Fabio Liverani, accompanied by President of Nuovo Inizio Marco Ferrari, President of Parma Calcio 1913 Marco Ferrari, Sporting Director Marcello Carli and Club Manager Alessandro Lucarelli, took centre-stage as he was introduced as the Crociati’s new Coach.
“It’s very moving for me, because this Club and this city have a big history and this city, with a rich history but a very important present. This Club has always been part of the elite: that was true when I was a player as well, both in terms of the squad and in terms of the working environment. The rebirth of this Club has been massive in recent years: victory after victory as it rose through the divisions, with management continuity and in terms of the Club’s vision. Parma have secured their position in Serie A, and staying up twice has been important for the Club, and the Crociati have made a real name for themselves in recent years, and it’s always difficult to rise through the divisions like they have and to maintain their position: this is the most important thing for the city and for the fans. The work Roberto D’Aversa has done in the last few years was really impressive, I’ve come into an environment that is already well-prepared. I’ve got plenty of enthusiasm and desire to do well for the team and with this Club. As soon as I was able to meet with the Club, I was struck by the desire that everyone has here, from the management to the Sporting Director to Alessandro Lucarelli, who has worked regularly for us. At this point in my career, I’m more interested in the work being done than expressing my opinion, but there are times when it’s right that I say what I think: I want to get a quick response on the pitch from my team.”
What’s your footballing philosophy? Have you asked the Sporting Director to look for any new players that reflect your philosophy or will you just work with the squad you have available now?
“When I arrived here, the thing which I most liked about the Club was how clear the situation is and the vision that the Sporting Director shared with me and, of course, with the ownership. I like playing the game with principles, our first objective is securing our safety in Serie A, but perhaps we can achieve this goal by playing an attacking style of football. That doesn’t mean that there won’t be moments of suffering or moments of difficulty, which will undoubtedly play a role in the tough, complicated season that we have ahead of us. The Sporting Director knows which players we have at our disposal; there could be some transfers in the works, even if so far there hasn’t been much change, and we’ll be working with the same group as last year, which is a great foundation. Some players might be leaving, and others might be joining us, but in any case, there’s a lot of talent to work with in this squad and there’s plenty of potential and we can definitely try out some new ideas with this group. They’ve done well, and there’s still room for improvement.”
There’s been a lot of talk about the possibility that you might play with a number 10: is that really something that’s part of your preferred playstyle? Are you in need of a new player who could play this role?
“No, that’s not a primary objective. The foundation of this team will be a back four and a three-man midfield. In attack, the team has some specific characteristics, and should those need to be changed, we’ll make some adjustments, but as things stand, otherwise we’ve got a fantastic attacking contingent. We know that losing Kulusevski and Caprari means we’re losing goals and so we’ve got to look for some new ideas to make up for it, and despite the current conditions of the transfer market, we can make some additions, and then we’ll pick the strongest front-three from the players we have available.”
Are you afraid of coaching a group that could look very different in a month’s time, although of course, that’s something that can happy to any team?
“No, not at all. At the end of the day, the most important thing is that you put in the work and we’ll reach our objective. Only time will tell, and it’s true that this could well happen, but it could happen at any team. We’ll adapt our methods according to how things change, we understand that we don’t have much time, and we’ve all got to adapt quicker. Nonetheless, up to this point, the group hasn’t changed all that much and so I’ve got to focus on adapting my approach and to gradually introduce some new ideas, but without disrupting a group that already knows what it’s doing.”
How do you instil a new mentality into the group? Will it be a different style of play from what the team was used to?
“Every coach has their principles, but I don’t think there’s a right or wrong in situations like these. Ever Coach has a vision and tries to shape the squad to fit that vision, but you need time to achieve this. And we don’t have much of that and so we’ll try, little by little, to introduce some new principles and some new ideas, but without taking away from the principles of the ideas. It will need to be a gradual process, even when the matches come around, and we need to forge a new path for the club, but without rushing.”
Are there any players whose departure you’ve vetoed?
“Clarity is something that everyone knows is important at the minute. When I arrived here, I knew what the vision of the ownership was and that they were behind me. I know what the Sporting Director wants to achieve, we’re on the same wavelength in this respect. It’s up to the ownership, the Sporting Director and the Coach to decide whether a player leaves together. I won’t ever veto a transfer when the money coming in is important for the Club and when a player wants to leave. It’s necessary to have twenty to twenty-five quality players in the squad because there are more games to be played in less time. There’s no such thing as a veto, all that I need to do is stay here at Parma and commit all my desire and enthusiasm, and work with the great squad of players we have at our disposal.”
Liverani’s style of football in recent years has been great to watch and he’s done some interesting things – the only downside is goals conceded. Have you thought about how to keep excelling on the front foot and having a slightly more solid defence?
““I think there should be a balance between defence and attack. Lecce’s path was a bit different, because they were in Serie C when I arrived and were top of the league with the second best defence. In Serie B, we finished second with the fourth best defence. It is clear that we had some difficulties that were known to the Club and the Sporting Director, but we decided that although we risked conceding a few more goals, the most important investments would be made to score a few more goals. We had a few difficulties after lockdown and some players got injured, who we thought could provide us with a few more goals. Unfortunately, it didn’t go well. With all the difficulties we had, we got relegated due to a few unfortunate moments, but our objective was to fight until the end and we did that. The offensive phase isn’t so far removed from the defence, and vice versa.”
In recent years, Parma have worked, finding strategies to get at the opposing team. What kind of coach is Fabio Liverani? Will you try to implement your own style of football?
““I try to strike a balance, to come up with ideas for my team and implement them, with tweaks depending on the opposition. It’s not all about me, and not all about them. I try to find the middle ground. At certain times you manage it, at other times less so. It’s not just my idea or just the one based on the opponents.”
Are Gervinho and Karamoh in your plans?
“They’re two players with very different stories. Gervinho, for all that he’s done, is an expert footballer, with certain qualities and characteristics. Karamoh is a player, who we need to take a look at and who needs to rediscover himself, adapt to a certain way of playing, play for himself and for others. They’re two important players for Parma, we’ll work with them and move forward. If offers do come in, we, along with the Club and Sporting Director, will assess them and, if they’re beneficial to the Club, we’ll see what happens. But it must be beneficial to the Club, the Sporting Director, for me and also for the player.”
A two-year contract is a way to build a project. What is the project?
““I’ve always signed contracts and respected their length, as a player and a coach. Wherever I feel trusted, is the best team I could hope for. I live for the team, for the Club, for the city, without question. It’s clear that to be able to work and give my all, I need to have the biggest of goals, which I can reach after six months, one year, three years or five years. For the contract there was no negotiation that lasted more than three minutes, because if I have the perception that those who contact me believe in me and have faith in me, I don’t need to think about the rest. I’m at Parma thinking I’ll be here for as long as possible. My journey here was not arduous. I spent three years in Lecce in a city and with an ownership, to which I feel very connected. It happens that the heart makes you have a thousand doubts and you have trouble with the choices you have to make. I think that the coronavirus, finishing the championship on 3 August, was all very tough. I had a few more doubts but Parma had nothing to do with my choice because they came in afterwards. I thought I might stop for a while, and so maybe there was a thought of anger on the part of Lecce for a different choice of mine to the one that I had immediately planned, a choice due to my personal thoughts. It was nothing to do with Parma, it was nothing to do with the Director and in fact I would have calmly stopped because after three years it would have been correct.”
What do you expect from the season? It will restart under the same conditions as before.
“It’ll definitely be a strange season. Getting back underway after twenty days rest, playing after just two or three weeks of training with players that are away on international duty, who return on 10 September, one week from the start of the league. It’s atypical for all of us and so we’ll need to wait for a couple of weeks to see how the season is going. The fans’ absence will be important and we hope to reopen the stadiums again soon, even if only partially, because sport without them has no real value. I think they’ll want eight to ten games to figure it out.”
The current squad is the same as it was last season. What changes might there be if the squad stays this way, considering a change in the style of football?
“We’re missing a third of our goals scored, and that’s no small amount. We’re set up in a certain way but losing a good chunk of goals. We have the ability to play good football but I think we also have a few players, who have played in a different way, like Kurtic, Kucka and Darmian. They’re good players with a lot of quality. Adapting to a new style of football is in their ability. The finished squad is a good one to shape and manage.”
(Photo Getty Images)