Parma: or as they are increasingly known, ParmAAAAAAAAGH. Because there’s nothing but pain happening at Serie A’s most screwed-up club right now.
You know it’s bad when being bottom of the league and 16 points from safety isn’t even Parma’s biggest problem.
Quick recap. Like Vanilla Ice and Buffy The Vampire Slayer star Nicolas Brendon, Parma enjoyed great success in the 1990s. Also like Brendon and Ice, their fortunes declined sharply in the 2000s and this decade has brought legal woes and bittersweet reflections on the good old days.
Almost literally, Parma milked their success. The club was owned by Italian pasteurized milk behemoth Parmalat, and times were good two decades ago, when Carlo Ancelotti was head coach for a couple of years. During the 90s the small provincial outfit were Serie A runners-up, twice won the Coppa Italia, and also lifted two UEFA Cups, the Cup Winners’ Cup and the European Super Cup, with Hernan Crespo, Gianluigi Buffon and Liliam Thuram kicking ass and eating dairy products.
But things curdled quickly at Parmalat. The business made bad decisions and a $14 billion black hole was discovered in its finances, which had been disguised by all sorts of fraudulent antics.
The club was sold to an Italian entrepreneur and shuttled between Series A and B. The impression was given that this was now a team living within its means and performing in line with its size and resources. In fact, the club was going completely mental.
As When Saturday Comes pointed out last September, Parma “established a complex web of feeder clubs, co-ownership arrangements and loan deals to enable mass recruitment.”
This resulted in the club making 300 transactions in a single summer and ending up with a squad of more than 200 players, a hundred of them out on loan. Then Parma was banned from the Europa League for failing to pay a $300,000 debt, and sold twice in quick succession to little-known businessmen for one Euro.
The club’s said to be $100m in debt, players haven’t been paid all season, there’s no hot water at their training ground, it postponed two fixtures earlier this year and perhaps only emergency financial aid of $5.5m from the league has stopped it from ceasing to exist.
Impressively, though, things have managed to get even worse. New chairman Giampietro Manenti has been arrested for allegedly being part of a credit card hacking scam, the BBC reports. He was one of 22 people held in Italy on suspicion of fraudulent attempts to obtain about $5m. And this is the guy Parma is counting on to pay off that $100m in debt, ahead of a bankruptcy hearing on Thursday.
One suspects the 20th anniversary celebration of Parma’s UEFA Cup final win over Juventus on May 3, 1995, is probably going to be a bring your own food and drink kind of deal.