1969/70 Cagliari Calcio has secured the only Italian championship so far. Thanks are still due today to an idol of bygone days, who may even be proud of what the Sardinians are doing in Serie A these days. The islanders are fun, magic, and top – and have a simple principle set on: ignored players.
Back, captain and main component of the current Cagliari success: midfield engine Radja Nainggolan.
The Mediterranean town of Cagliari is located on the island of Sardinia above Sicily and has just over 150,000 inhabitants. An idyllic and livable spot on which you can enjoy yourself – it is not for nothing that numerous offices, ministries and institutions have settled here. Endless ancient buildings and monuments adorn the city on the water and attract every year tourists from the interior as well as from all over the world.
The sporting flagship of the city is of course Cagliari Calcio, the club founded on 20 August 1920. The locals have been worshiping them for generations, they love and live in this club – and are only too happy to remember the greatest hour of days gone by, when the Sardinians won the only major title, the Scudetto, in 1969/70. Especially Luigi "Gigi" Riva is the biggest recognition. The then top striker nicknamed "Il Rombo di Tuono" (thunder rumble or thunderbolt), who recently celebrated his 75th birthday, scored 21 goals this season, became top scorer for the third time and remained the club between 1963 and his retirement in 1976 continuously loyal. A Sardinian forerunner of Roma icons like Francesco Totti or Daniele de Rossi, so to speak.
Conti, Lopez, Allegri, Zola: Great names in Sardinia
In the modern age, the club had to fight against adversity, stagnated over the years rather. The greatest successes were after all the achievement of the UEFA Cup semi-final in 1994, where the Rossoblu (the Red-Blue) failed to league rivals Inter Milan (3: 2, 0: 3), and the Serie A Return to the second league championship 2015/16. Since then, Cagliari again established in the upper house, came in 2016/17 as a climber on the 11th, 2017/18 just above the line on the 16th and 2018/19 also just above the danger zone to 15th place.
An idol of a whole city: Luigi "Gigi" Riva is the legend par excellence of Cagliari Calcio.
Big players of bygone days are Gigi "Riva Daniele Conti (brother of Bruno Conti), Mario Brugnera, Mario Martiradonna, the fast-paced Brazilian Nene with the number 7, Diego Lopez or other well-known names like the last successful Juve manager Massimiliano Allegri, Mauro Esposito, Cristiano Zanetti and Gianfranco Zola from Sardinia (1989/90 champion with Napoli, two-time FA Cup winner with Chelsea).
Nainggolan demands more respect
Naturally Radja Nainggolan must be called up-to-date. The Belgian "Ninja", who after his training stations Germinal Beerschot and FC Piacenza had made the breakthrough in Cagliari between 2010 and 2014 and subsequently very successful at AS Roma (2014-2018, 155 league games, 28 goals and the storm to the Champions League Semifinals 2017/18) has returned this summer. The midfield engine struck a China adventure and was reported to have remained in Italy due to his wife Claudia, who had cancer, in Italy – and at the age of 31 he is on a fresh high.
After separating from the Giallorossi (escapades including an expensive New Year's Eve night), his hapless commitment including suspension and disrespect at Inter Milan (2018-2019) and the interim resignation from the Belgian national team ("wretched") sprays Nainggolan again before Spielwitz, plowing the place, opponents, running paths, shines with precise interface passes and has recently scored his second goal of the season in his outstanding performance against Florenz (5: 2) in addition to several top promotions with a great distance junk. He also wears the captain's armband when, as currently, Luca Ceppitelli (since 2014 in the club) is missing.
We are promising in the race, but it continues to talk only about the big clubs – we earn more pages in the gazettes.
Radja Nainggolan, captain of Cagliari Calcio
Following his last weekend's gala, the Ninja has also demanded more respect for his team – Cagliari is currently fourth with 24 points, tied with the third Lazio, and is thus in the midst of big clubs such as Juventus, pursuer of Inter, Atalanta Bergamo, the Roma and Napoli, currently in chaos.
Nainggolan's plea against "Sky Sport Italia" after a 5-2 win over Florence, the tenth league game in a row without defeat: "We are doing something incredible, nobody would have thought before the season that we would play so well, it's a veritable euphoria which has not existed in Cagliari for years, and now we have a promising start in the race, but we are only talking about the big clubs – and we are currently earning a few more pages in the gazettes. " Of course, he and his team had to keep their feet on the ground because it was hard to imagine Cagliari staying up there. But who knows? "Maybe the other clubs are less hungry."
Plan B becomes Plan A.
Annoy the big clubs of Italy: Cagliaris Giovanni Simeone (left), Joao Pedro, Radja Nainggolan & Co.
But where does the current hunger of the Sardinians come from, which, moreover, are played in an alternative stadium right next to the parking lots of the Sant'Elia stadium, which is under construction (works should be finished in 2021)? How has coach Rolando Maran (since 2018 in office, previously worked for years at Chievo Verona) together with the bosses of the club this greedy winning team, which has defied Napoli (1: 0) and the Roma (1: 1) built? Quite simply: The team consists of many players who have not been used properly elsewhere – and of players who are currently not needed by their actual employers.
Nainggolan is the best example, but there are others too: Goalkeeper Robin Olsen (last year brought by the Roma as new number 1, now loaned to Caglari), the former Augsburg and 34-year-old Ragnar Klavan (come from Liverpool in 2018), Luca Pellegrini (sold by Roma to Juve and currently loaned by Turin), Marko Rog (awarded by Napoli), the 33-year-old "wandering bird" Valter Birsa (last Chievo Verona), Leonardo Pavoletti (bought by Naples in 2018).
Or Giovanni Simeone, the eldest son of Atletico coach Diego Simeone. The Argentinian has been on loan from Fiorentina since this summer and hit a bear with his pickaxe in a duel with the former club in the last race – and immediately after that tears flow on the pitch. Why? "I will never forget this match," Simeone told DAZN afterwards. "I thought about this game all week, was anxious and touched emotionally – now I'm happy." Incidentally, he dedicated his goal to the former Italian international Davide Astori, who was active at both clubs and on March 4, 2018 surprisingly died (cardiac arrest), which had also caused the tears.
Zola praises: "This team has found strength"
He is familiar with the Sardinians: Gianfranco Zola was born in Sardinia and once trained Cagliari Calcio.
Of course, Simeone also appreciates the career of the team, which is playfully relying on technically high-quality attacks and wants to combine extremely fast forward in the case of counterattacks: "We are on the right track, we have a strong squad, we hold everyone together and have everyone has the same goal in mind, and we firmly believe that we can qualify for Europe. "
Zola, who was born in Sardinia in Oliena, thinks so too. Compared to "Sky Sport Italia", the Italian Vice World Champion of 1994 and former Cagliari coach (2014-2015) said: "The club deserves to be fourth, the Rossoblu score many goals (23; ) and the quality of the players has increased lately, thanks to coach Maran who is organizing this team. " Two players have kept Zola in the Chelsea coaching staff for a long time until Frank Lampard's arrival this summer, saying: "Nainggolan's profile alone has restored his profile and charisma, as well as his maturity, as well as Joao's Pedro (27, since 2014 in the club, seven goals, ed.) This team has found to strength. "