As Mr Time swung his mallet towards the shimmering gong suspended over the calciomercato on transfer deadline day in Italy last Friday, Bologna did one of this January’s late deals. With only 45 seconds to spare they finalised and deposited the paperwork required by the league to officialise the signing of Ibson, the Corinthians holder, for €900k.
Just imagine the scene in Bologna’s offices for a moment. It had been a frantic few hours. Negotiations for Maicon, the Sao Paulo anchorman not the Roma full-back, had collapsed earlier in the afternoon and it was then that his agent recommended another of his clients, Ibson, as an alternative. Things had to happen fast if Bologna were to get it done and they did.
Beads of sweat must have collected on the brows of those involved, followed by sighs of relief at the transfer’s completion, a sense of panic subsiding to be replaced by the pats on the back and self-congratulation of a job well done. Another window had come and gone. Closed for six months, Bologna’s directors could relax a little in the meantime.
Well, not really. Their club is under severe financial strain, their team, under a new coach Davide Ballardini, who replaced Stefano Pioli at the beginning of the New Year, finds itself in a battle against relegation. If Bologna were to go down, the fear is they would go bankrupt. And within that context, it’s perhaps understandable why they considered selling star player Alessandro Diamanti, even though he also represents their best hope of survival, to Asian Champions League winners Guangzhou Evergrande.
That offer was declined with a fax remarkable for its politeness. “Thank you again for your professionalism and kindness. Wishing you the best results. Best regards, Bologna president Albano Guaraldi.” But with the transfer window still open until the end of February in China, another bid for Diamanti might yet arrive. Some within the club think it’d be better if they cashed in. Others are of the opposite opinion.
Meanwhile the fans have been protesting too. Condemned by honorary president, the crooner Gianni Morandi, for unfurling banners and singing songs that discriminated against Neapolitans before last month’s home game against Napoli, for which they received a partial stadium ban - suspended for one year - they’ve been provocatively asking why he hasn’t followed through on his intention to resign in disgust. Morandi was outraged, particularly as the offensive chants came during the playing of Caruso over the PA, one of the great Neapolitan songs as sung by Lucio Dalla, the late and great tenor from Bologna, a poignant feature of the pre-game entertainment to show what the cities have in common.
So, Bologna couldn’t relax, no. On the contrary, everything is quite tense. Those running the club have a lot to think about, a lot to preoccupy them. Maybe that’s why Ibson slipped their minds. Who? You know, Ibson, the player they signed right at the end of the January transfer window. Picture again if you will Bologna’s offices and the faces of their directors displaying the same facial expression as the mother in Home Alone when she realises the family have forgotten their son, Kevin, as played by Macaulay Culkin. 'Oh my God, Ibson?!'
Bologna didn’t leave Ibson behind, though. They just didn’t send anyone pick him up at the airport. As he came through arrivals at Fiumicino in Rome no one from Bologna was holding up a sign with his name on it. No one from the club was there to meet him.
Now Ibson isn’t Zico or Paulo Roberto Falcao but the least he could expect out of professional courtesy would be a representative from the club to welcome and accompany him to their offices This after all is a player who has won the league twice with Porto.
How must he have felt? Unwanted in Brazil, where the Corinthians supporters had uploaded a picture onto one of their message boards showing a banner that had been photoshopped onto one of the ends at the Estadio do Pacaembu saying: ‘Thanks Bologna for liberating us of Ibson,’ the poor lad can’t have felt wanted in Italy either. Furious at this show of incompetence, it has been reported that Bologna president Guaraldi has suspended his assistant general manager, his club secretary, communications director and a member of his marketing staff. It’s not the first time the club has stuffed up.
When it came to re-negotiating their co-ownership of goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano with Inter in 2011, a clerical error made by Bologna’s then general manager meant instead of offering €4.7m - that’s half of their overall valuation of him - they bid €2.35m. It led to them losing their No.1, who was then competing with Salvatore Sirigu to be Gigi Buffon’s back up at international level. Inter had bid €4.1m expecting Bologna to offer more and maintain their existing arrangement. Instead, they found Viviano, who was once being groomed as an heir to Julio Cesar, arriving at the club sooner than expected.
Incidents like that and the Ibson affair are embarrassing. You just hope a great club like Bologna, who are still in trouble after Saturday’s 2-0 defeat to Udinese, can save face between now and the end of the season.
James Horncastle - @JamesHorncastle