Bari, a city on the heel of the Italian boot, is an excellent market for Serie A and Italian soccer and the type of club that should be a mainstay in Serie A. The metropolitan area is home to over 1.6 million Italians and Stadio San Nicola was one of the modern stadiums built prior to the 1990 World Cup in Italy. So the Gilletti‘s promotion to Serie A in 2009 was a financial boon for Serie A, and the fans responded to the promotion by averaging more fans per game last season than Juventus. The club also performed well on the pitch, challenging early in the year for a European tournament spot before finishing the season in 10th place.
But like all smaller clubs who overachieve and display quality talent, Bari has been raided by the larger clubs. Rising star Leonardo Bonucci was sold to Juventus in a highly publicized move (for quite a sum of money), leaving a gap in the Bari backline. In addition to the Azzurri defender, Bari also lost its sports director Giorgio Perinetti, who was instrumental in composing a roster for a successful campaign despite the club losing its manager and going through a potential sale in the first few months of the Serie A season last year.
But new sports director Guido Angelozzi has immediately made his mark upon the squad. In a move that is critical to the team’s success, he negotiated a co-ownership deal with Udinese to retain top goal scorer Vitor Barreto, allowing Bari to retain its most proficient offensive weapon. In addition, the club has refused to sell defender Andrea Ranocchia so far this offseason. Ranocchia was brilliant next to Bonucci and is a potential backline contributor for the Azzurri in Euro 2012. Update: Looks like Bari needs another defender – Ranocchia taken back from loan by Genoa and is now co-owned by Genoa and Inter.
But standing pat was not enough for this club; to offset the losses suffered this offseason the club needs to be active in the transfer market.
So far, Angelozzi and manager Giampiero Ventura have secured two players to help the offense. The first was Abdelkader Ghezzal from Siena. Ghezzal was last seen playing for Algeria in the World Cup, where he received a red card in the US match. He is just blooming as a player after struggling in Ligue 1 early in his career – last season he scored five goals in twenty Serie A matches. Bari gets Ghezzal for two players who were unlikely to be major contributors for next year’s squad. The second player is midfielder Nico Pulzetti from relegated club Livorno. Pulzetti had a down year in Serie A last year one season after he was instrumental to Livorno’s rise to Serie A.
And Bari may not yet be done. ESPN is reporting that Bari is pursuing Sebastian Giovinco to boost their attack. The midfielder is an up-and-coming star who was relegated to the bench for most of last season, but has excelled on the Italian Olympic team as well as the U-21 side. “Formica Atomica” is a future member of the Azzurri who will excel if given the opportunity to direct the Gilletti attack with Ghezzal, Barreto, and Edgar Alvarez.
The club could use another defender to pair with Cristian Stellini and Salvatore Masiello. They cannot replace a Bonucci, but another center back would go a long way to maintaining their quality defending in front of Jean-Francois Gillet. This is an important season for the Gilletti. The club has traditionally jumped up and down between the leagues, but it has the fan base and finances to not only be a top flight club, but a contender for a European spot. If they sign Giovinco and shore up their defense, there is no doubt they can be contenders for a European tournament spot.