After declaring bankruptcy in 2005, SPAL’s future as a club was put into serious doubt. In order to stay alive, they moved the club to the city of Ferrara in 2012, and just five years ago, the Serie A minnows renamed themselves to SPAL 2013. Competing in Italy’s third tier, Lega Pro, SPAL 2013 started from square one and knew they faced an uphill battle at subsistence.
Today, SPAL are sitting comfortably in mid-table, securing their place in Italy’s top division for consecutive seasons. Not even the most optimistic SPAL supporter would have envisioned their meteoric rise in recent years. While their return to Serie A was filled with hardships and uncertainty with their survival going down to the wire, this season was everything but that.
The Emilia-Romagna based outfit, led by Leonardo Semplici, have played some sensational football to date, beating the likes of Roma, Lazio, and Juventus on their way to salvation. However, this season represented much more than just surviving another year. With Semplici at the helm, SPAL pride themselves on playing attractive football, and are one of the few sides within the peninsula that blend experience with youth.
Last summer, fresh from avoiding the drop, SPAL turned to the transfer window, and signed experienced Serie A players. Their mission was clear. They wanted to do more in Serie A than simply make up the numbers, and sent a clear message of intent to the rest of the league with their acquisitions. Andrea Petagna and Jasmin Kurtic were brought in from Atalanta, while Sassuolo’s Simone Missiroli was identified to tidy up the midfield.
Armed with their experience, SPAL understood they had more than enough to guarantee their Serie A status for another season. In Petagna, SPAL have a target man capable of scoring with his head and both feet for years to come. Currently, the Atalanta loanee is on 15 goals on the season, and counting. Missiroli, by contrast, joins Kurtic and Pasquale Schiattarella in what is an overall experienced midfield, and remain one of the league’s underrated trios due to their age.
Semplici’s men, however, would not stop there, and also brought in a number of young prospects including goalkeeper Alfred Gomis, Torino’s Kevin Bonifazi, Hellas Verona’s Mohamed Fares, Lazio’s Alessandro Murgia among others. Together, these players offered some much needed depth, and youth at crucial times throughout the season. Factor in club veteran Manuel Lazzari’s industrious nature on the right wing along with these acquisitions, and it’s clear, SPAL possess a truly dynamic and versatile roster capable of hurting any side in Italy on their day. After all, this season they beat Roma, home AND away.
Off the pitch, SPAL have emerged as an example for the rest of the league’s provinciali, as well. When they made the leap to Serie B, the club restructured their stadium to comply with the league’s safety and comfort guidelines.
In the summer of 2018, the Stadio Paolo Mazza went under further construction, and their seating capacity was raised from 13,135 seats to 16,134. In an era where most Italian clubs get bogged down by bureaucracy and paperwork, including some of Serie A’s major players, SPAL have been able to carve out a home for themselves within Ferrara, and don’t look like they’re ready to stop anytime soon. While modest in size, SPAL possess one of the more modern grounds within the league.
If their plans for expansion are anything to go by, expect to see Semplici’s men continue their rise for years to come. After all, despite suffering countless set-backs, SPAL 2013 have shown they’re ready to roll with the punches and adapt. At a time where most Italian football sides are content with maintaining the status quo, SPAL are holding their own, and redefining boundaries within the Italian game in the process. And for that, they should be commended.
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