With ex-player Sottil as coach

    It was an exclamation mark with which Udinese Calcio said goodbye to the international break last weekend. After falling behind, the Friulians beat Inter Milan 3-1 and equalized the best start to the season in the club’s history with the fifth “treble” in a row. Although Udine was better than third place after seven matchdays, the club had never had more than 16 points at that point. The last time Udine got off to such a good start was in 2000 – then as now, one of the players was Andrea Sottil. Formerly as a central defender and now as a coach.

    After the 48-year-old switched to Udine from second division club Ascoli Calcio in June, he is on the sidelines for the first time in Serie A. In the “little zebras” he succeeded Gabriele Cioffi, who led the club to twelfth place last season – their best result since 2014. Club president Giampaolo Pozzo is confident that things will be different this time. “I believe that we can come back to Europe, as we have done many times before,” the entrepreneur recently emphasized on the club’s own TV station. At least the start under new coach Sottil gives the impression that what Pozzo says does not seem impossible. Udine had only lost the opener at champions AC Milan before victory after victory was won. The club from the north-east of the country, with a squad value of 108.4 million euros and ranked 13th in the league, leaves behind the most valuable teams Inter, Milan and Juve.

    Aniello Luciano, Lead of Content at Transfermarkt Italy, sees an “aggressive” style of play at the Bianconeri. This does not mean that Udine appears unsportsmanlike, but that it shows a high level of intensity. Sottil’s ideas are “ideal for a dynamic and physically strong team” like Udine. If the coach had put on four players in the defensive line at his previous station, there are now three and five respectively. Luciano explains: “Sottil likes to involve the full-backs, particularly Roberto Pereyra, who has been retrained as a winger. The game is spread out, but it also benefits from the movements of attacking forces like Gerard Deulofeu.”

    The Spaniard, who acts alongside Beto (24) at the top, is the team’s best scorer in all competitions – as in the previous season. The 28-year-old shone last season as a goalscorer with 13 goals (and five assists), he is currently responsible for the preparatory work. Six assists versus one goal. The 15 goals that make Udine the most dangerous offensive in the league are currently spread across nine different players.

    Udinese Calcio on the transfer market: focus on foreign players

    Meanwhile, Italy expert Luciano sees the decisive factor for Udine’s high in the fact that Deulofeu did not leave the club in the summer. The attacker, the second most valuable professional in the squad with a market value of €15m, has been linked with SSC Napoli for weeks and recently confirmed that he was about to move to league rivals. However, as he indicated, a transfer fell through due to the role he was envisaged.

    “Today I’m not a winger like I used to be,” he stressed. The fact that Udine repeatedly has to struggle with the departure of top performers was particularly evident last summer, when Rodrigo de Paul (28) for 35 million euros to Atlético Madrid or Juan Musso (28) for 20.5 million euros moved to Atalanta Bergamo. The Friulians generated almost 80 million euros in player sales in 2021, which only Fiorentina and Inter surpassed. However, it was not a shopping spree for Udine, as a look at the expenses shows: With 9.7 million euros, no other club in Serie A invested less in new players. Luciano justifies this with the consequences of the corona pandemic.

    Bierhoff, Sánchez & Co.: The most expensive sales of Udinese Calcio

    20 Oliver Bierhoff | 1998/99 for €12.5m to AC Milan

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    Status: After the end of the transfer summer 2022

    19 Medhi Benatia | 2013/14 for €13.5m to AS Roma

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    18 Mauricio Isla | 2012/13 for €13.9m to Juventus

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    17 Jakub Yankto | 2019/20 for €14.5m to Sampdoria

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    14 Rolando Mandragora | 2020/21 for €15m to Juventus

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    14 Samir Handanovic | 2012/13 for €15m to Inter Milan

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    14 Roberto Pereyra | 2015/16 for €15m to Juventus

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    13 Piotr Zielinski | 2016/17 for €16m to SSC Napoli

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    9 Fabio Quagliarella | 2009/10 for €18m to SSC Napoli

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    9 Gokhan Inler | 2011/12 for €18m to SSC Napoli

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    9 Destiny Udogie | 2022/23 for €18m to Tottenham

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    Note: Udogie continues to play at Udinese on loan in the 2022/23 season

    9 Kwadwo Asamoah | 2012/13 for €18m to Juventus

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    6 Nahuel Molina | 2022/23 for €20m to Atlético

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    6 Juan Musso | 2021/22 for 20 million to Atalanta

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    6 Juan Cuadrado | 2013/14 for €20m to Fiorentina

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    5 Stefano Fiore | 2001/02 for €25m to Lazio Rome

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    3 Alexis Sanchez | 2011/12 for €26m to FC Barcelona

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    3 Alex Meret | 2019/20 for €26m to SSC Napoli

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    2 Marcio Amoroso | 1999/00 for €28m to AC Parma

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    1 Rodrigo de Paul | 2021/22 for €35m to Atlético

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    This summer, however, Udine was again willing to spend and spent 46.5 million euros for eight newcomers, including ex-Cologne Kingsley Ehizibue (27). Four other professionals came on a free transfer or on loan. The most expensive purchase was Hassane Kamara (28), who was signed for 19 million euros but remained on loan at partner club Watford FC. It was the 58th transfer between the two clubs owned by the Pozzo family of companies. While Giampaolo is at the helm at Udine, his son Gino runs the fortunes on the island. With Adam Masina (28), a second player from the “Hornets” moved to Italy.

    As in previous years, the Bianconeri put the focus on foreign footballers and this time they even completely dispensed with a new Italian signing. Destiny Udogie (19), who was born in Verona, was already a loan player at the club before his permanent commitment. Expert Luciano can only explain why Udine is so interested in players from abroad because of the high transfer fees for talents in Italy. For players from abroad, the purchase value is lower, and thus the income from resale is higher. The 83.3 percent of game shares for legionaries in Serie A are only surpassed by Spezia Calcio and FC Torino.

    The activities on the arrivals side are offset by income of 50.7 million euros, which is mainly attributable to the changes of Nahuel Molina (24) to Atlético and Udogie to Tottenham. However, the latter continues to play in the Udinese shirt on loan this season, where he is the most valuable professional with a market value of €17m. With the market value update in Italy, he recorded a plus of 8 million euros. With a view to the transfer phase, Luciano sums up that the “fundamental structure of the team” has been preserved, from which the team would now benefit. He sees an “already established group of players”.

    Whether Udinese can qualify for the European deal as envisioned by President Pozzo, Luciano is unsure. While he thinks the Friulians have a chance and predicts that there could be “a few surprises” this season, he said: “There are doubts about the long-term performance of the team, because Sottil’s style of play works best when the physical condition is ideal is. If that goes down it will be interesting to see if that affects the shape curve as well.”

    A look at the 2000/01 season, in which Udinese – with Sottil in the center of defense – also started as well as today, shows that the form could not be maintained over the entire course. Ultimately, it was only enough for twelfth place. The coach Luciano Spalletti, who was installed in the final phase of the season and now works for Napoli, had to leave after just eleven games (and two wins).

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