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The Cerci Riddle


Rumors of a Torres-Cerci swap initially seemed absolutely ridiculous. When they began to be a reality, Galliani was instantly praised by many as a genius. But my Spidey sense was tingling on this deal, and by doing a little reading, I think I’ve figured out why. First, we lost our best center forward and the player with a proven track record of winning, even if he had not been able to produce the goals in four short months that we all would have liked him to. It’s not as if Pazzini or Niang have produced, either, and we have no one else for that spot. Except Matri, of course, we’re still paying for him. Secondly, Cerci was obviously brought in as cover for Honda this month, but what about the other 17 months of his contract? Who starts there? And do we even know anything about Cerci other than his success at Torino? Many of the answers will unfold as we jump back into the Serie A season. But the last question troubles me the most. His acquisition and all of the hoops the club had to jump through to acquire him are perhaps the riddle of the season.

Cerci still waiting to hear the applause from the Atleti fans

Who is Cerci and what has he been able to accomplish? Alessio Cerci is 27 years old and began his career in the youth ranks at Roma. He started his first team career there as well, but was loaned out for three of those years to Brescia, Pisa, and Atalanta, in that order. During that time, he scored 10 goals and seven assists in 26 appearances for Pisa, even though his season ended early with a torn meniscus and anterior cruciate ligament inflammation, which required surgery. However, from 2003- 2010, he would score no other goals in 47 league appearances for Roma, Brescia, or Atalanta and he made only one assist for Roma his final season (although he did score a brace in a Europa League game that season, but still not consistent.)

A virtually goalless beginning of his career for Roma

From there, he moved to Fiorentina, where he spent two years and made 50 appearances, scoring 15 goals and making four assists in all competitions. However, he fell out of favor with the fans there. He gained infamy for parking his Maserati illegally around town, once refusing to move it after having parked in a police spot and being asked to. He was accused of trashing a local restaurant during a party for his birthday, after being accused of partying too much in general in Firenze, and he also was quick to want to jump ship when Manchester City showed interest in him. When it wasn’t him showing poor character, his girlfriend allegedly took to social media to criticize the team as well.

More notoriety off the pitch than on at Fiorentina

The next two years seem to be all anyone cares about, when he moved to Torino. In his first season, he made 35 appearances for the club (32 of those starts) and scored eight goals and made eight assists. Last season, he scored 13 goals and made 10 assists for Torino in 35 starts and two substitutions, better than any other player in Serie A. Of course, he was working with coach Giampiero Ventura again, who had also coached him at Pisa, the best season of his career prior to this. No stories about attitude or discipline problems, but then again, those are often overlooked when a player is producing. It should be noted that he has also appeared for the national team from U16 on, and now has 13 caps with the senior national team, although he has yet to score for the senior team.

Last summer was time for Torino to cash in on Cerci’s great season, and Torino’s president made it very clear that he would only let go of his star for a price, which Milan were not willing to pay (although Galliani reportedly called every day to ask for him.) Despite rumors that Roma and Inter might be willing to pay his price, he would end up going to Atletico Madrid for a generous transfer fee of €15m.

Of course one of the best years of his career was in the nerazzurri of Pisa 

That would prove to be disastrous for Cerci, though, who described himself as a fish out of water at Atleti, and only made nine appearances for them this season in all competitions, all but one a substitution, and scoring one goal in the Champions League match vs. Malmo. However, reports say that he showed up for training in Madrid in August 10 lbs. (4 kg.) overweight, and was forced to do double and triple training sessions to gain satisfactory fitness. He was also apparently plagued with minor injuries, but seems to have had plenty of those throughout his career, too. His track record of primadonna ways continued as he complained about not getting playing time, with coach Diego Simeone publicly commending the team as a whole and giving praise (and playing time) to those who worked hard (so not Cerci.)

So perhaps swapping Cerci for Torres will help each player improve by bringing them home to their native countries, but history shows that if Cerci is not a “bad apple,” then he is at the very least a primadonna. Sure, he’ll be hungry for playing time in the beginning, but it’s hard to imagine him earning a start ahead of the very disciplined and hardworking Honda once he returns from the Asian cup, especially after Inzaghi has made such a big deal about discipline and fitness. Milan will still be paying Torres’ wages (reportedly €2m more per year than Cerci’s,) and Atletico will still own Cerci’s contract and thus be able to sell him next summer or any time before it runs out in the next 18 months. A riddle that makes no sense at this point.

More of this, please

Perhaps Cerci will have grown up, perhaps his primadonna ways have been blown out of context or proportion and he will work hard for us after all. He was on Inzaghi’s wishlist last summer, a left-footed right winger that he supposedly really wanted. Hopefully Galliani does not use this as an excuse to bring Matri back, either, because we already know that wasn’t good. But having gotten Torres outright from Chelsea in order to make this swap happen, things just don’t quite add up. So hopefully Cerci, who is undergoing the medicals as I type this, will come and perform well and sweep away his undisciplined past, making all of this worthwhile and solving the Cerci riddle for all of us. But I’m not holding my breath on this one.


This post was inspired by the music of Garbage


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Milan vs. Sassuolo

Tuesday, January 6 •15:00 CET (9am EST)