Verona 2022-23 Preview: Player retention vital to Cioffi

After finishing an impressive ninth last year, Verona have their work cut out to repeat. Assuming several key performers are sold late in the mercato, Matthew Santangelo asks if Gabriele Cioffi can lead the Gialloblu up the table or will they regress back to the bottom half… 

When it comes to Serie A, there are few mid-table clubs who understand and play to their identity better than Verona.

Finishing ninth in two of the last three campaigns in the Italian top-flight, the Bentegodi outfit have often found ways to manufacture productivity from unknown sources, earn results where few believe they are capable and play a brand of football that is conducive to sustainability throughout 38 rounds.

Led by Gabriele Cioffi, Verona approach the upcoming season with the majority of their top players on the payroll – including Giovanni Simeone, Antonin Barak and Ivan Ilic

The Argentine striker posted his best statistical season in 2021-22, bagging 17 goals and five assists over a near full slate of matches. Though he blew hot and cold, Simeone’s threat as a goalscorer alone helped open up the game a bit for others to have a say in the offensive initiative, especially Barak.

Verona’s attack took a big hit with the departure of journeyman forward Gianluca Caprari who could have arguably been their steadiest player last season, and the defence looks thinner with Nicolo Casale having moved to Lazio. Thomas Henry coming over from Venezia is an addition that does not leap off the page, but does afford Cioffi a bit of a different profile to hopefully shake things up in the front line. 

Regardless, Verona have shown they can play repeatable football through the sum of their parts, so expect Cioffi to keep his club well clear of danger.

Key man: Antonin Barak

Barak became a relatively known commodity during his time in Udine as a rising young talent, but has since sharpened his game overall to the extent where he is one of the league’s more underrated stars.

A versatile midfield player capable of taking matches by the scruff, the 27-year-old Barak compiled 15 goal contributions over 2,300 minutes of action last season. This time around, expect the Czech international to undertake a more heavy assignment from Cioffi and assert himself by any means necessary as an advanced playmaker. 

Coach: Gabriele Cioffi

Replacing Igor Tudor, Cioffi brings with him a mentality that is very demanding and requires a lot of sacrifice from his players. “I want everyone on the pitch to spit blood,” he explained to Corsport. If his previous club Udinese are any indication of how Verona will play under his rule, then expect nothing less than pure grit calcio catering to the collective effort of the group.

Watch out for: The emergence of Ivan Ilic

As one of the youngest debutants ever in the Serbian SuperLiga with names like Dušan Vlahović and Luka Jović, Ilic isn’t far removed from being one of Europe’s sought after talents.

Since moving over to Italy in 2020, the class of 2001 midfielder has begun earning his stripes in calcio as a sturdy, ball carrier who has shown a penchant to take the plunge forward. Over the last two seasons, the former Manchester City youth’s body of work hints at a breakthrough campaign that will undoubtedly attract the masses on the open market. 

Get the full 2022-23 Serie A season preview here.

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