x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Genoa: dark horses of open league

Port city club have been the busiest in the early months of the transfer market and could have engrossing title fight with Milan giants.

Genoa have been the busiest club in the first two and half months of the Serie A transfer market. If the rest of Italy is hardly surprised to see Enrico Preziosi, the club president, wheeling and dealing, rivals in the Italian top-flight have seen enough ominous signals to wonder if the port city club might have stolen a march in what looks an engrossing battle for the European qualifying positions over the next nine months.

Serie A, for all that the same club have won the last five titles, looks a good deal more open than the leagues it likes to compare itself with - Spain and England - in terms of positions, two to about seventh or eighth. Milan and Juventus are evidently some way from vintage periods while Palermo and Sampdoria, who finished well above Juve, were involved in a gripping joust for fourth place last term. That Sampdoria seized that berth only increased their near-neighbours determination that, if this is a division more liable to spread its opportunities wide, the other club in Genoa should be taking them.

Preziosi's time in charge of Genoa has been a rollercoaster ride. He took over in 2003, celebrated promotion to Serie A two years later until a match-fixing scandal plunged the club into Serie C. The climb back was completed in 2007, since which time Genoa, under Gian Piero Gasperini, their head coach, have been competitive but also shrewd in the transfer market, turning in good profits from the sale of such as Marco Borrellio to AC Milan and Diego Milito and Thiago Motta to Inter Milan.

Preziosi likes to tell the story of being offered Lionel Messi when the Argentine was a young teenager and turning him down; but the president, who owns one of the world's leading toy manufacturers, is not always so self-deprecating. This month, for instance, he has enjoyed showing that Genoa have more easy liquidity in the market than the giants at Milan, which explains why Kevin-Prince Boateng, the Ghanaian signed from Portsmouth, is a Genoa player - and therefore investment - though he will play on loan at Milan.

Several other promising signings will however, be under Gasperini's instructions. They include Miguel Veloso, the competitive Portugal midfielder who has force, guile and a mighty left-foot in his armoury. Genoa beat off competition from several bigger clubs to land Veloso's compatriot, the goalkeeper Eduardo, while Rafinha, the Brazilian right-back was also in demand, hence the fee of ?9million (Dh41.7m), which in a quiet market is substantial for a defender.

Luca Toni, the former Italy target man, represents less of an investment in terms of resale, but if he scores the goals that lift Genoa above last season's ninth Preziosi will be a happy toymaker. sports@thenational.ae