Back in 2019, everything was going Brescia’s way. The Italian club stormed to the Serie B title, earning promotion back to the top flight for the first time in eight years. Journeyman striker Alfredo Donnarumma bagged 25 goals in his debut season with the club, enough to finish as the league’s highest scorer. Talented midfielder Sandro Tonali, just 18 years old, enjoyed a breakout season, with 34 appearances and ten goal contributions.
In the summer transfer window, things got even better. Finnish goalkeeper Jesse Joronen, Czech midfielder Jaromír Zmrhal, and Venezuelan defender Jhon Chancellor and others were signed to the club, bringing valuable experience and talent. Rising stars Florian Ayé and Ales Mateju were both brought in, with the potential to be key players in the future. And then there was Mario Balotelli.
Balotelli is one of the sport’s greatest personalities. The Italian star always seemed to be in the headlines, from unique celebrations to firework mishaps. He also left a big mark on the field: the forward was returning to Italy for the first time in three years, having scored a combined 51 goals in his stint in France. He was returning to his hometown club for free for their first Serie A season in eight years: the stuff of fairytales.
However, things did not pan out that way. Brescia has plummeted to the second tier and is now facing relegation to the third tier, and the situation for the club looks bleak. Here’s what happened to the once promising Italian club:
Season in the Serie A: 2019/20
Brescia opened their season with an away match against Cagliari, and started off on the right foot: Donnarumma tucked away a penalty kick as Brescia won 1-0. They lost their next two matches before winning again and the following week, Balotelli made his debut in a loss to Juventus, and, in his second game back, he scored against Napoli.
But things quickly soured for Balotelli: in one match, after racial abuse by Hellas Verona fans, he threatened to walk off the pitch. This resulted in criticism from the club’s fans and ultras, who accused him of embarrassing the team. After the loss, manager Eugenio Corini was sacked and replaced with Fabio Grosso, who quickly fell out with Balotelli. Brescia’s chairman Massimo Cellino sooner joined in on the criticism, repeatedly questioning Balotelli’s behavior and allegedly making racist comments about the striker.
Grosso’s time with Brescia was forgettable: after three matches (0-3, 0-3, and 0-4) he was sacked, and replaced by… the manager they had just sacked, Eugenio Corini. Corini quickly improved the team’s fortunes with two straight wins, but he was again fired after failing to win his next seven. He was replaced by Diego López, who won none of his first four games before the league season was brought to a halt.
The coronavirus pandemic ravaged Italy in 2020, and Lombardy (where Brescia is located) was badly hit, with tens of thousands of deaths. Any fighting spirit the team would’ve had in them upon restart was gone, and Brescia inevitably went down with just 25 points — 14 away from safety. Balotelli’s contract was terminated weeks before the season ended for a lack of professionalism, and manager López followed soon after.
False Hope: 2020/21 and 2021/22
Balotelli wasn’t the only notable departure, as several players headed to the door after relegation: mainly Sandro Tonali, who joined AC Milan. However, the expectation was that Brescia would be in the hunt for promotion.
Former Serie A coach of the year Luigi Delneri was seen as the man to take the club back to the top — which is why he was sacked after two matches. He was replaced by López, who, you may recall, was sacked and replaced by Delneri. López didn’t have a long stay in Brescia either, though, and he was out the door after just nine matches, with the club mid-table in Serie B.
López was replaced by his assistant manager Daniele Gastaldello, who was replaced by Davide Dionigi, who was replaced by Pep Clotet. Despite the lack of consistency, Brescia scraped into the promotion playoffs, where they lost in the first round. Clotet was then fired and replaced by Filippo Inzaghi.
The following season saw Brescia reinvest in some fresh faces, including AC Milan prospect Giacomo Olzer. With Inzaghi, Brescia finally found their form and stayed toward the top of Serie B for much of the season. Unfortunately, a patch of poor form cost Inzaghi his job, despite just seven games remaining in the season and the club being in fifth. Inzaghi later sued the club for breach of contract.
Brescia progressed to the wonderfully complicated Serie B playoffs again, where they reached the semifinals. They lost to Monza, however, and missed out on promotion once again. Corini was sacked once again, and replaced by … Clotet.
The Current Situation: 2022/23
Brescia actually got off to a decent start to the season and stayed in a promotion playoff spot until match day 17. However, a five-game winless streak saw the club drop to the bottom half of the table and — shocker — Clotet was sacked. He was replaced by Alfredo Aglietti, who made it just two matches before being sacked and replaced by Clotet.
Clotet managed just three games — all losses — before he departed the club again. Davide Possanzini, the manager of the Brescia u19 side, took over, and he managed two games — and he lost both. He departed and was replaced by Daniele Gastaldello, who had managed one game back in 2020. He has coached six games so far this season and has yet to win any of them.
This season, Brescia has scored the second-fewest goals in Serie B, and conceded the most. The team lacks stability, both financially and in terms of leadership. They’ve gone through a colossal amount of coaches — most of them more than once — and the club has gradually been decreasing its spending.
The biggest problem, however, is president Massimo Cellino. Cellino has caused the club problems with his offensive comments, his trigger-happy mentality when it comes to hiring and firing coaches, and his increasingly odd antics — including bringing in a priest to perform an exorcism this season. He’s lost popularity among the fans, and the ultras of the club are growing increasingly frustrated. The club’s fortunes likely won’t change until Cellino is out of the picture.
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