P10th (W11 D12 L15 GF46 GA48)
Coppa Italia: Fourth Round Team rating: 7/10 Top scorer: Antonin Barak (7) Europe: N/A
The boys from Verona once again didn’t have to struggle for survival in 2020-21, as the likes of Mattia Zaccagni shone, but now they must match the ambitions of their impressive coach Ivan Juric, writes Giancarlo Rinaldi…
Hellas fans will be either glass half-full or half-empty folk this summer. Those who look at the players they lost last year and the comfortable survival they ended up securing will be beaming with delight. However, anyone looking at the form they began their campaign with will always have a little frown at the thoughts of what might have been.
It was the classic tale of two seasons for the gentlemen from Verona. For most of the first half of this campaign, they were serious contenders for being Serie A’s revelation outfit with wins over the likes of Atalanta and Lazio and a draw with the then in-form Milan. Then someone let the air out of their tyres, though, and the closing stages felt like they were heading for a much-needed pit stop.
Outside observers might not be too surprised at them running out of steam in the final furlongs. Their high-intensity style of play, small-ish squad and lack of firepower always meant they were defying the odds to be quite as high up the table as they were. Still, they enjoyed some great times while on the fringes of Europa League qualification and never had to worry about the spectre of Serie B.
In the process, they confirmed that last season’s solid finish on their return to the top flight was no fluke and continued a positive trend for the Gialloblu. Unfancied foreigners like Adrien Tameze and Antonin Barak provided consistently high levels of performance while Ivan Ilic – on loan from Manchester City – gave signals of why the Premier League giants signed him in the first place. Add to that some strong domestic products like Mattia Zaccagni, Federico Dimarco and Marco Faraoni and you start to understand why they were such an impressive unit.
It was a shame, really, that the push for the top six fizzled out as the club did endeavour to address its shortcomings in the winter window. The arrival of Kevin Lasagna was meant to give the team the goals it lacked, but they never really materialised. Nonetheless, it felt like a positive campaign overall for the boys from the Bentegodi. The worry of relegation never troubled them at all and they looked to be building a decent platform from which to construct a consistent place in Serie A for a few years to come. You would be hard pushed to ask for much more for a side which has shuttled up and down the divisions for much of its history.
Their survival was so comfortable that it allowed them the luxury of fielding younger players towards the end of the season and that can only be good news. Like so many clubs, the Veronesi will find their best performers likely to be heading for the exits once again as soon as the transfer window opens. However, if they cope as well as they did this time around, then nobody who holds the club dear is likely to be complaining.
The coach – Ivan Juric
He was much-courted last summer, but he stayed put and confirmed that his work was no flash in the pan unlike some of his players. The tight defence might not be to everybody’s liking but you couldn’t argue with his results on a limited budget at a club which was expected to struggle in the bottom half of the table. He made headlines when he stormed off during the last interview of the season after he had held Napoli to a 1-1 draw preventing them from earning a top four finish.
Player of the Year – Mattia Zaccagni
There were many contenders in a memorable campaign but Mattia Zaccagni was one of the players who most consistently performed at a high level. In a side without enormous attacking threat, he was a regular supplier of goals and assists from attacking midfield which proved a very precious commodity.
Defining moment – Napoli capitulate
In a season which had its highs and lows one of the definite glory games came in January when Napoli came to town. The home side slipped behind in the opening minute but confirmed all their grit and determination to overhaul their visitors with ease. All of Verona’s best qualities were seen in 95 minutes or so. They finished the season unbeaten against Gennaro Gattuso’s side picking up a point from the Stadio Maradona in the last game of the season.
Did you know?
Kevin Lasagna joined Hellas on a two-year loan with an obligation to buy for €10m, meaning he will become the second most expensive signing in the history of the club after Juan Manuel Iturbe who moved to the Stadio Bentegodi for €15m in 2014.