Italy racks up 15th coaching casualty
When Davide Ballardini was fired by Cagliari on Sunday he became the 15th coaching casualty in the 20-team Serie A this season.
Italy is quickly becoming the graveyard of coaches as club presidents display increasingly shortening patience with the men they put in charge of their teams.
The situation is so severe that Cagliari president Massimo Cellino has just fired his third coach in less than seven months.
In August, in pre-season, the Sardinians were coached by former Italy boss Roberto Donadoni but he was dismissed following a pre-season friendly -- which Cagliari actually won -- and replaced by Massimo Ficcadenti.
He lasted less than three months before Ballardini took over, only to be fired in under four months with Ficcadenti widely tipped to be given back his old job.
That is a common occurrence in Italy where presidents, although trigger-happy in firing coaches, are less keen on the contract pay-offs those actions would incur.
Instead they essentially stick unwanted coaches on gardening leave.
This allows the president to bring back that coach, who is still under contract, when his successor may be axed.
A few years ago current Udinese boss Francesco Guidolin had four spells as Palermo boss between 2004 and 2007.
The Sicilians' president Maurizio Zamparini is considered the most cut-throat president in Italy having changed coach on average more than twice a season in his 10 years since buying Palermo.
It is a situation that has left Players' Union president Renzo Ulivieri flabbergasted.
"It's completely crazy. We're living in a period in which we can't find any calm," he told AFP.
"And when there's a conflict it falls on the weakest, the coach."
The sacking of Ballardini meant there have now been more top flight coaching changes in Italy this season than in England (four), Germany (six) and France (four) put together.
Only Spain's La Liga has a comparable record with nine sackings.
Behind Cagliari, who are looking for their fourth coach this season, Palermo, Cesena and Novara are already on their third while six other clubs have fired the man they began this campaign with.
Cellino's recent record, since sacking Massimiliano Allegri at the end of the 2009/10 season because his coach was being coveted by AC Milan, seems to suggest he is hoping to one day match Zamparini.
The controversial Palermo president used to own Venezia from 1987-2002 and in 25 years as a president he has changed coaches an incredible 45 times.
"As a unionist I thank Zamparini because he is the benefactor of this profession. On his own he offers three, sometimes four contracts a season," joked Ulivieri.
This season, coaching in Italy has been a minefield.
Donadoni and Stefano Pioli at Palermo both lost their jobs before the league season even began, although in Pioli's case he had overseen Palermo's elimination from the Europa League.
Gian Piero Gasperini then lasted just five official matches in charge of Inter Milan before he was replaced by Claudio Ranieri.
The former Chelsea and Juventus coach has been the subject of constant speculation but it is perhaps credit to Inter that they resisted the temptation to fire him during a nine-game winless run, including seven goalless defeats.
Perhaps the harshest sacking was that of Attilio Tesser at Novara who had brought the little club into Serie A for the first time in 55 years following successive promotions.
The treatment of his successor, Emiliano Mondonico, was hardly better.
Having just returned from abdominal cancer, Mondonico was given six matches, during which time he picked up five points, before being fired and replaced by Tesser.
"That's inhumain, 'Mondo' did no better and no worse but he was sacked, it's terrible," said Ulivieri.
Added to that there is the constant soap-opera at Lazio where coach Edy Reja has twice offered his resignation -- and had it refused -- fed up with the constant criticism he receives from fans and in the local press.
Cash-strapped Lazio are having an excellent season and in a position to qualify for next season's Champions League.
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