Monday, 23 June 2014

Torino FC Awards 2013/2014 : The Results

After an excellent season for Torino which culminated in a slighty fortuitous qualification for the Europa League. Please see a round up for the player of the season awards below.

Player of the SeasonCiro Immobile
A sensational debut (and final) season as Ciro Immobile was crowned Capocannoniere and earnt himself a move to Champions League side Borussia Dortmund. After defeat against Costa Rica in the World Cup, the Italian national team may also look to the talents of the former Pescara man.
Signing of the Season : Nikola Maksimovic
A pleasant surprise in the transfer market, Maksimovic looked at home whether it be as a centre back or as a full back. Fingers crossed that Gianluca Petrachi can find a few more hidden gems in this transfer window.
Surprise of the Season : Giuseppe Vives
For a player who wasn't expected to play much of a part in this season, Vives succeeded in rolling back the years to become one of Toro's first names on the team sheet. Another surprise may be that he isn't actually Nicola Bellomo's father (seriously, they looked almost identical at times last season).

Goal of the Season : Alessio Cerci v Genoa
Ciro Immobile is extremely hard done by, as his stunning volley against Roma doesn't win this award, but I can't ever remember celebrating as much as I did this one by Cerci. Trailing 1-0 at home to Genoa, injury time goals from Immobile and then a cracker from Cerci gave them an unexpected victory.
A reminder of all the best goals scored by Toro this season can be seen below.

Bourne's Player Review : Attackers

In order to celebrate what has been an excellent season, I invited Torino fan Peter Bourne to discuss each member of the member, with a focus on which players should be retained for next season.

Paulo Barreto (BRA, 28), 11 appearances (NO GOALS), vote 5
A player Toro pursued for over a year before landing him from Udinese last January, and one who has never justified the courting. In the second half of last season he was returning to full fitness and showed some flashes of the talent he displayed at Treviso and Bari. In theory, mobile and a clinical finisher, he was expected to kick on. His 7 game calcioscommesse ban (see Gazzi) seemed to knock his confidence and maybe motivation in pre-season. On his return, he featured in four games and then (like Gazzi) disappeared. Only five starts, no goals, one assist (v Lazio), and a cursed penalty won (away at Fiorentina), the biggest criticism of Barreto is his lack of presence and physical fragility.
Verdict: Has not justified Ventura’s faith; is one of the few signings not to have come off and is apparently keen on returning to Udinese and then moving on somewhere new. The arrival of Josef Martinez suggests Barreto’s time has come.

Alessio Cerci (ITA, 26), 37 appearances (13 goal), vote 8
Toro’s talisman going into the season following an excellent end to his debut season in Turin. Eight goals and some virtuoso performances earned him a non-playing role in Italy’s Confederations Cup squad. Cerci was perhaps the player most forced to adapt in Ventura’s new 5-3-2 system. No longer could he hug the right flank and cut in on his left side. So it seemed. His first goal of the season in the 2-0 win over Sassuolo saw him do exactly that.  In the first third of the campaign he scored most of his 13 goals; against Milan, Verona and Roma he produced genuine centre forward finishes. Then Ciro Immobile hit form and Cerci found himself in a support role. His assist tally began to multiply as the goals dried up. The Cerci-Immobile partnership defined Toro’s season and while they could be scintillating, it was Immobile who benefited most. I sometimes felt Cerci suffered not being the main man. For example, when Immobile was suspended against Cagliari, Cerci gave one of his best performances in the second half of the season.  His season ended in tears with that poorly hit penalty in Florence which seemed to end hopes of Europa League football. He deserved better but his penalty taking generally was weak. Ventura has really got the best out of the player, he has improved his final ball, consistency and discipline.
Verdict: Does he need to move on, to make the next step? Perhaps. However, Europa League football and the bond created with the tifosi following his penalty miss may play a part in seeing him stay another season. Will Ventura again reinvent a role for Cerci? Remains at his best out wide and running into space.

Ciro Immobile (ITA, 24), 33 appearances (22 goal), vote 8,5
Without wishing to sound wise after the event, he was always going to be a good signing. He looked great at Pescara and his failed season at Genoa always looked like as case of being mistreated at the wrong club. Immobile took a while to shine but once he scored his first goal in week 7 at Sampdoria, he practically scored every week, and everyway: bullet headers, close range, volleys, opportunistic strikes, breakaway finishes and no penalties. Almost everything he touched came off. Mobile (not going to make a pun), energetic, hardworking and not scared to fail, he became the first Toro player to top the Serie A scoring chart since Paolo Pulici in 1977. There was the odd horrific miss and a touch of overconfidence plus (read Cerci) his season ended in a unjust manner with the sending off at home to Parma. It will turn out to be his last appearance in a Toro shirt. His goal away at Roma will live with me for a long time.
Verdict: Not much of one as Immobile has already signed for Borussia Dortmund. I still don’t understand why the club didn’t buy out his entire contract from Juventus last summer (as was promised) and consequently Toro were victims of Juve’s desire to sell Immobile on the relative cheap before the World Cup (a strange idea). In the end Toro get a mere 10 million euros for a player who scored 22 goals, is 24 years old and now an Italian international. They won’t replace him easily with that sort of money.

Marcelo Larrondo (ARG, 25), 5 appearances (1 goal), vote 6
223 minutes of football, just one start and unavailable for 28 weeks of the season due to injury, it is hard to pass judgement on Marcelo Larrondo, signed on loan from Siena. His one start witnessed some wayward finishing in the defeat at Atalanta before a week later the unfortunate foot injury sustained in injury time in the ill-fated draw with Milan effectively ended his season. Larrondo’s only notable contribution thereafter was a goal in the final week draw in Florence. We’ve seen too little of Larrondo to pass judgement.
Verdict: Seems the club may be interested in taking a closer look. Larrondo may add an aerial presence and fresh legs in three competitions next year.

Riccardo Meggiorini (ITA, 28), 34 appearances (NO GOALS), vote 6
3 goals in 31 appearances last season; 0 in 34 this campaign; 7 in 85 appearances for the Granata. Pretty poor stats for a full-back, woeful for a striker. Meggiorini’s teammates call him ‘palo’ such is his talent for hitting the woodwork, or indeed anything rather than the back of the net. A couple of caveats. Meggiorini only started 7 matches this season, a fair share of his substitute appearances were with matches already won; and despite his tag as ‘forward’, Meggiorini is often used by Ventura as the first line of defence, harassing the opposition playmaker or centre backs, creating space for his teammates. Often he has featured against the better teams for this reason. That’s not to defend his stats, he has had plenty of opportunities to break his duck, but has been denied by a mix of wonderful goalkeeping (home v Roma) and awful finishing (away v Chievo). The fact remains that Meggiorini is barely at home in Serie A and on the one occasion when he needed to start as a forward (away at Fiorentina), he was found wanting. Has caught as many headlines this season for his frequent Twitter outbursts (notably his lament about Stefano Mauri of Lazio)
Verdict: Has been a loyal disciple of Ventura and often tactically useful. However, out of contract and with the team taking on a new dimension, its time for Meggio to move on. Chievo are knocking on the door.

Overall Verdict: Unlikely the club will find another Immobile in a hurry so the goals need to be spread more evenly (including from midfield). There are few guarantees beyond Cerci if he stays. Barreto and Meggiorini will move on, Larrondo may be back up and nothing else. Josef Martinez has arrived from Young Boys but is likely to need a season to settle. The two strikers coming in need to be capable of 12-15 goals each.

For more from Peter you can follow him on Twitter here and his book about his experiences following Torino can still be purchased from Amazon here.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Martinez makes Granata move

The job to build a squad capable of competing in the Europa league has begun already, as today, Torino unveiled the signing of Venezuelan striker Josef Martinez from Swiss side Young Boys.

At only 21 years of age Martinez has plenty of potential, and he impressed on loan at FC Thun this season where he scored eight goals, before returning to Young Boys in January.

Torino are expected to sign two more South American players, with Juan Sanchez Mino from Boca Juniors and Bruno Peres from Santos apparently close to making the move to the Granata.

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Bourne's Player Review : Central Midfielders

In order to celebrate what has been an excellent season, I invited Torino fan Peter Bourne to discuss each member of the member, with a focus on which players should be retained for next season.

Migjen Basha (ALB, 27), 24 appearances, vote 6
One of Ventura’s loyal foot soldiers. In all honesty, I was surprised when Basha was retained for the club’s first Serie A campaign, the fact that he has managed two top flight seasons is credit to his professionalism and adaptability.  Not the most deft player but tactically useful to the Ventura cause given his versatility across midfield and on occasions at right back.  The classic tigerish water carrier. Collected one of Toro’s two red cards, for a second yellow card at the end of the 2-0 defeat at Napoli.
Verdict: His contract expires in 2015 and will be interesting to see if the club offer an extension. On a technical level, a player who the team has outgrown. In terms of dressing room importance and tactical robustness, perhaps still an important character to have around. The confirmation of Europa League football may have secured his place in the squad.

Nicolo Bellomo (ITA, 23), 7 appearances (1 goal), vote 6
One of the most exciting summer signings having excelled in Serie B with Bari. Was expected to bring some creativity as a deep lying playmaker. The Giuseppe Vives-lookalike struggled to adapt to Ventura’s tactics and the top flight. The highlight of a few timid performances in the autumn was the last minute free-kick he curled into Inter’s net to secure a 3-3 draw. Seems Bellomo lacked the tactical maturity for Ventura to give him the keys to the midfield. He only featured 7 times in 21 games before a decent loan spell back in Serie B with Spezia.
Verdict: Clearly a player the club should not risk losing given his vast potential, although his contract is still half owned by Chievo. In an ideal world, Ventura will take a closer look at him in pre-season and assess whether he has matured sufficiently for a second chance.

Matteo Brighi (ITA, 33), 16 appearances (2 goals), vote 6,5
A useful addition to the team on their return to Serie A, given his wealth of top flight experience. Brighi’s spell at the club was a mix of solid performances, muscle breakdowns and an apparently uneasy relationship with the coach. Missed just four games (two due to injury) before he was sold to Sassuolo in January (as part of the Kurtic deal), partly owing to wanting more first team football. Reality may have been he felt his place in the team was under threat. Sassuolo bought Brighi more joy in a Torino shirt given his two goals this season were both scored against the Neroverde (including the Granata’s first of the campaign). His time in Emilia Romagna has so far been disappointing.

Alexander Farnerud (SWE, 30), 23 appearances (4 goals), vote 7
First player signed last season, his arrival marked the beginning of a forage into the overseas market. His record suggested a steady but unremarkable midfield player (only 8 caps for Sweden and arriving from the Swiss league). At first it wasn’t apparent what Farnerud was, he didn’t seem to have any dynamism, his distribution was wayward and games passed him by. Ventura persisted though and his well taken strike in the home draw against Inter suggested greater potential. A couple of goals before Christmas (away at Genoa and Udinese) pointed to an eye for goal and rare ability to break into the box. As spring approached, injuries set in and his crucial goal away at Catania marked his last contribution of the season as a serious knee injury set in.
Verdict: Overall a positive first season in a new league, some important goals and offered something different tactically. His ‘shoot on sight’ policy was not always successful. Will be part of the squad next season although likely to miss much of pre-season through injury. A squad player for the future rather than a first choice.

Omar El Kaddouri (MOR, 23), 29 appearances (5 goals), vote 7
Arguably the most enigmatic player in the squad and outside of the Cerci-Immobile partnership, the most menacing creative threat. Taking away injury and suspension, the Moroccan only sat out three Serie A games and became integral to Ventura’s thinking as the season developed. On the positive side, El Kaddouri represented an alternative attacking headache for opposition defences when the front two were denied space. His mazy dribbles, turn of speed and neat finishing showed a player of promises. El Kaddouri’s main weaknesses are his habit of drifting out of games (perhaps typical of most creative players) and his lack of conviction in some 50/50 situations. He needs to take on more responsibility and assert himself in matches. His goals and stronger performances tended to arrive against weaker teams.
Verdict: El Kaddouri’s loan spell from Napoli has ended. The club are keen to invest in the player but with half-sharing contracts no longer permitting in Serie A, Cairo will probably have to spend 4-5 million on the player. Has he done enough?

Alessandro Gazzi (ITA, 31), 11 appearances, vote 6
Perhaps the player to have regressed most from last season, when he was a mainstay of the side. Gazzi’s relative absence from the team has been quite strange given how much Ventura had relied on the player. Missed the first seven weeks of the season due to calcioscommesse and like Paulo Barreto never seemed to recover. Four of his eleven appearances arrived immediately after the suspension was lifted after which Gazzi started just once. Giuseppe Vives’s splendid form left the ex-Siena man in the shade while Basha was often preferred when the dirty work needed to be done. In addition to the suspension it seems Ventura wanted a more creative option in midfield in contrast Gazzi’s more aggressive style.
Verdict: One year left on his contract. A full pre-season without a suspension cloud hanging over him may revitalise his chances and form. Potentially a useful option in Europe. My suspicion is he will move on.

Jasmin Kurtic (SLO, 25), 16 appearances (2 goals), vote 7
Arrived on loan as part of the Brighi deal with the option for a permanent switch this summer. During his spells at Varese and Palermo had shown potential but seemed to be heading into a rut. His early displays were not encouraging, ponderous, wayward shooting, sloppy in possession. Ventura persisted and his faith was rewarded. Kurtic added energy to a tired midfield in the closing months, scored two important and well taken goals (at Lazio and Fiorentina) becoming one of the first names on the team sheet.
Verdict: Likely to be signed in the summer, providing a relatively average midfield with a mix of energy and creativity. Also likely to bring some experience and guile in Europe.

Panagiotis Tachtsidis (GRE, 23), 11 appearances (1 goal), vote 6
Like Kurtic, arrived in January in need of resurrecting his career. After a terrific Serie B season with Verona in 2011-12, struggled to adjust to the top flight at Roma and Catania. Best suited to the playmaker role, was drafted in to provide cover for Giuseppe Vives. It wasn’t until a substitute appearance at Inter in early March that the Greek international made his debut. He featured more regularly after that but only completed 90 minutes three times. A well taken goal away at Lazio being the highlight of his time at Toro so far. Seems to lack a bit of mobility and probably needed a great run in the side. Selected for the Greece World Cup squad.
Verdict: The team needs a general overhaul in midfield especially in terms of creativity. Based on what we have seen on the pitch, Tachtsidis is not necessarily the answer. That unless Ventura has seen something more in training.

Giuseppe Vives (ITA, 33), 33 appearances (1 goal), vote 7,5
The reverse Gazzi, ie. the most improved player in the squad. Vives missed just five games this season (three due to suspension) and completed the full 90 minutes 24 times. Impressive for a player who had been steady during his first two seasons with the club but was expected to feature little this campaign. The signs were encouraging from the start, Vives was man of the match in the season opener against Sassuolo and seemed revitalised (perhaps due to escaping any punishment in the calcioscommese scandal) but also by his new role as deep lying regista. His passing was crisp, often spectacular (see Immobile goal away at Roma), energy impressive and leadership skills exemplary. His contract was extended to 2015 once survival was achieved, just reward for his performances. In the final weeks of the season, he began to look a bit sluggish but it doesn’t overshadow his impressive year. A master of the tactical yellow card.
Verdict: Important in the dressing room and on the field, will be part of the squad next season which should take him past the 100 appearance landmark. Unlikely though to reproduce this season’s form, he should be used more economically.

Plan for 2014-15: The area (sales pending in attack) which needs the greatest injection of quality. Only Farnerud and Vives (contractually) are certain to stay. Gazzi and Basha offer cover and nothing else. If the club have their way El Kaddouri and Kurtic will be signed up and potentially starters. Tachtsidis and Bellomo are question marks. If Ventura sticks to a three man midfield or two man and a trequartista, three quality signings are needed. Emphasis on quality.

TORO 2014-15 (so far) - FORECAST


For more from Peter you can follow him on Twitter here and his book about his experiences following Torino can still be purchased from Amazon here.

Bourne's Player Review : Full Backs

In order to celebrate what has been an excellent season, I invited Torino fan Peter Bourne to discuss each member of the member, with a focus on which players should be retained for next season.

Matteo Darmian (ITA, 24), 37 appearances, vote 8
No outfield player played more minutes in Serie A this season than Matteo Darmian. Testament to his form, fitness and importance to the side. In the early part of the campaign, the 24-year old was overshadowed by his fellow wing-back, the more attack-minded Danilo D’Ambrosio. While Darmian started the season on the right, D’Ambrosio was switched to an unfamiliar left hand side. The latter prospered, caught the attention of other clubs, refused to sign a new contract and joined Inter when he was on the cusp of a national team call-up. Irony of sorts, D’Ambrosio (see Ogbonna) has yet to fair well at the ‘bigger’ club and is still to be called up for the Azzurri. Due to Toro’s perennial shortage of quality or fit left backs, Darmian was switched to the left for the second half of the season. And to complete the narrative, it was Darmian who finished the campaign in the national side. In all honesty, left-wing back is probably the weakest of the three positions he can play in. On the right side he has a more natural delivery and thrust, in central defence (where he will settle eventually) he looks composed and assured. Given that, his performances at left back, especially defensively, were always consistent and improving. As a full back, the 24-year old may be better suited to a four-man defence, as his inability to deliver in the final third is his main weakness. That said, he deserves the elevated rating.
Verdict: Signed a contract extension (until 2017) during the season but the late season national call-up has raised his stock. Milan are interested in bringing their former youth product home. Chances are Toro will try and not sell too many of the crown jewels and Darmian is not agitating for a move. To stay next season and possibly return to the right hand side.

Danilo D’Ambrosio (ITA, 25), 14 appearances (2 goals), vote 6,5
Based on the 14 performances this season, and two crucial goals against Bologna and Milan, probably deserves a higher rating. However, the rather unsavoury nature of his departure was a tad disappointing. A little like Ogbonna, it was not leaving that was the necessarily the problem, it was the lack of gratitude. D’Ambrosio’s contract was winding down and its not clear whether the club acted too late or the player was keen to move on. It was a sad end to D’Ambrosio’s four year spell in Turin which saw some highs and lows since his move from Juve Stabia in January 2010. On the back of his early season showings, he was on the brink of the national team and seemed to be developing into the complete modern wing-back. Remains to be clear whether Inter and their consistent instability was the right move.

Salvatore Masiello (ITA, 32) 8 appearances, vote 6
Toro’s (most) regular left-back during the 2012-13 season, and one of the remaining ex-Bari clan Ventura bought with him to the club. Signed a one year contract extension last summer and most of the pre-season was spent with the calcioscommesse scandal hanging over him (no charges were pressed). Started the season as back up to Giovanni Pasquale. Made his first appearance of the season in a bizarre substitute cameo in the first derby but his only run in the side came after Christmas when he started five games in a row. Maybe we were too accustomed to Pasquale’s hapless displays but Masiello looked to be playing his best football for the club before an injury sustained in the warm-up for the second derby match ruled him out for the season.
Verdict: Was relatively lucky to be retained last season, unlikely the club will offer Masiello a new contract.

Giovanni Pasquale (ITA, 32), 13 appearances, vote 5,5
After the summer-long pursuit of St Etienne’s Faouzi Ghoulam came to nothing (he eventually moved to Napoli and looks a good prospect), Toro opted for a more ‘second hand’ option in Venaria-born Giovanni Pasquale, a consistent performer during his long spell in Udinese. It looked like a fairly astute, short-term move, Pasquale only arriving after Andrea Dossena (another bullet dodged) failed a medical. Things started poorly for Pasquale, his 11-minute substitute appearance against Milan saw him concede a needless 94th penalty (which cost Toro two crucial points). His first two starts against Sampdoria and Inter were barely more promising. Pasquale’s longest spell in the side came before Christmas, after which he was dropped for Masiello and then sustained an injury following the home defeat against Sampdoria which left Toro without a natural left back for the rest of the season.
Verdict: Maybe paid for not spending pre-season with the club. Frequent injuries did not help but Pasquale was one of this season’s big disappointments. Did nothing to fill the dreaded left back void. Will not be retained at the end of his loan.

Marko Vesovic (MNE, 22), 3 appearances, vote 6
Young Montenegrin international signed from Red Star in January. Following the success of Maksimovic, big things were expected of a another young talent recruited from the Baltic. We’ve only seen 179 minutes worth of Vesovic (starts against Inter and Genoa) and two relatively timid performances. Despite Toro’s struggles at full-back, Ventura seemed reluctant to give him an opportunity. Chances are he needs a full pre-season under his belt.
Verdict: Signed as back-up for Darmian, will seek to impress Ventura during pre-season and establish himself next season. Deserves a vote of confidence, only doubt on the horizon is his status as a non-European player which still could seem him sacrificed (possibly on loan) during the summer.

Plan for 2014-15: Right back looks relatively settled. Darmian should stay, Vesovic is an interesting back-up. Santos defender Bruno Peres is also set to join meaning Darmian could become the permanent left-back. The left hand side remains the club’s Achilles heel and needs to be addressed this summer with a quality signing.

For more from Peter you can follow him on Twitter here and his book about his experiences following Torino can still be purchased from Amazon here.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Immobile Departs

As expected, Torino striker Ciro Immobile has left the club to join Borussia Dortmund for a fee of around €19.5m.

The Serie A top scorer who scored 22 goals for the Granata last season has moved to the German giants on a five year contract, and the striker stated in a statement on his official website that this was an opportunity he couldn't afford to turn down.

That full statement can be found in English below.
Ciao Ciro, and thanks for the memories!

Forza Toro

Torino in Europe

Late on Thursday afternoon it was confirmed that Parma's appeal for a license that would allow them play in next season's Europa League had been rejected. That meant, that their place in Europe moved on to the next placed team in the Serie A table - Torino.

Whilst I am sure all Toro fans would have rather qualified in a more conventional manner, and would have done had Alessio Cerci not missed a late penalty, but this was a nice bonus.

Torino will find out their opponents for their first European match in twenty years on the 18th July when the draw for the third qualifying round is made. Their first match will be played on the 31st July (around a month before the Serie A season starts) with the second leg a week later on August 7th.