Bologna secured Robert Acquafresca from Genoa this week, in a move that has Rob Paton asking how and why they beat Cagliari to him.
Bologna went into negotiations for Robert Acquafresca wholly aware that 12 months prior the striker had turned them down in favour of a return to Sardinia. Cagliari was where the striker had displayed his best Serie A form, netting 14 goals from 29 starts in 2008-09, and where he believed he could recapture it.
Form in the opening half of 2010-11 fell short of such hopes – just one goal from 17 appearances, half from the bench – but Roberto Donadoni and the Cagliari fans still turned to him when Juventus picked up Alessandro Matri at the end of January. On three goals by then, Acquafresca was able to rejuvenate, netting a further five goals from the remaining 16 games without Matri, all of which the 23-year-old started.
Indeed, in light of Matri's departure, and Cagliari's likely capture of an unfit David Suazo, Massimo Cellino's comments that the club had to make a 'financial sacrifice' last summer – shipping out Joaquin Larrivey and Jeda – to sign Acquafresca, and that Genoa had a non-negotiable €6m asking price were puzzling. The media still believed the forward was Cellino's first choice this summer, but talks with Enrico Preziosi did not move past the asking price.
However, the subsequent deal with Bologna shows Genoa had budgeted for the striker's departure and for a potential loss incurred. Not only did they drop from a 100 per cent sale of €5.5m at the end of the loan with Bologna to a 50 per cent €3m fee, but they are also contributing €500,000 to his wages next year at the Renato Dall'Ara, all specifically intended so that Bologna could afford to take him on.
Whilst Cellino angrily denied comments attributed to him that criticised the player for "losing his hunger" and being too light to handle the rigours of the top flight, there remain doubts over Cagliari's attempts to re-sign him. Indeed, there is something clubs do not value in Acquafresca. Inter were quick to use him as part of the deal to secure Diego Milito and Thiago Motta from Genoa, before the Grifone called him back from his Atalanta loan early only to then place him on the market after just six months in their first team.
For the player, there are intriguing elements to his latest move. First, that the Coach that he failed to hold down a regular place at Cagliari in the opening months of last season, and whose negative tactics adversely affected the team and striker's capacity to score goals, is Pierpaolo Bisoli, the one he will be working under at Bologna.
Secondly, in light of his best form during different spells in Sardinia coming when he was the main striker, he returns to playing second fiddle, this time to Marco Di Vaio, who at the same time he will be expected to show signs of matching, as the club look to shift an unhealthy reliance away from their No 9.
Acquafresca says he is happy to find himself in Emilia-Romagna. However, he will be keenly aware that this latest move is a challenge, not only to those that have turned from believing in his potential to doubting it, but to himself, having not found double figures in his last two seasons.