The Journeyman | Cagliari Calcio: Part 4 – Dominant De Lucia

Heading into 2032, Cagliari Calcio were being well and truly carried into the top half of Serie A by the goals of star striker Thomas De Lucia. The Italian, our newly appointed vice-captain, had scored more than half of our goals.

And he continued his good form as we began 2032 nicely with a 2-1 home win over SPAL with both strikers Dimba and De Lucia scoring. We quickly fell behind against 8th-placed Sampdoria, managed by Sebastian Giovinco, 3 days later but De Lucia was at it again to pull us level. I brought on youngster Fillipo Bonci for his first appearance of the season and he played in De Lucia to win it with the last kick of the match. That was particularly important given Sampdoria were 5 points clear of us before the game.

We then went to Benevento and lost 1-0 then to Parma with no fewer than 9 players injured or, bizarrely for January, on international duty, and earned a 0-0 draw. And the low scoring games continued as our injury-hit team edged past Sassuolo 1-0 with another goal by De Lucia.

We then went on the road to Udinese, who very much favourites and dominated the match. They led 1-0 at half-time so I sent a rocket up the lads and we got back on level terms as loanee Miguel Angel Mba headed home from a corner on his debut. We looked to be drifting towards a hard-earned draw but De Lucia latched onto a long hoof clear, rounded his defender and raced in on goal to net a wholly undeserved winner!

Deadline day chaos

We’d had a relatively quiet January with a few players leaving for minimal money and only 20-year-old Danish midfielder Thomas Poulsen arriving for £6 million.

However, Colombian centre-back Harlin Cardona had been the subject of several offers and got really upset about the situation. That resulted in Liverpool putting in a bid that I managed to negotiate up to £30 million.

We then needed to get a replacement and I thought we had one in Liverpool defender Christ Mandanda. But he annoyingly agreed terms before Cardona agreed them with Liverpool, so the deal fell through as we didn’t have enough spare funds. I then had to scramble and dug out Spanish centre-back Abelardo from my shortlist, for whom we met the minimum fee of £33.5 million – which is a new club record signing. It was a rushed deal but I do think he’ll be very good for us.

Another deadline day signing arrived in holding midfielder Jackson Ungerer, who can’t be registered until next season so we’ll send him back to Brazil on loan for now.

Back to Serie A

In the aftermath of the deadline day chaos, we had to refocus for a huge game against Genoa, who were 5 points ahead of us. We started well and won an early penalty only for De Lucia to miss it, but centre-back Lindani Marengo nodded home from a corner the next minute. 7 minutes later, Genoa also won a penakty but striker Calogero Maccarone – who’ll be joining us at the end of his contract – saw his effort saved by Miguel Leal.

De Lucia made up for his miss early in the second half, they pulled one back, but we kicked on and scored two great goals to thump Genoa 4-1. It was easily the best performance since I took over in Sardinia.

We then unsurprisingly lost 2-0 at Roma then 1-0 at home to Inter, against whom we should have got a point as De Lucia missed another penalty and youngster Bonci missed a late chance. But we at least stopped the defeats with striker Dimba scoring a wondergoal to rescue a point at Torino. That won him goal of the month in February, while Erik Argiolas came second for a strike in our 4-1 win over Genoa. Watch both below:

And we got back to winning ways when we absolutely didn’t deserve it. We went behind early on against Bologna and they dominated us with 19 shots to 11. However, we equalised with a De Lucia penalty, which was just our second shot, and our main man won us the match in the second half.

However, we then went to Atalanta and lost, which saw them climb above us. But then had a cracking match at Empoli that young striker Bonci won with his first goal of the season in injury-time.

Another 3-2 followed despite us racing into a 3-0 lead over struggling Bari – which my defensive minded board will not be happy with. Then we went to Sampdoria, who were one place above us in the league, went down 1-0, had a player sent off, but somehow equalised late on through Marengo.

Roma offer

Before the Sampdoria game I was offered an interview by Roma, who ended up offering me the role. I considered it long and hard but eventually declined based on the high expectations of their board considering the quality of their first-team squad. I may regret it, but I’ve got to show some loyalty to Cagliari right? Roma eventually paid £4.7 million to sign former England manager Sean Dyche from Southampton.

Final 5 games of Serie A

Our first game after that interview was at home to 4th-placed Lazio. And it made me a bit more happy with my decision, as Real Madrid loanee Dimba scored the only goal and had one disallowed in a very tight match.

We then earned a decent 0-0 at AC Milan and another 0-0 at home to 2nd placed Juventus. My board will be absolutely loving those results! And they ensured we couldn’t finish lower than 10th, which confirmed our top-half finish objective.

Those two results seemingly gave us confidence for the final two games of the season as we went to SPAL and won 3-1 and defeated Benevento 2-0 with a brace by De Lucia.

And this strong little run of results to finish the 2031/32 campaign ensured we finished in 8th place in Serie A, only 3 points away from qualifying for Europe. We finished 2 places and 4 points better off than last season, so I think we’ve started life in Sardinia pretty well.

The finances involved in Serie A, frankly, are pathetic and ridiculous. Our 8th place finish only earned us £2.77 million, of which £1.5 million was paid out in bonuses. So our hard work this season earned us a paltry £1.27 million.

Join us next time as we reflect on a season of decent success with Cagliari and examine some of the key team and league stats.


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