two legs.

Qualifying for the Final means that Giovanni De Luca has bettered last season’s record in the Playoffs where they lost 2-0 on aggregate to Monterosi - who would later lose in the final to Trento and this season went out in the first round at the hands of Cerignola.

James: To say that we have spent less and got to an even better point is a great testament to how we have gone about things this season. We're into the final stretch now!

Penalties Promote Pro Sesto

Federico Del Frate’s save from Wilgot Marshage in the penalty shootout has promoted Pro Sesto to Serie B for the first time since 1950.

Alessandro Sala gave Pro Sesto a first-half lead in the 40th minute with a placed effort into the bottom right corner, causing huge celebrations in the Biancocelesti stands, of which 3,347 Pro Sesto fans were present.

With the game closing out and Pro Sesto getting more defensive as the second half carried on, it was a big mistake from the goalkeeper Federico Del Frate who rushed out of his goal too far, allowing Tommaso Biasci to run around him to finish into an empty goal in the 93rd minute.

With full-time called, Giovanni De Luca rushed onto the field to pick up the Pro Sesto players who had reacted as though Biasci’s late equaliser was the death knell for their promotion chances.

Reminded of the 30 minutes that remained in extra-time, Pro Sesto’s players began a barrage of attacks on Catanzaro’s goal with 27 shots taken on their goal.

However, Catanzaro held firm and were able to take the game to penalties after 120 minutes of play.

With the retiring Lukas Jutkiewicz taking the first penalty and the last kick of his career, he put the first penalty past Andrea Fulignati with ease.

However, one of De Luca’s favourites Tommaso Gattoni was the man who let him down with a penalty miss going wide of the right post.

Thankfully, both Gattoni and Del Frate were saved for their mistakes in the game and shootout as Antonio Cinelli had his penalty saved straight after Gattoni’s miss.

As Christian Celesia and Claudio Cassano buried their penalties and their teams’ fifth, the shootout became sudden death as Francesco Carella and Marco Delle Monache converted their penalties.

Goalkeeper Federico Del Frate was fully reprieved of his mistake in the 93rd minute as he saved Catanzaro’s Swedish centre-back Wiltog Marshage’s penalty.

The responsibility was then laid on the 38-year-old centre-back Elia Legati - who had announced his retirement at the end of the season following the 2-1 defeat in the semi final against Avellino.

With the last kick of the defender’s career, Legati powered the ball straight down the middle and was consequently mobbed by teammates, fans and his manager Giovanni De Luca.

As celebrations continued inside and outside the stadium, De Luca found a moment to speak jubilantly about his achievement with the club.

“I knew it was possible from when I saw how these guys clicked at the beginning of the season. We had a crazy unbeaten run midway through the season and when we were getting points when we should have been down and out.

“Admittedly, I felt a bit defeated after the Avellino loss. But it shows the character of the likes of Alessandro [Sala] and Nicolò [Buso] when they are just able to turn one of the most important games in the club’s history on its head in a matter of minutes.

“It is why I had to run onto the field at full-time after Catanzaro’s late goal to equalise the game. There were players thinking we were defeated, but you cannot lose a game 1-1. I knew that they had the spirit to keep fighting and they went out there and did that in all of extra-time and for Federico [Del Frate] to be the hero, it’s an incredible moment.”

De Luca’s attention must now be turned to Pro Sesto’s first Serie B campaign in 74 years, with 5 loanees returning to their parent clubs, Del Prete, Silvestre, Legati and Jutkiewicz all retiring and six more first-team contracts expiring this summer.

The question is if the squad requires a second rebuild to bring up the footballing standard in new players, or if De Luca trusts his current crop of players enough in a higher standard of football.


Starting fresh in the Serie B, we had 10 players leave us permanently as well as 5 loanees returning to their parent clubs, meaning we had to bring in 15 players to help us with our goals this season.

We looked for versatility in a lot of our defence and midfield players and our first signing of Edoardo Bovolon gave us that, with the ability in the centre of defence and midfield as well as an option at right-back.

We also brought back a familiar face on loan with Antonio Gala joining us for a second season. In the off-season, he left Milan for Hellas Verona on a free transfer but Hellas Verona were still looking to loan him out for more games and bringing him back to Stade Breda seemed like a no-brainer after 43 games, 13 goals and 9 assists last season in all competitions.

For an experienced head, Felipe Melo joins us at the old age of 40 years old. The midfielder/centre-back is set to retire at the end of this season and with 22 Brazil caps and experience in Italy with Juventus and Fiorentina, it seems like a good buy, particularly for the low €750 a week salary.

We moved in for Nikolaj Moller, Davide Di Molfetta and Matteo Antoci for options in attack and I think they were all shrewd buys, with the exception of Antoci who is only on loan to us.

We had to rely on the loan market for six arrivals due to our dire financial constraints as we are just under €1M in debt at the moment despite our promotion. Oscar Ureña is undoubtedly the most talented out of them all, having only just joined Serie A side Cremonese for €500K from Girona in Spain where he stood out in their B Team.

We also took a chance on two youngsters in Sotgiu and Olaizola who are both under 18 years old and we will see how they develop this season and in seasons to come.

We had four players retire from football last season, with Legati scoring the penalty to promote us from Serie C. Aside from them, the losses to the first-team were nothing major aside from the €150K sale of Amadou Diambo - my first-ever signing in charge of Pro Sesto - after he voiced that he was going to leave at the end of his deal here.

This leave us with a more balanced squad coming into our first season back in the Italian second tier.

On-loan goalkeeper Martinez feels like he will provide more of a challenge to the #1 spot than Botti with Del Frate remaining at the club and only currently keeping the #1 shirt.

We have a new-look back line apart from the left side where Maurizii and Hardley will continue to fight for their spots.

Felipe Melo comes in to replace the released Tommaso Gattoni but other than that, the centre of midfield remains fairly similar to last season with Sala and Sersanti set to dominate that area of the pitch.

On the wings, we have all-new wingers aside from the returning Gala who will face stiff competition on the right with new loan signing Urena.

For strikers, we want to give Nicolo Buso another season to impress with an amazing 42 goals in 50 games last season, proving that he could keep fitter and score at a similar rate than Riccardo Capogna, who has joined our backroom staff as a youth fitness coach.

Similar to Serie C/A, we are destined for relegation in the eyes of the bookmakers who put us level with Trento in terms of chances to win the league.

This division will be made extremely tough by the relegated sides coming down and still retaining a lot of quality like Torino, Bologna and Cagliari and their wage bills speak for themselves.

It will no doubt be a tougher task than Serie C, but we have defeated odds before and I want to consolidate a low midtable finish in my first year, despite telling the board my expectation is that we will probably go down.

I am hoping a good cup run in the Coppa Italia can improve our finances, too. Our growth as a club is dependent on being in the black and we could be stuck in a rut before long if we don’t improve on the balance sheet.

The bookies are making a serious mistake by not believing in Gio's capabilities, and for me... I think a finish in the 10-14 range is very possible. Your salary per annum is absolute NUTS, and I wonder if the debts may (eventually) cause Gio to cast a glance elsewhere, where he's given a bit more leeway.

Keep going :D

James: I'm hoping you are right, the quality doesn't seem to be as high as I once thought entering this league. We are having to make do with a lot of loanees to make up a small wage bill, meaning we are developing our rivals and potentially future rivals' players, but I don't mind that as long as we are able to consolidate in the present term.

Strong start to life in Serie B, especially considering the disparity in wage spend between yourselves and the top clubs. Would be interested to know how your club is managing financially. While your spend is low compared to other clubs, I can’t imagine the match day income of Serie B is great? A big cup tie required to balance the books?
A tremendous start to life in Serie B, and a disastrous (potential) slump aside, I'd imagine you've already secured safety. Gio deserves a hell of a lot of credit, though you do appear to be conceding quite a few goals at the moment.

Moller looks like a hell of a signing so far :D

Piccareta reunited with De Luca at Pro Sesto

Fabrizio Piccareta has joined former colleague Giovanni De Luca as assistant manager at Pro Sesto.

The two Italians have been ever-present together in roles spanning back to over ten years ago when mutual friend and Italian football star Paolo Di Canio brought them into the backroom staff at Swindon Town during his two-year reign at the County Ground.

Piccareta and De Luca then followed Di Canio in his next role with Premier League side Sunderland, where De Luca would resign his post as first-team coach just a week before Di Canio’s sacking after sending the team to the bottom of the table despite 14 new signings that summer.

The split caused a split in friendship between Di Canio and De Luca, with the former accusing the latter of sabotaging his role in the top-flight in the face of rumours of dressing room discontent and arguments amongst players and coaching staff.

Since then, Di Canio has not held a managerial post and Piccareta decided to take the lead, moving on to manage Portuguese side Olhanense in the Segunda Liga.

Following youth academy roles at Sampdoria back in their homeland, Piccareta was promoted to first-team manager at Finnish side Inter Turku, promoting Giovanni De Luca to assistant manager in the process as the pair won their first cup together, beating Helsinki in the Suomen Cup.

Shortly after, Piccareta and De Luca left to return to Italy in youth coaching roles with Roma and SPAL.

After one season with SPAL’s Under-19s, Giovanni De Luca decided to let his contract run out in pursuit of senior managerial opportunities near his birthplace of Milan. In his search, De Luca found Pro Sesto.

Piccareta remained as SPAL Under-19s manager until 2023 when he also let his contract run out as he returned to the Italian Football Federation in a national youth development position.

The 59-year-old has a UEFA Pro License - two levels higher than what head coach De Luca currently possesses - and has signed a contract to be his right-hand man until June 2026 when De Luca’s contract is also currently set to expire.

The move highlights a change in the club’s backroom staff, but also a shift in dynamics of the duo’s relationship, with Piccareta taking a junior role to De Luca for the first time.

“Fabrizio is one of the most knowledgeable and fascinating people that I have ever met in football. I am honoured that he has been willing to join me and our project here at Stade Breda and with us both here, we can expect many more successes as a club.” Manager Giovanni De Luca said upon Piccareta’s arrival.

Pro Sesto have defied all expectations this season, heading into the winter break in 5th place in their first season in the Italian second tier since 1950 and only sitting four points behind the automatic promotion spots into Serie A which the title favourites Torino currently hold.

Justice: It's really not much, you get around €3million in television rights but with other costs it gets ripped away immediately, we're struggling to stay afloat which is why we're in need of a big sale of players eventually, a big cup tie won't cut it I think.
James: We're in a fantastic position for this time of year and I agree, without a massive run of losses along with lower end sides regaining form, I can see us sticking around here.

A much tougher set of results to take this time around, but the club is still in a position where they appear to be safe, and there's no reason to panic just yet. It's good to see Fabrizio and Gio reunited, though it's no coincidence that this 'slump' occurred just after his appointment... #conspiracy!

In all seriousness, I think if you had the [financial] wiggle room to make a few moves in the January transfer window, you should be able to get things back on track.

Red Balance Sheet

“Sofia, you can let Gio in now, we’re ready.” called through Pro Sesto 1913’s chairman Gabriele Albertini. He sat with the Managing Director Mauro Ferrero, Finance Director Maurizio Mautone and the Commercial Director Luca Villa in the boardroom.

Giovanni was not used to being called in for off-the-cuff meetings by the board, he only really saw them when it was time for new contracts and discussions about new seasons.

“Thank you for making yourself available, Gio, always good to see you.” Gabriele said.

“Thanks Gabriele, you too,” Giovanni smiled as he looked at the rest of the meeting. “Hello all, how are we doing?”

Mauro, Maurizio and Luca all responded positively.

“I wanted to call this meeting as we have to tell you that our finances are not getting any better. We know that you came into a bad situation and even though you have improved things from what they could have been financially, such as reducing the wage bill in your second year and not even doubling the bill despite promotion, we have to consider alternatives to improving our situation.” Maurizio Mautone said.

The Managing Director then continued Maurizio’s words “We have to consider selling players in the summer if we stay in this division.

“We are obviously not ruling out the possibility of another promotion this season yet despite the poor form as of late. However, we don’t want to put the pressure on you to get promotion now that we have proven ourselves as capable in this division.

“The reality is that we are almost €2.5million in debt and current projections place that debt to get even higher if we don’t begin making big amounts of money on our assets.

“As Maurizio said, this is not on you, this is a problem that lots of lower tier clubs struggle with.”

The commercial director Luca then began speaking his part, producing sheets of paper and passing three copies to each of the attendants.

“We have highlighted certain players’ values perceived by other clubs once the transfer window comes around based on their current form and historical seasons.

“Nikolaj Möller is without a doubt our most valuable permanent asset. We believe we could bring in anywhere between €850,000 to €3,000,000 for him if deals are done right.

“Gorka Olaizola is also a prized young asset, his valuation varies a lot as it can come down to how much other clubs might see his potential. The same applies to Jacopo Sotgiu in our Under 18s.

“Other than that, we may have trouble raising funds through transfers. I am working hard on new sponsorship deals but we must acknowledge the need to bring money in, even if it means a difficult departure.” Luca Villa said.

Giovanni had a lot to take in, but with his experience in the game and seeing certain individuals from his past fly off the handle at these suggestions and end up losing their roles as a result, he reluctantly agreed that it would be best for the club to scale down on its spending and instead try and recoup money.

However, it didn’t come without conditions. Giovanni wanted to extend his contract at the club by a year, meaning his deal would end in 2027. He would keep the same wage as his current contract with the semantics around the conversation on the need to cut spending as much as possible.

The board agreed to the condition and with Pro Sesto in 10th place after 29 games, fans could get behind their club favourite.

James: Well, as this discussion shows, it seems to be heading the opposite direction as we are going to have to lose men in order to get back on our feet sadly, whenever the right offers do come in. It's a real shame as I also felt that we could go somewhere this season given the start but money rules football now sadly.

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