Thiago Motta’s Bologna: Daring to Dream at the Stadio Renato Dall’Ara

Having endured a gut-wrenching injury-time penalty equaliser against Serie A rivals Lecce, Thiago Motta’s Bologna FC 1909 improved to an impressive 22 points from 13 domestic outings, extending a run that has seen the side climb to sixth in Italian football’s elite division. Dogged, tenacious and determined – but three of the words used to describe this famous club, as supporters of Rossoblù continue to marvel at the progression under their Brazilian-born tactician.


Hoping to build upon a hard-fought victory against Torino in their previous outing, the travelling support was confident of claiming a first away win in Serie A this season. In what was to be an emotional afternoon at Stadio Via del Mare – 40 years on from the tragic loss of teammates Michele Lo Russo and Ciro Pezzella – both sides struggled to construct a clear-cut opportunity throughout the first half.


In a fixture crying out for a moment of magic, substitute Charalampos Lykogiannis happily obliged. The defender stepped up to execute a pin-point free kick after 68 minutes of play, notching his first goal of the season and sending the away end into a frenzy. He was given the opportunity to double his tally shortly afterwards but failed to hit the target. Despite an assured defensive display from Bologna, the home side would steal a point in the tenth minute of injury time through a Roberto Piccoli spot-kick. 


Motta’s side is generally clinical – much like their leader was on the field – and they have formulated a strategy to frustrate their opposition while maintaining defensive integrity. A tally of 16 goals this campaign ranks bottom of the division’s top eight sides, and much of the attacking onus remains on the shoulders of the club’s leading scorer, Joshua Zirkzee, with the Dutchman playing a part in almost half of all domestic goals. 


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Additionally, the continued growth of Scottish starlet Lewis Ferguson has supporters purring in adoration and crying out for more. Since moving from Aberdeen in July 2022, his stock has grown with a catalogue of impressive performances and an array of goal contributions. Astonishingly, having netted ten times since making the trip to Italy, his next goal will solidify his status as the most prolific Scot in Italy’s top flight. 


At the other end of the field, Łukasz Skorupski continues to etch his name into the hearts of the Veltri across the continent. At 32 years old, the veteran goalkeeper has been a mainstay since 2018, and his performances this season remain integral towards his team’s impressive standing. He ranks in the 84th percentile for clean sheet percentage in Italy, with a save percentage in the 86th percentile. 


As the perennial Christmas calendar approaches, the prospect of a heavily congested December schedule presents endless possibilities. There is a sense of confidence and a deserved optimism from the seven-time Serie A winners, as the ideals of their Canadian Chairman, Joey Saputo, are beginning to come to fruition. Following Petroniani’s return to the top flight in 2015, the Montreal man stated that he aimed to see Bologna great within ten years – while flirting with intentions for European football.


Saputo is ambitious and is open about his desire to revolutionise the club’s famous ground. The site is sacred for passionate support and has hosted World Cup fixtures during the 1934 and 1990 chapters of the competition. The financial cost of this project is grand and, amongst varying other requirements, commands the necessity for the sale of marquee players. 


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The club has earned plaudits for discovering hidden gems, aiding their development, and turning a swift profit from their sale. For those unfamiliar, there have been a variety of household names to grace the European game across several competitions. Players, such as Amadou Diawara, impressed before making the move to Roma after spending a single season at the club. Simone Verdi found a home in Bologna after moving around several clubs before leaving for Napoli.


Fans of the Premier League will recognise Takehiro Tomiyasu – a shrewd discovery who inevitably made the move to Arsenal. Aaron Hickey also showed promise before leaving for Brentford, and Nico Dominguez to Nottingham Forest. Elsewhere, Mattias Svanberg and Jerdy Schouten played integral roles in the midfield in recent years, while Arthur Theate had an impressive single season at the club. 


The loss of key players is an unfortunate burden for any manager, but the response has highlighted the talents of the recruitment team. This particular section has undergone a significant overhaul since the summer of 2022. Giovanni Sartori joined as the technical director and has brought in a host of new players like Ferguson, Zirkzee, Stefan Posch, Riccardo Calafiori, Sam Beukema, and Remo Freuler, who have become integral parts of Motta’s vision. Despite dealing with the perennial departure of key names, the scouting team continues to find talented players that significantly strengthen the squad. 


Above all, the contractual situation of Motta remains Bologna’s priority. With his current deal expiring at the end of the season, there is ample suggestion that the club are working toward an extension until the summer of 2025. Supporters are desperate to retain their chief and are confident he will remain at the helm to advance his project. 


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The 41-year-old has energised the fanbase following his arrival in September 2022, and despite the limitations he faces regarding financial constraints, he achieved an almost unimaginable win ratio of 42% from 50 games played. Throughout a playing career that returned 28 trophies in Spain, Italy and France, Motta cultivated his knowledge alongside some of the game’s greatest players and coaches. 


He has harnessed his experiences and kicks every ball from the touchline. His career warrants respect and that is recognised throughout the entire league. Despite his relatively quick transition from player to elite manager, his calibre has elevated him alongside many of the game’s most respected names. He is, in many ways, an artist who has begun to paint his masterpiece.


Saputo is determined to return the Rossoblù to their past glories and install a team that the Bolognese are proud of. He is aware of the tradition within the halls of Stadio Renato Dall’Ara and the history behind its doors. Backed by his consortium, he aims to write new and beautiful pages for their adoring support, and in Motta, he appears to have found the man who will lead their ambitious charge towards a Scudetto.


By: Shaun Connolly / @shaunconnolly85

Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Alessandro Sabattini / Getty Images

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