Lecce returned to Italy’s top tier after clinching the Serie B title under the guidance of Marco Baroni last term. They only spent a year in Serie A last time and Vilizar Yakimov sees a repeat of that scenario on the cards.
After missing out on promotion in 2020-21, Lecce took Italy’s second division by storm last season, as Marco Baroni’s men earned their second Serie B title. It remains to be seen if I Salentini learned their lesson from three seasons ago, when they suffered a heart-breaking relegation on the final of day of the campaign, and despite a busy summer the early signs are worrying.
Lecce already brought in 10 new players before the first round of fixtures, but at the same time lost Serie B’s top scorer in the last two seasons Massimo Coda, their first-choice goalkeeper Gabriel, as well as Mario Gargiulo, who was ever-present for Baroni’s side last term. Antonio Barreca’s loan spell from Monaco also came to an end over the summer.
It’s true that some interesting players with Serie A experience came in, as Gianluca Frabotta, Lorenzo Colombo, Kristoffer Askildsen and charismatic goalkeeper Wladimiro Falcone were all loaned from Juventus, Milan and Sampdoria respectively.
Ex-Sassuolo winger Federico Di Francesco also came in from SPAL, while Lecce added a strong contingent of youngsters such as defensive midfielder Daniel Semak, who joined from Slavia Prague, right winger Lamec Branda from Maccabi Petah-Tikva and teenage striker Joel Persson from Roma’s primavera.
Kristijan Bistrovic’s loan from CSKA Moscow also seems like a strong move and Lecce should be an exciting side to watch, but at this stage there are more questions marks than guarantees for Marco Baroni. Can Falcone be a starter on a top level for a full season? Who is going to score the goals after Coda’s departure and can any of the youngsters really make a difference in Serie A just yet?
It’s very likely that many neutral fans will be rooting for Lecce, due to the attacking style of football the club established in recent years. However, all of the above suggests a turbulent campaign that might see the Giallorossi fail to stay up for more than a single season yet again.
Key man: Wladimiro Falcone
Wladimiro Falcone, pictured above playing for Sampdoria last season, has big gloves to fill, as Gabriel was rock-solid between the sticks for Lecce last term. Marco Baroni’s men had the best defence in Serie B last season and with the Brazilian shot stopper now gone, there will be huge pressure on the former Doria back-up goalkeeper.
Falcone impressed in his 10 appearances for I Blucerchiati last term and was even picked as the Man of the Match on two occasions. However, with Lecce now missing an established goalscorer after Massimo Coda’s departure, the Giallorossi’s goalkeeper will have to be impeccable in goal if his side are about to secure salvation.
Coach: Marco Baroni
Marco Baroni simply did wonders since taking over Lecce after his appointment last year. The 58-year-old tactician transformed I Luppi from promotion hopefuls to champions of Serie B in just one year and he did that despite some tough competition from sides with superior squads and bigger budgets.
Baroni’s tactics were key to Lecce’s success, as he stuck with his balanced interpretation of 4-3-3 throughout the majority of the campaign. Massimo Coda was the beating heart of that formation, as the experienced forward netted 20 goals and it’s hard to see someone getting even close to that number in Serie A next term.
The upcoming campaign will be Baroni’s second spell in Serie A as the Florence-born tactician earned promotion with Carpi back in 2017. However, he was sacked after less than three months, so just like the whole team, Baroni has a point to prove next term.
Watch out for: Rise of a new star?
Thorir Helgason might be just 21, but the Norwegian midfielder has been showing some veteran-like calmness and ability to dictate the tempo of the game. Helgason was ever-present for Lecce last year and is part of the very interesting group of youngsters at Baroni’s disposal. It’s possible some new stars will be born under the spotlight, as Lecce have proven to be a stepping stone for many cult heroes in Serie A since the turn of the century.