Brescia Calcio actually are the kings of Serie B, having won the league four times, including this past season. But former Cagliari Calcio and Leeds United owner, Massimo Cellino, has his sights set on keeping Brescia in Serie A this season.
The always larger than life Cellino has vowed to keep his talented players and is doing his best to reinforce the squad already at his disposal. It was just announced that he will be bringing back hometown boy Mario Balotelli this season. And as if that wasn't enough, Brescia is also in talks with former Juventus midfielder and free agent, Claudio Marchisio to join the club. Those are some very bold moves for a newly promoted team.
If Brescia brings both Balotelli and Marchisio to the club, they win the mercato, end of story. Maybe not the scudetto, but definitely the mercato. For such a small club like Brescia to pull off even one of those two signings, they are immediately relevant.
Brescia has completed some other transfers, too. In goal, they brought in the 26-year-old Finnish keeper Jesse Joronen from FC Copenhagen for €5 million. They paid €3.75 million for the Czech midfielder/winger Jaromir Zmrhal from Slavia Prague. From Clermont Foot in Ligue 2, they purchased striker Florian Ayé for €2 million. Additionally, they brought in Venezuelan centre back Jhon Chancellor from Al Ahli for €1.6 million.
The club activated the buyout clauses of two players that played for Brescia last season on loan, Virtus Entella's attacking midfielder, Luca Tremolada, and Crotone's left-back, Bruno Martella, signing them both on permanent deals. They have also signed the 23-year-old fullback Giangiacomo Magnani to a season-long loan from Sassuolo.
Departing players include Luca Miracoli, Massimilano Mangravati, and Biagio Meccariello, all of whom had loan spells with Brescia that have ended. Additionally, Simone Ferrari and Matteo Corteso have been sent out on loan for this season to Serie C sides. Edoardo Lancini and Alberto Boniotti, both defenders, have seen their contracts end and are currently free agents.
Eugenio Corini is the former Italian midfielder who began his playing career at Brescia, so it was natural that he returned to the club as a manager last season. Under his guidance, Brescia won Serie B last year and were thus promoted for this season.
Corini began his managerial career at Serie B side Portosummaga, and has coached mainly Serie B sides, with the exception of one appointment managing Frosinone when they were in Lega Pro. While most of his coaching experience is in the lower divisions he has coached both Palermo and Chievo Verona in Serie A during his nine-year managerial career.
While he has struggled to maintain a managerial position for even one whole season at the various clubs he has managed, this marks his second season at Brescia. Lasting that long with Cellino as an owner is comparable to winning the Panchina d’Oro, or Golden Bench award, for managers in Italy. Cellino is well known for his wanton firing of coaches at each of the clubs he has coached. Corini does seem to be catching his stride, though, and with the talent at his disposal, he may just make it to the end of a second consecutive season.
Players to Watch
With Mario Balotelli back at Brescia, that strikes instant fear in their opponents. Even if he can be inconsistent and is always hounded by media zealots and racist idiots in Italy, he is a gamechanger and brings such incredible strength and quality in attack. He has been vocal about his desire to play for Italy again, and playing in Serie A again could make that happen for him. This is why he was willing to come home, even if it means a giant pay cut for him.
Claudio Marchisio is less likely to come, given his salary demands and his loyalty to Juventus. However, after the way Juventus pushed him out, loyalty may have a different definition for him. But if he should come, he brings exquisite skills and a wealth of experience to the midfield, not to mention breathtaking set pieces. If neither of these players signs for Brescia, then the player to watch is Brescia's next-generation player.
Brescia's Next Generation
He’s the player that everyone tried to steal away from Brescia last season, and not just Serie A clubs, either. In addition to clubs like Juventus and AC Milan trying to entice him, Chelsea, Liverpool, Paris Saint Germain, and other clubs outside of Italy wanted him, too. That player, of course, was Sandro Tonali.
Tonali is a 19-year-old midfielder that plays primarily as a regista or deep-lying playmaker. Perhaps it is because of the fact that he started at the same club, but many have compared him to the great Andrea Pirlo, who played in a similar position. However, Tonali shuns that comparison, claiming it is because they wear their hair similarly. In fact, he has been quoted as saying that he sees himself more like Gennaro Gattuso.
The Pirlo comparison rings more true for those who have seen him in action, though, as he is technically very gifted, is creative, and is very adept at dictating the play for Brescia. He is also very mature and has a great footballing head about him. In fact, many have cited him as the primary reason for Brescia’s promotion.
This is not Cellino’s first rodeo, however. While many of the clubs interested in the then 18-year-old were offering a deal in the realm of €30 million for Tonali, Cellino knows that if his young talent has a decent season in Serie A, he will get much, much more for him at the end of the year. And as Tonali is a product of the Brescia youth system, that is all profit.
Speaking of profit, Italy is also looking to profit from his talent on the pitch. He has played for both the Italy U19 and Italy U21 teams and was called up this past season by Roberto Mancini for the senior national team. If he continues to develop well, he could soon become a regular for the senior team, particularly if he does well in Serie A this season.
Of the three newly promoted teams, including Lecce and rivals Hellas Verona, Brescia had the best squad to begin with, and the benefit of having won the second division last year. If they can avoid injuries and stave off any offers for their best players in the January mercato, then a finish between 12th and 15th is very realistic for them this season. Now that they've signed Balotelli, they could possibly even break into the top 10. At the very least, they should absolutely be able to avoid relegation and remain in Serie A.