Palermo Looking for a New Buyer; What Could the Future Bring for the Club?
In mid-December, Maurizio Zamparini—the current President of U.S. Citta di Palermo—wrote an open letter to fans, letting them know that he was in the process of looking for a new buyer for the football club. The letter discussed the current financial state of the union at Palermo, as well as what Zamparini clearly sees as an unfair financial inequity between Italy’s top soccer organizations. Finally, Zamparini said that he was looking for “an Arabian, Chinese, or Russian millionaire who can afford to lose money,” stating that he can no longer afford to sink his own money into the Eagles.
The Zamparini Era
Zamparini acquired Palermo in 2002. In his open letter to fans, he says that, back then, the organization was “a club full of debts, on the verge of bankruptcy.” Over the years, he says he spent €100 million of his own money to cover financial losses, all with the goal of building the Eagles into a more powerful and competitive football club.
Since taking over at Palermo, Zamparini has certainly seen his fair share of highs and lows. In 2002, the team was in Serie B. In 2004, the Eagles won promotion back into the Serie A—their first return to the top-flight since 1973. A golden age of sorts followed, wherein Palermo managed to stick around the Serie A for nine consecutive seasons, reaching the top five three times.
By 2013, though, the club had collapsed once again, leading to relegation and one season in the Serie B. Last season, back in the top-flight after a year away, the Eagles were middle-of-the-road in the league, placing 11th. This season, they’ve declined even further, closing out 2015 with a loss against Sampdoria that leaves them back at 16th on the Serie A table.
Losing Top Players
Zamparini’s letter lays out the problem simply: his football club doesn’t have enough money to hold on to the best players. Last season, Palermo were led by Paulo Dybala, who scored 13 goals and provided ten assists across 35 Serie A appearances.
Over the summer, though, Juventus bought Dybala on a €32 million fee, plus a potential €8 million in add-ons. Zamparini said the sale allowed him to “cover a €35 million loss” that would have been insurmountable otherwise. He also noted that, with Juventus, Dybala is making €5 million a year—more than six times what he was making at Palermo.
Between Palermo’s ongoing financial difficulties and the club’s limited resources, keeping top players is a luxury that Zamparini has not had. Zamparini also says that sales of past players like Edinson Cavani, Andrea Barzagli, Javier Pastore, Abel Hernandez, and Amauri have all been motivated by the same factors—despite the fact that he discovered those players and would rather have kept them around. The financial inequities of the league, though, result in those top talents hitting the road after finding their groove at Palermo.
“Palermo bring in around €50m per year, compared to the €350m of Juventus, €280m for Milan and Inter, €200m for Roma and Napoli,” Zamparini wrote. With numbers like that, there is simply no room for a small football club to compete.
The Future of Palermo
So where does all of this discussion about money leave Palermo and their fans? The good news is that, according to Zamparini, the club is now “structured without debt and with balanced books.” That fact could make it possible for a new, highly wealthy owner to come in and breathe new life into the soccer club, without the debt-related hurdles that Zamparini had to face early on. As the current owner noted, though, it’s tough to entice someone into an investment that will probably lose them money.
What’s your view on this whole subject? Do you think the financial inequities of the Serie A and other leagues are unfair or are they just a part of the game? Pick up a Palermo shirt 2015/16 on Soccer Box to root for the team, and then find us on social media to share your thoughts! Soccer Box is active on Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr, and other popular social platforms.