News of the first sacking of the season among Italy’s top two divisions arrived on Monday morning, when Nicola Campedelli was informed that his services would no longer be required by Cesena. Appointed in May to replace Mario Beretta following the team’s relegation from Serie A, Campedelli had been in charge for just three league games.
Nothing too surprising here, you might think, given Italian football club presidents’ propensity for short fuses. Cesena went through three managers last season in Serie A, Beretta only replacing Daniele Arrigoni in February, after the latter had succeeded Marco Giampaolo the previous November. And Campedelli’s start had certainly been poor, with Cesena losing all of their first three league games, conceding 10 goals and scoring just two.
But what made this sacking rather more noteworthy was the identity of the manager’s employer. Cesena’s president is none other than Nicola Campedelli’s own older brother, Igor Campedelli.
“AC Cesena announce that Nicola Campedelli has been relieved of his duties as manager of the first team,” read the dry, single-sentence statement published by the club on Monday. At time of writing Igor has not made any further comment on the decision, though he had hinted that he might be contemplating a change when accosted by a small group of fans following the latest defeat, a 4-1 reverse at home to Novara on Sunday.
Those same fans, and many more besides, had made their displeasure clear throughout the game, with “Campedelli get lost” among the more publishable chants heard at the Stadio Dino Manuzzi. It is unclear whether such jibes were intended for Nicola or Igor, though the suspicion is that it might have been both.
Certainly the president has had his run-ins with sections of his club’s support in the past. At one point last year a group attacked the club shop in protest at the club’s direction and Igor responded by threatening to sell the team’s best players and not register them with the league for the next season, forcing them to start again from the bottom of the league pyramid.
If such bold threats hint at an impetuous streak then the appointment of Nicola in the first place might just confirm it. Igor had warned reporters that they might be surprised with his choice shortly before his press conference to unveil the new manager and while one or two might have guessed his intentions others would have dismissed them as too unlikely. Nicola, after all, did not even have the requisite licence to coach at this level.
“I am here on merit, not because of family ties,” insisted Nicola at that press conference, yet his CV was modest at best. The 33-year-old’s previous managerial experience extended to one season with Cesenatico – whom he had steered from their regional Eccellenza division up to Serie D, the fifth tier of Italian football – then two with Bellaria – narrowly avoiding relegations from the second division of Lega Pro, the fourth tier of Italian football, in both years.
To make up for his lack of licence, Nicola brought with him from Bellaria his assistant Adriano Piraccini – who does hold the requisite qualifications. The squad he inherited had finished bottom of Serie A and would undergo heavy turnover in the summer, with Eder, Marco Parolo and Giuseppe Colucci among the players allowed to leave, but it was still expected to be competitive at this lower level.
Instead new signings such as Goncalo Brandao, from Parma, and Manuel Iori, from Chievo, have flattered to deceive. Arguably the only player to impress at all has been Mattia Graffedi, a 32-year-old journeyman striker who began his career at Cesena back in 1997 but had since played for eleven different clubs before returning this summer. His two goals represent Cesena’s entire offensive output through the first three games.
But while the team have been poor in their league outings and some of Nicola Campedelli’s tactical decisions questionable (the deployment of midfielder Andrea Tabanelli as a trequartista against Novara was roundly panned), then it must also be noted that they had started brightly under the new manager before their league campaign began, beating Pro Vercelli and Crotone to reach the last 16 of the Coppa Italia. Given that we are talking about his own sibling, Igor’s haste in ditching him appears remarkable.
Then again, looking back over his comments at the unveiling, the president does appear slightly less than convinced with the appointment he just made. “It was a complicated decision, but we hope it was the right one, for the sake of everyone involved with Cesena,” said Igor. “It was [vice-president] Luca [Mancini] who gave me the courage and the final push to make it.”
Nor was Mancini the only scapegoat anointed in advance. “It was the best decision we could take,” added Igor back then. “If it ends badly, it will mean that our father and mother didn’t bring us up right.” We await the one-sentence statement confirming that Renzo and Adriana Campedelli have been relieved of their parental duties.