The Italian national team had a very successful summer. The “Settebello” won the gold medal in the World League, silver at the World Championships, and finished 4th at the European Championships.
The clubs return to the stage. The 104th Italian Championships begins tomorrow. The season in Italy started two weeks ago, with the qualifications for the Final Eight of the Italian Cup. However, favorites “warmed up” through those games for the big start of the Serie A1.
Due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the previous two seasons were played in modified formats. From this season, the standard competition formula returns. The 14 participating teams will play 26 rounds in a double-round robin system. The top four teams in the regular season will advance to the playoffs for the title. The teams ranked 5th-8th will compete in the 5th-place playoffs. The 14th team will go to the Serie A2, while the teams placed between 10th and 13th place will try to keep their places in the first league through relegation playoffs.
Pro Recco won all trophies it could in the last season (double crown in Italy, LEN Champions League and LEN Super Cup). This season, Recco is, as in many previous years, the favorite number 1 for the crown in Italy. The title holder didn’t change its roster significantly. Only Zeno Bertoli departed from the club, while two players arrived from Savona – Andrea Fondelli and young Matteo Iocchi Gratta. Both were regular national team members this summer.
Recco’s biggest rival, Brescia, renewed the contracts will all key players and brought in two new players. One of the two is an extraordinary reinforcement- Konstantin Kharkov (arrived from Jadran Split) and the other is a 19-year-old goalkeeper Tomasso Necchi Baggi (Catania).
Total Waterpolo asked Sandro Sukno, Pro Recco’s head coach, if any club besides the two mentioned could battle for trophies in Italy this season.
According to his analysis and predictions, the clubs representing Italy in the Euro cups will be contenders for the higher part of the table this season.
“I believe that the Championships will be interesting. Pro Recco and Brescia stand out. Brescia is a team with the quality to play in the Champions League once more. I expect Brescia to qualify for the Preliminary Stage.
Savona played very well against strong opponents in the Champions League qualifications. It’s a serious team that plays aggressively. Trieste made a big step further in the previous season; it had a significant role in the playoffs and qualified for the Euro Cup. Trieste is also a team of big capabilities. Two Sicilian clubs, Ortigia and Telimar, are also among the contenders for high ranking. All in all, there are several teams of high and balanced quality. They all play fast and aggressively. Therefore, we can award them the epithet “modern teams” because we all want water polo to become a fast and offensive sport”, Sukno underlined.
In Sukno’s opinion, the most significant quality of his team is a team effort.
“Our greatest quality in the last season was that we played like a team. Some individuals who can decide the game always stand out from that kind of teamwork. I expect we will play in the same way this season.”
We didn’t have to ask a question about Recco’s ambitions.
“Pro Recco stands out of the rivals. We want to win the trophy, but we must prove we are better than our rivals in the water.”, Sandro Sukno emphasized.
The Italian and European champion has five foreign players in the team, while the club is allowed to enter four non-Italians for domestic competitions. This time, Sandro Sukno had no dilemma about who to pick as four foreign players for the first half of the season. He still can’t count on captain Aleksandar Ivovic, who underwent surgery after the end of the last season.
“The foreign players starting the season will be Ben Hallock, Luka Loncar, Gergo Zalanki, and Aaron Younger. As for Aleksandar Ivovic, he is still recovering. De facto, Ivovic hasn’t touched the ball since the Final Eight in Belgrade, where he played injured. He needs more time to recover. As things stand now, he won’t be on the roster soon. We won’t hurry. I don’t want to include injured or not fully recovered players in the team. The most important is that all players on the team are healthy. We will wait until Aleksandar Ivovic fully recovers and gets into shape.”, Sukno said.
Brescia’s foreign players are, besides newcomer Kharkov, Montenegro’s goalkeeper Petar Tesanovic, Serb with Georgian citizenship Boris Vapenski and Serbia’s center-forward Djordje Lazic.
As mentioned, Pro Recco and Brescia weren’t very active in the transfer market.
As for the other clubs from the circle of the top six favorites, Savona signed five new players. Among them are Italy’s goalkeeper Gianmarco Nicosia (Telimar Palermo), Montenegrin Bogdan Djurdjic (Crvena Zvezda), Giacomo Lanzoni (Waterpolo Milano), Francesco Panerai (Quinto), Mario Guidi (Quinto). The players who left Savona are Guillermo Molina (Quinto), Francesco Massaro (Quinto), Andrea Fondelli (Pro Recco), and Matteo Iocchi Gratta (Pro Recco).
A lot of players left Telimar, but many arrived: Alex Giorgetti (Anzio), Johnny Hooper (Palaio Faliro), Agusti Pericas (Spandau 04), Alessandro Vitale (Lazio), Egon Jurisic (CUS Palermo), Matteo Ranieri (CUS Palermo). Telimar lost Andrija Basic (Waspo 98 Hannover), Luca Marziali (Spandau 04), Gianmarco Nicosia (Savona), Andrija Vlahovic (Dinamo Tbilisi)
Newcomers to Ortigia: Petar Velkic (Partizan), Javier Gorria Puga (FNC Douai), Alessandro Carnesecchi (Florentia). Departures: Christiano Mirarchi (Roma), Valentino Gallo (Salerno), Filip Klikovac (Steaua), Federico Piccionetti.
Trieste’s additions: Giuseppe Valentino (Strasbourg), Francesco Ghiarra (De Akker). All key players stayed at the club.
Italy is one of the most attractive destinations for water polo players.
Many foreigners have played in Serie A1 for years. Each club is allowed to have up to four non-Italian on the roster.
This summer, more than 20 players from other countries joined the Italian clubs.
Only Pro Recco and Trieste didn’t sign new foreign players this summer.
The biggest bomb of the transfer market was Konstantin Kharkov’s arrival in Italy. The Russian with Croatian citizenship moved from Jadran Split to Brescia.
Savona brought in Montenegrin Bogdan Djurdjic (Crvena Zvezda).
New foreign players at Ortigia are Serb Petar Velkic (Partizan) and Spaniard Javier Gorria Puga (Douai).
Telimar was reinforced by Spaniard Agusti Pericas Eixarch (who arrived from Spandau Berlin) and Team USA’s Johnatan Hooper (Palaio Faliro, Greece). We could add Croatian goalkeeper Egon Jurisic, one of Telimar’s reinforcements, to the list of foreign newcomers to Serie A1. In the last season, he played in Italy, but for a team in the A2 League (CUS Palermo). Jurisic had an experience of playing in Italy before CUS Palermo – for Trieste and Catania.
Salerno did a great job by signing Alberto Barroso, a member of the Spanish national team, who came from Terrassa.
Montenegrin Petar Mijuskovic joined Quinto. He played for Greek Glyfada until this summer.
Anzio Waterpolis formed a “Croatian colony”. Four Croats signed for Anzio this summer: Luka Bajic (Mladost, Zagreb), Roko Pelicaric, Eugen Koprcina (both Solaris, Sibenik), Sebastian Susak (Echeyde Tenerife).
Serb Milos Milicic and American Benjamin Stevenson arrived at Posillipo from Radnicki Kragujevac and Nice, respectively.
Roma welcomed Croat Ante Viskovic, who arrived from Apollon Smyrnis.
Catania signed Brazilian Gustavo De Freitas Guimaraes (Palaio Faliro) and Maltese Steven Camilleri (Neptunes). Both are very experienced, and they already played in the Italian League several seasons ago.
Serb Filip Radojevic (Partizan) and Croat Nino Mudrazija (Steaua) joined Bogliasco.
De Akker Bologna enters its first season in Serie A1 with two new international players – Croat Kristijan Milakovic (Szolnok) and Argentinian Tomas Alfonso Pozo (Montpellier).
Trieste didn’t sign foreigners, but Italian Giuseppe Valentino returned to the homeland from Strasbourg (France) and joined Trieste.
Pro Recco – reigning champion (head coach Sandro Sukno)
Brescia – 2nd place in the last season (head coach Alessandro Bovo)
Savona – 3rd place in the last season (head coach Alberto Angelini)
Trieste – 4th place in the last season (head coach: Daniele Bettini)
Ortigia – 5th place in the last season (head coach Stefano Piccardo)
Telimar Palermo – 6th place in the last season (head coach Marco Baldineti)
Salerno – 7th place in the last season (head coach Matteo Citro)
Iren Quinto – 8th place in the last season (head coach Luca Bittarello)
Posillipo – 9th place in the last season (head coach: Roberto Brancaccio)
Catania – 10th place in the last season (head coach Guiseppe Dato)
Anzio Waterpolis – 11th place in the last season (head coach Roberto Tofani)
Roma – 13th place in the last season (head coach Maurizio Mirarchi)
Bogliacso – promoted from Serie A2 (head coach Daniele Magalotti)
De Akker Bologna – promoted from Serie A2 (head coach Federico Mistrangelo)
Day 1, October 22
Savona-De Akker Team
Roma Nuoto-Iren Genova Quinto
Pro Recco – Catania
Calendar– Day 1: October 22, Day 2: October 29, Day 3: November 5; Day 4: November 12, Day 5: November 19, Day 7: December 3; Day 8: December 7; Day 9: December 10; Day 10: December 17; Day 11: January 14, Day 12: January 18; Day 13: January 21
Day 14: January 28, Day 15: February 4, Day 16: February 11; Day 17: February 18; Day 18: February 25; Day 19: March 4; Day 20: March 18; Day 21: March 25; Day 22: March 29; Day 23: April 1; Day 24: April 8; Day 25: April 15; Day 26: April 22.
All champions (1912 – 2022): Pro Recco 34, Posillipo 11, Florentia 9, Andrea Doria 8, Canottieri Napoli 8, Camogli 6, Napoli 6, Genoa 4, Pescara 3, Savona 3, Milano 2, Roma 2, Brescia 2, Sturia 1, Triestina 1, Canottieri Ortigia 1,Lazio 1, Bogliasco 1.
Champions in the 21st century– 2022: Pro Recco, 2021: Brescia, 2020: season canceled, 2006 – 2019: Pro Recco, 2005: Savona, 2004: Posillipo, 2003: Brescia, 2002: Pro Recco, 2001: Posillipo.