The Zamparini Era: Back To Serie A and European Years (2002–present)
In the summer of 2002, Friulian businessman and Venezia owner Maurizio Zamparini acquired the club from Franco Sensi in a €15 million bid, with the clear intention to bring Palermo back to Serie A and then establishing the club as a Serie A regular with aims of participations to European competitions. Palermo failed in its first attempt to reach the Serie A in 2002–03 on the final week of the season, but later managed to achieve it after a hard but successful 2003–04 campaign which saw Palermo crowned as Serie B champions and promoted to Serie A after 31 years under head coach Francesco Guidolin, who was hired in January 2004 as replacement for dismissed Silvio Baldini.
The 2004–05 season, the first in Serie A for the Palermo club since 1973, ended with an excellent sixth place, securing qualification for the 2005–06 UEFA Cup for the first time in its history. Luca Toni broke the Palermo Serie A scoring record by notching up 20 league goals. Guidolin left in 2005 and was replaced by Luigi Delneri, who did not manage to repeat his predecessor's successes and was later replaced by Giuseppe Papadopulo. Despite an unimpressive eighth place in the Serie A table, Palermo reached the last 16 in the UEFA Cup as well as the Coppa Italia semi-finals. Guidolin's return was followed by Palermo being admitted to play UEFA Cup again due to the 2006 Serie A scandal and Palermo players Andrea Barzagli, Cristian Zaccardo, Simone Barone, and Fabio Grosso being crowned 2006 World Cup winners. A number of impressive signings were made to establish an ambitious team, and a good beginning in the 2006–07 campaign appeared initially to confirm this. A winless 11 games streak, however, caused Palermo to fall down from third to seventh place, then ending the season in fifth place and ensuring another UEFA Cup qualification.
For the following 2007–08 season, emerging coach Stefano Colantuono was appointed at Guidolin's place. A number of unimpressive performances left the rosanero in eighth place, seven points shy of the fourth UEFA Champions League spot, and a crushing 5–0 away defeat to Juventus led Zamparini to sack Colantuono on 26 November 2007 and call in Guidolin for a fourth spell as Palermo boss. On 24 March 2008, Guidolin was sacked and left the club for the fourth time with his predecessor Stefano Colantuono taking charge for the second time in the season.
Colantuono was confirmed as Palermo boss for the 2008–09 season. During the summer transfer market, club stars like Amauri, Barzagli, and Zaccardo were sold. New signings included former and current Italian internationals Marco Amelia, Fabio Liverani, and Antonio Nocerino. The rosanero started their season with a disappointing 2–1 home loss to Lega Pro Prima Divisione side Ravenna in the Third Round of the Coppa Italia. After just one game from the new campaign, a 3–1 loss to Udinese, Zamparini sacked Colantuono, and the head coach role was then given to Davide Ballardini. With Ballardini as head coach, Palermo ended the season with a respectable eighth place, and also won its first Campionato Primavera national title, under the guidance of youth coach Rosario Pergolizzi. After the end of the season, Palermo dismissed Ballardini from the coaching post following disagreements with the board, and replaced him with Walter Zenga, whose appointment from Sicilian arch-rivals Catania was greeted with surprise and dismay from supporters of both parties. Zenga's reign, however, lasted only 13 games, as he was dismissed on 23 November 2009 due to poor performances, ironically after a 1–1 home tie to Sicilian rivals and Zenga's former team, Catania, with former Lazio boss Delio Rossi being appointed at his place. Under the tutelage of Delio Rossi, results dramatically improved, and Palermo established a record of seven consecutive home wins, and also achieved prestigious results such as two 2–0 wins against Italian giants Milan and Juventus; the latter win, achieved on February, led Palermo to climb over the bianconeri in fourth place, establishing the rosanero as serious contenders for a UEFA Champions League spot, which they ultimately lost to Sampdoria by one point only. Such season also launched new emerging stars such as midfielder Javier Pastore and goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu, who went on to become integral part of their corresponding international teams.
The new season started with Delio Rossi still in charge of the club: Simon Kjær and Edinson Cavani left the club, and a few more promising youngsters were signed (most notably Argentine Ezequiel Muñoz and the Slovene duo of Armin Bačinović and Josip Iličić), plus more experienced acquisitions such as forwards Massimo Maccarone and Mauricio Pinilla. The 2010–11 season also marked Palermo's return into continental football, in the UEFA Europa League. Palermo reached their third Coppa Italia finals after defeating Milan 4–3 on aggregate on 10 May 2011, then losing 3–1 to Inter in the final. For the 2011–12 season, Delio Rossi was replaced by former Chievo boss Stefano Pioli, who was, however, sacked before the Serie A kickoff after being eliminated by Swiss minnows FC Thun in the UEFA Europa League third preliminary round. In a somewhat surprise move, Pioli was replaced by under-19 team coach Devis Mangia, with no managerial experience other than at youth team and minor league level; despite that, Mangia turned Palermo fortunes by leading the rosanero in fifth place thanks to an impressive string of six consecutive home wins, thus deserving a long-term deal at the club. A string of poor results, however, led Palermo to three consecutive defeats, including elimination from the Coppa Italia and a disappointing loss in the Sicilian derby, persuading Zamparini to replace Mangia with the more experienced Bortolo Mutti. Palermo arrived 16th in that season.
The next season the president start a staff revolution. In fact, Giorgio Parinetti is the new DS, and Teubal marketing director. the new coach was Giuseppe Sannino, the season before he was at Siena. Palermo acquired the goalkeeper Samir Ujkani, the defenders Michel Morganella, Mauro Cetto and Steve von Bergen, the midfielders Egidio Arevalo Rios, Jasmin Kurtic and Nicolas Viola and the young argentinian striker Paulo Dybala following also by many top clubs. It's important to report the return of Franco Brienza.
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