Cagliari 2019/20 Season Preview: Sardegnians are looking to celebrate centenary in style
Radja Nainggolan in his first game back for Cagliari ( Source: GettyImages/Anadolu Agency)

Cagliari 2019/20 Season Preview: Sardegnians are looking to celebrate centenary in style

In their 100th year as a club, can the islanders push for the upper half of the table?

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Marco Demarinis

With this being their 100th season as a club their owner Tommaso Giulini as done all he can to re-invest into the club making sure they can safely avoid the relegation fight. While no one is picking Cagliari Calcio to finish in the European places come the end of the season, the Rossoblu have put together an extremely impressive transfer market to help them improve on their 15th place finish in the last campaign.

Transfer Business Overview

It's been almost a blockbuster summer for the Isolani all things considered. The entire transfer campaign has essentially revolved around one player: Nicolo Barella. Having been initially sent on loan to Inter Milan with an obligation to buy next summer in a deal that can total up to 50 million Euros including all fees and bonus.

Having secured that move relatively early in the summer they've been able to recruit extremely well over the summer, by bringing in some exciting prospects and taking advantage of some opportunities that fell into their lap, mainly in the form of Radja Nainggolan. With Inter basically forcing him out the door, Cagliari were able to pick him up on a free loan for the season and having Inter pay most of his wages just to take him out of Milan. With all the previous problems with his nightlife and the unfortunate news of his wife's illness, it seems likely he'll be out to prove he isn't finished just yet. 

Two more exciting signings to bolster an impressive midfield come in the form of Nahitan Nández and Marko Rog from Boca Juniors and SSC Napoli respectively. The duo could form an incredibly formidable midfield with Nainggolan, one that could almost rival almost anyone in the league. The link-up play with Joao Pedro and Valter Birsa could be a very intriguing proposition for many defenders this season. 

They have also just come to an agreement for the return of super prospect Luca Pellegrini on a loan, having just made the move to Juventus FC himself earlier this summer in a stunning swap move with AS Roma. His loan to Cagliari last winter had proven to be a very successful, and the Bianconeri will be hoping for similar results this season on the island. This was the second transfer between the clubs as Juventus had already sent Alberto Cerri to Cagliari on a permanent deal

Other notables returning from loan moves are Kwang-song Han, Marko Pajac,  and Sebastian Walukiewicz, while Federico Mattiello arrives on loan from Atalanta. In departures, they've lost Darijo Srna to retirement and Cyril Thereau's loan move expired.

Manager

Having kept the club out of the relegation zone Rolando Maran is back on the bench for the Rossoblu for another season. 

As a player, he has suited up for Benacense Riva, Chievo, Valdagno, Carrarese and Fano. Having kept to the lower league's he has first-hand knowledge what it's like to be in the dog fight of the bottom sides. 

Initially getting his big break with Catania, and bringing them to their record point total in Serie A in 2012, he inevitably took a step back and was fired the following season. He then came back to his former club Chievo and managed them from 2014 to 2018.

Mainly deploying his favoured 4-3-1-2 formation, which with the way his squad has been constructed this summer the coach could really get the best out of the players at his disposal this season.

Player to Watch

Undoubtedly there can only be one player who everyone will have their eyes on this season and that's Radja Nainggolan.

This is a man who's only two seasons removed from the Champions League semi-finals, and on the last game of the season, last campaign rescued Inter's top-four spot with his late game-winner. He has a ton to prove during this campaign and is determined to prove his doubters wrong with his performances on the field. Slotting into the number 10 role for the team, he'll be looked to link up the play and make the team tick.

However, life with 'Il Ninja' is never quite as easy as it's supposed to be. His affinity for smoking, drinking, gambling and nightlife constantly keep him in the Italian headlines, and for all the wrong reasons.

Not only is his return to Cagliari very powerful for on the field reasons, but also for off of it. Of course, his love for Cagliari is incredibly strong and sentimental, but he chose to turn down lucrative moves to China and Turkey so that his wife could be closer to her family during her chemotherapy treatments. 

All of these reasons are why all eyes will be on Ninja this season.

One for the future

Suddenly Cagliari went from their one jewel in Barella, to having a multitude of young riches. 

You could pick any number of exciting prospects to watch explode this season between Rog, Nandez, Pellegrini, Cerri, or Han, but the true superstar of them all is between the posts in Alessio Cragno.

At 25 he's about the enter the prime of his career. After last season where he received his first senior international call-up to the Azzurri, he's only poised to have his star ascend even higher.

Although he's set to miss the first few weeks of the season with a shoulder injury, his necessity to the squad will only be felt more. Having kept seven clean sheets last season with a relatively poor squad in front of him it will be fascinating to watch how he continues to grow and evolve as a player.

Already boasting incredible reflex saves the future is extremely bright for him and could soon find himself at a bigger club next season having already been linked with a big-money move to Roma last January.

Predicted Finish

Taking into account the impressive quantity and quality of players that Cagliari were able to bring in, and we're able to retain/bring back from the last season they are poised to improve on their 15th position from last season. While what they have done is incredibly admirable it's still hard to see them passing so many teams to fit into the top six. Look for Cagliari to improve their quality of play and finish in the 10th position this season as there are just too many quality sides ahead of them, but a lot of teams will be looking up and envying them.

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