Welcome back to chapter 2 of The Battle For Milan! Last time out, we confirmed our status of being champions of the Seconda Categoria Lombardia, and you can catch up on this season here. I also completed a quick club overview of the facilities and finances, which can also be found here. This time out, we will be covering our 2022/23 season in the Prima Categoria Lombardia along with progress in the Coppa Dilettanti Lombardia.

Club Progress

During the summer, the board approached me to gain my thoughts on potentially allowing the club to sign recruitment analysts. Normally, I would be looking to provide this funding to a different area of the club, but given we will be building for the future in the not-so-distant future, I felt it would be appropriate to bring in one at this stage to aid in our attempt of first-time promotions over the short-term.

Following on from last season’s success, I knew we had some areas to improve in, whilst we had the risk of losing players for free. Knowing that it would be a stressful summer, I got to work immediately. Before I started to scout targets and bring players in on trial, I had to take a glance at what the media thought of our team for the upcoming season, and where they would imagine us to finish.

It was a surprise to see the media rate the team I had assembled last season, as out of 32 teams in this level of Italian football, we are predicted to finish 6th. At this level, the Lombardia teams split into two groups of 16 – the top two from each group will automatically win promotion, whilst 3rd and 4th from both groups will enter a promotion play-off, rewarding the two winners with promotion.

First on the agenda was to bring in a replacement for Alberto Panone. The striker had announced his retirement from the game weeks before the summer, and whilst I have Cissé, Cataldi, Tandurella and Serio awaiting in the wings, I felt another striker would give our team an extra dimension to change the game.

Sadly for the club, we did lose a couple of players throughout the summer. Luca Cardani was released during the summer, mostly down to his age more than anything. He did ultimately retire from the game and has moved into becoming an assistant manager. Hopes of developing Rent Valdivia were dashed when he sealed a move to Boffalorese in the division below ourselves. Luca Tardiani, our star central midfielder last season, jumped at the opportunity to play in the Eccellenza with San Martino Speme. Paolo Cataldi left the club with only 4 days to go until the season opener to join Tempio Chiazzano in the same tier of Italian football. It was a bitter pill to swallow and left us short in the attacking department at such short notice.

Whilst these were big blows to our season aspirations, I did manage to arrange for a couple of arrivals:

Nicolò arrives as Tardiani’s direct replacement despite being only 19 years old. Coming through the youth ranks of Parma, I know that he will bring quality into the midfield and supply the front two regularly. Not quite a signing as such, but Daniele Madonia completes his move from the U20s to the first team due to his age. Coming in as a right-winger, he will look to provide competition to Biondo throughout the season. Bright Ibrahim also follows Madonia to the first team but will be made available for the U20s over the season. He isn’t quite there in terms of ability, but the exposure to adult football will certainly do his development no harm. Finally, Pietro D’Urso completes this segment of signings, arriving a couple of months into the season. A player that has played for a host of clubs in the lower reaches of Italian football, he brings much-needed experience into the middle of the park.

As we reached the January transfer window, our squad was hampered by the loss of key players. Riccardo Losa and Eli Guerrero both felt a move to Carrara 90 (Promozione A Piemonte-Vall d’Aosta) was too good to turn down, Andrea Delle Donne completed a move to Siziano Lanterna (Seconda Categoria Lombardia) and Stefano Piantoni sealed a move to Dormelletto (Promozione A Piemonte-Vall d’Aosta). With the loss of four defenders, I knew I had to get reinforcements in and quickly:

Albanians Marku and Puka both joined from higher levels of the Italian pyramid, and I certainly felt we had strong central defenders going into the latter stages of the season and beyond, for as long as we keep them at the club. Raimondo joins as the backup left-back but will be able to pass on his experience to the younger players of the club. Andreetto was not a signing I was originally targetting and I thought we could get by with the current midfielders. However, following news concerning Biondo, I had to rethink the squad and he was immediately available to come in and fill in the role I needed. Coviello was the ideal replacement for Losa and the former Juventus youth player would come straight into the side to bring balance down the right. Finally, Capotos completed the signings for the season, and whilst he would find it hard to shift the Albanian duo, he certainly is a solid option to have as backup to them should anything go wrong.

Certainly one of the sorest points of the season was the retirement of my key man. Biondo suffered a broken ankle in November and was under the opinion that he would struggle to come back from this injury. I pleaded with him to reconsider, but his mind was made up. I had to rethink the tactics as we did not have a player that could match Biondo’s quality yet, and our basic 4-4-2 was changed:

Whilst a narrow formation would leave us exposed on the wings, I felt that at this level of football, winning the midfield battle is crucial. Having those four players in the middle of the park, with two having a more attacking licence, would then give us something going forward to support the two strikers. Forcing the opponent either inside or outside was certainly game-dependent.

With what would some call a successful pre-season done and dusted, it was straight into domestic football with the highs of last season still remaining over our heads. This was still amateur football, but the quality in the Prima Categoria compared to the Seconda Categoria was telling as we recorded a very mixed first half of the season:

Defeat to our direct league rivals Chieve was certainly a sore one to take out of this run of games, along with the defeats to Almè and Pontevecchio (MI) – both games we should have won on paper to keep the pressure on leaders Aurora CMC Uboldese. Our early season wobble had us down in 5th and it looked like at one point we would struggle to make the automatic promotion spot. The 1-1 draw with Landriano was the introduction of the new tactic, and it was then I was hoping we would get some joy in the league.

Draws became wins, and we managed to edge out close games to ensure we would be leaving the stadium with 3 points. An unbeaten December meant we were beginning to close the gap on 2nd place Chieve, but leaders Aurora just seemed like they would not drop points. However, the massive 2-0 victory over the leaders gave us hope – we had 8 games remaining to make up 6 points.

Chieve recorded a couple of bad results and the gap to us became 1 point, whilst Aurora kept that 6-point advantage going into the final four games of the season. It was practically mission impossible at this point, but whilst it was mathematically possible, I didn’t want to give up hope just yet. Back-to-back 3-1 victories for us, a 2-1 defeat and a 1-1 draw for Aurora – the gap was reduced to 1 point going into the final two matches. Both teams recorded victories in their next fixture which meant it was a final day shootout – how was your bottle Aurora?

We made the task a lot harder by going 1-0 down to 8th place Dalmine, but Aurora were struggling away to Pontevecchio; going behind, bringing it back to level, going behind, it was a mad game to watch. We did grab a goal to bring us back level before half-time which put us top on head-to-head results. With their game being so unpredictable, I knew we had to press on and find a winner to ensure we had control over our destiny. We huffed. We puffed. And eventually, the breakthrough came. Salif Cissé in the 87th minute found a yard of space and rifled home a winner; whilst Pontevecchio grabbed a late winner themselves to defeat Aurora 5-4. We had done it.

2 titles out of 2 for Brera, and the good times just keep on coming for the club. Yet another successful season for everyone involved at the club, we would be planning ahead for the Promozione B after the summer – things are just going to get harder from here on out, so it was important to begin planning almost immediately.

Our cup run in the Coppa Dilettanti Lombardia ended in the fourth round as we squared off with a much stronger side in Saronno. Saronno play their football in the Eccellenza B Lombardia whilst paying out about £160 a week in wages to players. This will certainly be a sign of things to come for the club, and whilst we slumped to a 2-0 defeat, the gulf in quality was there to be seen. Disappointing to go out at that stage of the cup, but given the gap between the two clubs, I couldn’t be overly disappointed with the overall picture.

Brera FC Players – Where are they now?

With the retirement of Daniele Biondo, we had one less player to look at by the end of the season. Biondo did manage to grab himself 4 goals in 14 full games before his broken ankle in the 15th minute of what was his last appearance for the club.

Foday Jarju

The Gambian central defender made a total of 16 appearances for the club throughout the season before the arrivals of Puka and Marku put a halt to his game time as the side was freshened up for the successful second half of the season. A good enough player to keep around the squad as a backup, keeping him over the summer is going to be the tricky part as he is wanted by a handful of Prima and Seconda Categoria clubs.

Jacopo Nichetti

During the summer, the focus was to get Nichetti training as a more natural winger, but his development did not take off as I had hoped. He was then deployed as a pressing forward backup throughout the season, but his ability in the game is severely holding him back and he will certainly fall behind the club. However, he did make a total of 9 appearances over the season, grabbing himself 3 goals and an assist; two of which were massive as they were the only goal in the victories over Almè and Segrate.


Unfortunately for the club, only Nichetti and Jarju remain from the original group.

  • Eli Guerrero played 9 times respectively for Carrara 90 and helped the club win their relegation play-off to remain in the Promozione A.
  • Paolo Cataldi couldn’t fire Tempio Chiazzano into the Prima Categoria Toscana promotion play-offs, the final-third player made 30 appearances and only found the net 3 times – not hitting the highs of the previous season.
  • Reny Valdivia could only achieve a mid-table finish in the Seconda Categoria with his new side Boffalorese, making 24 appearances all season for the side. Certainly not developed as much as he could have had he stayed.
  • Francesco Marchetti got 26 games under his belt with Vogogna this season in the Promozione B Piemonte-Valle d’Aosta section, but they could not live up to pre-season expectations of being the 5th best side in the section, finishing 8th and with a bit of a gap to the play-offs.
  • Joao Chacra did secure himself a contract with Terza Categoria Lombardia side A.C.D Biassono, conceding 4 goals in 8 appearances. (This division has been unloaded from the save since our promotion to Prima.)
  • Pasquale Casalnuovo sealed another move and instead of playing his football with Auswahl Ridnauntal in the Eccellenza B, he dropped down to the Prima Categoria Trentino Alto Adige section playing with Primiero. The midfielder made 8 appearances for the club, helping himself to two assists.

Brera FC Youth Players

Following on from the first season intake, it is very difficult to gauge how good the youth players are given how poor our current facilities are. We had what was dubbed another “excellent” intake, but the only thing I took from it was another group of players to push the existing U20s side further:

It seemed that this youth intake took inspiration from last year’s, as it produced one player that looks to be ready for the first team if he gets the right exposure and training. Young Achille Banchini comes to the club naturally as a final-third player, but with the attribute spread he has, I have a feeling he could fit perfectly into the current system as a mezalla:

It was certainly bold of me to promote him to the first team immediately after signing a contract on the 29th of March – just over a week later he made his debut for the club getting 20 minutes against Ferno where we won 3-1. Banchini then became the youngest ever player for Brera, setting the record at 16 years and 8 days old.

Last season’s star talent from the youth intake was left winger Kevin Serio, and by the summer I had intended to play him through the middle as a striker. Training as an advanced forward, coupled with the departure of Panone and Tandurella, Serio was certainly going to get game-time in his new position to bolster his development chances.

The now 17-year-old grabbed his first Brera goal in a 4-3 friendly victory over Arona (Eccellenza B) but it didn’t stop there; he grabbed his first hat-trick in the same game and it was certainly a sign of things to come. His first competitive goal came away to Albosaggia in September as we won 2-0 and he then couldn’t stop scoring for the club.

20 goals in his first full season with the first team, he was just pipped to the top goalscorer award on the last day by a single goal – if he can continue this form into the new season, it will be a massive boost for the club as we target another promotion.

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