Ad Maiora Semper
Ciao, and welcome back to the second half of the first season at Genoa CFC. In this piece, you’ll read about the winter transfers, see how we finished off the second half of Serie B, and the financial impact of being in Serie B alongside my transfer business.
After the defeat to Frosinone, Albert Guðmundsson had the temerity to come to me and challenge me on how I spoke to the team during my team talks. I didn’t appreciate his tone, so he went straight on the transfer list, offered for sale, and put into the Under-18s for good measure. A number of teams came in for the Icelandic international, but it was Mainz that sealed his signature for £2m. As you’ll see below, this netted us a net positive financial return on his time are the club given his remaining book value, as well as a very useful £2m in cash to help support our haemorrhaging of cash.
For similar financial purposes, I looked to sell Milan Badelj. At 33-years of age, and about to turn 34 in February, I wanted to extract any value I could from him. Aware I was going to take a hit on his book value, I didn’t care, given he was on £43k/week. Selling him saved £1.2m purely in his basic wage. The fact I only receive £86k from Cruz Azul, the equivalent of just two weeks wages for Badelj, is neither here nor there – I removed an unhappy player who wasn’t playing and wasn’t going to be offered another contract to add to the one that was expiring at the end of the season. On balance, this sale made financial sense.
The other player to leave was Caleb Ekuban. He’d been back up to Yeboah, but whenever he’d been given the chance to experience some minutes in his place, he looked like he’d struggle to score in a vacated goal. His shooting was wayward, and it wasn’t like we weren’t creating the same quality of chances for him. When he came to me asking to go out on loan, this seemed a good idea for both parties. Hopefully in his time at Sturm Graz, he’s able to put together a run of form to rebuild his confidence.
Despite the aforementioned financial difficulties, I did consider bringing in a signing as cover for Yeboah on a permanent basis, I realised that if we could continue our existing form, we were likely to achieve promotion to Serie A. As such, I didn’t want to sign someone to a permanent contract who might be a good fit now, but in six months time be left with someone lacking the necessary quality to compete in Serie A. Consequently, I decided it better to look into the loan market, and add to our loanees. The search for a target didn’t take long once I spotted the name of Ezequiel Ponce. The 25-year-old Argentinian striker was unloved at Elche, and a deal was quickly agreed to bring him to the Luigi Ferraris stadium.
This meant that the squad looked like this after our Winter transfers:
In truth, we won Serie B at something of a canter – the league was wrapped up with four games to go and promotion had been obtained two games prior to that. We dominated the league, going on a twenty-four game unbeaten streak, as we barely had to rotate beyond suspensions and relatively minor injuries, except Alessandro Vogliacco who broke his ankle. Our relative goal difference tells you the story of our superiority over our peers – in only four games did we have a negative xG-xGA difference.
This achievement, as stated in the mid-season review, is in no small part down to the form of Kelvin Yeboah, but also Mattia Aramu, Aldo Florenzi, and Henrique Pereira – my front four (after the sale of Guðmundsson). It’s only right that we take the time to investigate just how good they performances were.
In the below player analysis, rather than just copying across the in-game graphic of his spider chart to show how good each was in Serie B, I’m going to look at how well they did relative to that of other, comparative leagues. The reason for doing this is that there could, for example, be a relatively small number of players with sufficient minutes playing as a wide forward in a single league, so utilising other leagues to make a comparison makes it somewhat more reliable. The leagues I’ve chosen are 2. Bundesliga (Germany), PKO Bank Polski Ekstraklasa (Poland), Fortuna Liga (Slovakia), Ligue 2 BKT (France) and of course Serie B. The reason behind choosing these leagues is that they are all European league, with the same calendar for their respective sessions, and who are roughly comparable with Serie B given their league rankings. All players who have had their data gathered have all completed 1,000 minutes or more to avoid any small sample size of minutes skewing the data.
Kelvin Yeboah – Capocannonieri Serie B winner
Yeboah typically played with tremendous freedom, utilising his fantastic pace to run in behind defences when they had pushed up, resulting in him having a number of one-on-ones which he calmly finished on a pretty regular basis. I’m not going to pretend that he scored every week – he did, despite his fantastic figures, have some barren spells. Yet it was so often his goals which separated us from our opposition – his speed, composure, off the ball movement, and his finishing ability saw him finish the season as Serie B’s top goalscorer.
As the first signing I negotiated after I took on the role of Genoa manager, it was fantastic to see Aldo Florenzi perform to the standard that he achieved over the course of the season. Playing as an advanced playmaking 10, he demonstrated the ability to play the killer pass and to hit the back of the net all in one shirt. His radars show just how brilliant he was in front of goal, taking the burden away from Yeboah, whilst also nearly topping out (5th out of 109) of the assist makers per ninety across the five chosen leagues.
Henrique Pereira – Miglior calciatore giovane winner
The other new signing at the start of the season under my stewardship, when Pereira received his chance to have a run in the side, boy did he take it. He became the creator in chief of our side, laying on multiple opportunities for Yeboah and Aramu to score. You can see from the radar on the left in the below graphics just how elite his chance creation was for our side, whilst also not being shy in shot creation too (right-hand radar). For reference, the rankings are out of a total of 182 players.
His form saw him pick up the ‘Best Young Football’ award for Serie B. It’s no surprise that when he became available to speak to on a pre-contract agreement, I leapt at the chance, and was delighted that he wanted to extend his time with us beyond his initial loan.
If Pereira was the master creator, Aramu was the master swordsman – an incredible inside forward with an eye for goal. League-leading across Serie B, and just as good if not better than anyone else playing on either side as a wide forward, it will be a shame when his loan with us end. I looked into being able to sign him on a pre-contract, but the wages he demanded would have smashed the existing wage structure. Whilst he is definitely good enough for Serie A, I couldn’t risk financial ruin and meet his £40k+ basic weekly wage.
The below graphics combine Pereira and Aramu’s metrics together into a bar chart, and compare them against the same players across the five leagues. I’ve also added the metrics for Güven Yalçın, who played in the inverted winger role that Pereira made his own following an injury to Yalçın. This gives you some idea of the level that Pereira and Aramu were able to operate at in the same side as Yalçın.
If you wish to see further graphics on the performances of the side, you can click here for the central defenders’ metrics; here for the full backs defensive metrics and here for their attacking metrics (this is well worth a look); and here for the defensive metrics of our central midfielders, here for their creativity and here for their goal-scoring actions.
With the promotion that came with the form that these players achieved, which yielded the corresponding £2.15m prize money, and some careful cost-cutting, one would be forgiven for thinking that things would see growth for the financial side at Genoa CFC too, but sadly far from it.
Despite the player trading and collecting over £8m in incoming transfer fees, the player sales (those in red) and amortisation charge of this year’s incoming transfers alone led to an annual net loss of £5,626,667 in player trading alone, before the taking into consideration the cost of amortising the remaining book value of the entire team, including those out on loan (purple in colour).
The total amortisation charge for the year is £20.3m, which will go against any potential profits from trading over the year:
Safe to say, there were no booked profits for the financial year 2022-23, of which there is further evidence in the year-end cash flow analysis below:
This graphic highlights the high level of spending on player wages, bonuses and loyalty payments as a proportion of income:
The rate of spending on players being over 80% is uncomfortable and a sign that were we not to have achieved promotion, we would have been in dire straits as a club, but it can’t be taken for granted that life in Serie A is a path paved with gold either. I will need to be careful with our spending, assessing and addressing gaps in the squad, both in terms of numbers and quality, so that we can look to improve sufficiently enough to stay up and not put into trouble with the bank. It will be a tricky tightrope to walk and find that balance between pushing to avoid relegation and also pushing the club too far into the red with a potential that any transfers don’t pay off.
Yet all that, and our first games in Serie A will have to wait until next time. Will Yeboah make the step-up to the big time? Will Henrique Pereira continue to turn provider, or will that fall to some other new, as yet unknown signing? And just who will Genoa CFC bring in to replace the previous RB Leipzig loanee goalkeeper, Josep Martínez?
For that, and more, tune in next time, but until then – arrivederci!