Year three of my dream of taking Como to the top flight of Italian football, a scene they have not been on since 2002/03. Catch up on our previous season here, as we look to build on the dramatic rich vein of form.
First things first, with the departures of Esposito, Carboni and Ihattaren, I had areas that I needed to invest back into. My only problem? The interest rising in some of my own players; I had a fight on my hands to keep ahold of Cutrone and Ruan.
Esposito was playing as the 10 in my formation, and I felt that bringing adequate quality into the team was necessary. When we could sign Domen Črnigoj from relegated Venezia for as little as £600,000, I couldn’t turn down his quality. Ruan eventually won his battle in getting his own way and secured a £2.4 million move back to his native Brazil to play with Santos, which meant a central defender became the top priority. After a lot of window shopping between the divisions to see who we could potentially bring in, David Zima became available from top-flight Torino for £2.5 million, and I felt that it was a win-win situation. And then the moment I was dreading. Top scorer Patrick Cutrone was subject to a bid from Emploli, and when it was rejected, he came knocking. We eventually found a compromise in a £3.1 million fee, which Empoli matched and he was out the door as quickly as the offer came in.
Thankfully, I was prepared for this and had a shortlist prepared for replacements. I revisited Venezia for another one of their players, already disgruntled at playing Serie C football and looking for his way out. Enter the fray – Lorenzo Colombo. The young Italian had not found his feet at any club, and was struggling for goals – just 11 goals in 99 games for his previous clubs – but I knew that we could get the best out of him.
With all my replacements just about in through the door, I just had to headhunt someone for the left-back void left by Carboni. I initially took Matteo Cotali in on a four-week trial, and he was impressive during this spell. The breakdown in talks happened over wage demands, but eventually, we did manage to agree on a package that would see him sign on at Como for 3 years. With all replacements now in, I was satisfied with my dealings this summer window and was concluding my business until Meritan Shabani was available on a free transfer. The tenacious midfielder would give terrific depth in the middle of the park and going forward; his signature was a no-brainer.
And before we knew it, the season was upon us. Time for redemption following last season’s cruel exit from the playoffs, I was determined to take this side one further.
A common theme during the run of pre-season friendlies and the opening 3 games of the season was that Lorenzo Colombo is certainly a goalscorer. Notching 7 in a friendly against Alto Lario sent his confidence through the roof, and he couldn’t stop scoring – grabbing at least a goal in the next 6 games.
Hellas Verona could count their blessings after a late Giovanni Simeone saved their blushes from a first-round exit, but the performance was good enough for me to have high hopes for the remainder of the season.
Another run of games, another set of Lorenzo Colombo goals, ending his streak of games scored in at 10. The biggest standout for me was the alarming rate of goals being conceded, but with us playing such an expansive style of football, I do accept that goals will go against us most weeks. As long as we have Colombo providing the goods, we should be good for the remainder of the season.
Our undefeated streak did fall at the hands of Ternana, a team that our results are always up and down with. The impressive bounce back at home to Reggiana made me think that it was just a blip, but successive defeats to Cosenza and Spezia made me second-guess that theory. We had to guard against complacency going into the winter months, and I didn’t want our lead at the top of the table to let slip.
We ended the year with a mixed month of results. An impressive victory over Parma was followed by an unimpressive performance away to Cittadella, and I could only pray that the wheels wouldn’t come off following that performance. To make matters worse, interest was heating up in Alemão, and he was indicating that he would like to leave the club.
I tried to convince the Brazilian to stick with the club given the platform he has received and backing, but his loyalty was elsewhere and he wanted to pursue a move to Young Boys of Bern in the winter window. Back-and-forth discussions were held, and ultimately we agreed on a club-record fee for the winger; £4 million to come into the coffers.
January recruitment got a whole lot more interesting, as I was planning on remaining quiet during this window.
With an urgent need for a winger, I had my scouts scouring both Italy and on individual missions looking for the next talent to come in on the left wing. I elected to play it safe in making a big signing, followed by a loan signing to cover Rafia’s departure to AFCON.
Incoming Pedro de la Vega holds a Spanish passport which was a bonus for league registration rules. Coupled with his ability and age, I knew we could give him something to build on for the future, and really make a name for himself. He joins the club on the same day as Alex Mighten secured a loan deal until the end of the season. We do have the option of making the deal permanent for £3.1 million, but as I eluded to before, he is strictly for short-term cover due to Rafia’s AFCON duties.
And that was that in terms of January signings as I didn’t want to disrupt the squad too much as we move into the business end of the season. We ended 2024 on a high with back-to-back wins, could we continue that form?
In short, no. An appalling January and February saw our lead at the top of the table diminishing into us trailing Lecce (2nd) and Benevento (1st) in a matter of weeks. Alemão was certainly a massive loss as de la Vega was struggling to get up to speed with the Italian game and culture, whereas Rafia’s hustle and bustle on the opposite wing were sorely missed.
Thankfully, we regained our composure and confidence at the end of February with a late win over Perugia – that victory then sparked an undefeated March including an important revenge win over Ternana. Within a month, we managed to salvage back into a title race and were only mere points behind both Lecce and Benevent.
We had a fantastic month of April where our rivals didn’t as we shot back in between Benevento and Lecce, as Benevento’s bottle crashed going into the final 8 games of the season – they now sat 7 points behind Como, 9 behind Lecce. It looked to be a straight shootout.
Form was on our side as we headed into our final three games with Parma (11th), Cittadella (7th) and Benevento (3rd); Lecce had to play Brescia (5th), Pescara (16th) and Südtirol (15th). We certainly had the tougher run-in, but where there was still hope, we would still fight.
We certainly blew a lot of pundits’ predictions out of the water going undefeated in the month of May, and we did it in comprehensive style. We had done everything that could have been asked of us, but was it going to be enough?
Yes! Lecce completely collapsed in their final three games, only picking up 2 points from 6 as we recorded a title win by a margin of 4 points. Had we lost the title, it would have been our own doing, but I was ecstatic to have won it given our drop in form back in January and February.
Our first season of it finally clicked together, and it has taken us to the promised lands of Serie A where we will be fighting right up against it to ensure safety this time next year.
A befitting awards night for the players this season, and it is only right that Colombo is the man in the moment. Dubbed by some to be a potential flop, the Italian kept his head down and himself to himself. It is a big step going from Serie B to A, so I can only hope he will be able to take it in his stride, but this promotion is massive for the club and the fan base.
Now it really is time to cause some Comotion.