Juventus
    09.01.2014 14:37 - in: Serie A S

    Rossoblu in the spotlight

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    The latest Juventus.com opposition profile takes a look at Sardinian side Cagliari, who the Bianconeri face on Sunday at the Stadio Sant’Elia

    Club

    The first noteworthy football matches played in Sardinia were between English workers there to build a railway, so it was only natural that Cagliari - a port through which a large number of English sailors passed - grew to become the centre of the sport on the island.

    And so Cagliari Football Club was founded in 1920 by surgeon Gaetano Fichera. They won their first game 5-2 against Torres, mainly thanks to a hat-trick from Alberto Figari.

    After pulling on the red and blue kit for the first time in 1926 (previously they wore black and blue stripes), the team were strong enough to take part in Serie C by 1937.

    They entered Serie A for the first time in 1964, making a poor start to the season but turning things around in the second half, beating Milan and Juventus on the way to a sixth-place finish.

    In the summer of 1967, Cagliari upped sticks to America to compete in a new league called the United Soccer Association, renaming themselves the Chicago Mustangs for the adventure. Their top scorer was Roberto Boninsegna, later a Juventus player, as they finished joint-second.

    The club’s biggest domestic achievement to date came in 1970, the year the Rossoblu won the Scudetto. The triumph was inspired by Gigi Riva, the Italian national team’s all-time top scorer (his number 11 jersey has since been retired by the club in his honour).

    After a relatively dark period in the lower leagues, they bounced back to almost pull off a coup in Europe, going out at the hands of Inter in the semi-final of the 1993/94 UEFA Cup just five years after promotion from Serie B.

    After four in the second flight, the 2003/04 season saw former Chelsea legend and local hero Gianfranco Zola return to his boyhood club to star in a promotion-winning campaign.

    Cagliari approached the current season off the back of securing safety with a good way to spare, finishing 11th in between Parma and Chievo Verona.

    Stadium

    Cagliari play their home games at the Stadio Sant’Elia, right by the sea in the port.

    The team inaugurated the new stadium in 1970 as reigning champions of Italy, having won the Scudetto the season before at the old Stadio Amsicora.  

    It was also used for athletics events until 2002, after which it has exclusively hosted football.

    Cagliari were forced to leave the ground for 18 months starting from the beginning of last season due to issues with the local administration, instead going to play their home games in the Stadio Is Arenas and the Stadio Nereo Rocco (all the way over in Trieste). They crowned their mid-October return to the stadium for the clash against Catania with a 2-1 win.

    Transfer Activity

    It was not the most dramatic summer transfer market for the Rossoblu, but they have brought in some interesting prospects.
    Danilo Avelar’s move has been made permanent after a productive loan spell from Ukranian side Karpaty Lviv, and Greek Under 21 international central defender Marios Oikonomou has also joined from PAS Giannina.

    Going out, Brazilian striker Thiago Riberio has gone back to his homeland to play for Santos, while 23-year-old midfielder Federico Casarini has moved to Bologna.

    Bigger news has already come in this January transfer period, as arguably their best player in recent times - midfielder Radja Nainggolan - moved to Roma earlier this week. He has made more tackles since he started playing in Serie A in February 2010 than any other player during that period.

    Current Team

    A truly integral part of the team is captain Daniele Conti, who - apart from five appearances for Roma in his early footballing steps - has spent his entire career at the club and is now top of the all-time appearances list. A defensive midfielder, he is very dangerous from free-kicks.

    After numerous loan spells away from the club, striker Marco Sau burst onto the scene last season. He ended the campaign as the top scorer, ahead of more established forwards Columbian Victor Ibarbo and Chilean Mauricio Pinilla, earning himself a debut call-up for the Azzurri.

    Defender Davide Astori is also an up-and-coming member of the squad, and travelled to Brazil for take part in the Italy’s Confederations Cup campaign.

    Manager

    While Ivo Pulga was manager last season with Diego Lopez as his assistant, this year the roles have reversed as Lopez stepped into a senior hotseat for the first time in his career.

    But the 39-year-old defender is already well acquainted with the club. He retired as a player at Cagliari in 2010 after making 314 appearances for the Rossoblu, becoming coach of the Giovanissimi the following year and the Primavera for a brief four-month spell the year after that.

    He quickly made the jump to the senior team, taking on the assistant manager job straight afterwards and swapping roles with Pulga to take charge at the beginning of the season.

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