HomeFootballCittadella, The Tiny Italian Soccer Team That Unsettled Thierry Henry

Cittadella, The Tiny Italian Soccer Team That Unsettled Thierry Henry

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Allow me to set the scene: UEFA Champions League soccer on live television, Kylian Mbappé’s PSG away at Borussia Dortmund with expertise from world-renowned pundits Thierry Henry, Micah Richards and Alessandro Del Piero.

Viewers had been treated to insight and critique by the CBS Sports Golazo panel before host Kate Abdo segued from Europe’s elite competition to the high-stakes Italian second-division match between Como and Cittadella.

“It was a big night for Borussia Dortmund tonight against PSG in the Champions League. It was a big night in Serie B as well,” said Abdo. “Especially for Como Football Club of which Thierry Henry is a shareholder, a 2-1 win for your team today which means that you now just need three points from the remaining two games to secure promotion to Serie A. The big leagues, the top division.”

“I wasn’t well earlier,” Henry, who became a minority shareholder in Como in 2022, replied.

“Stressful,” Adbo joked.

“When we were having a meeting I wasn’t listening to anything,” a relieved Henry responded. The French World Cup winner had suffered through Como’s dramatic come-from-behind victory over Cittadella which concluded before the Champions League coverage began.

Viewers were shown replays of Simone Verdi’s equaliser and Edoardo Goldaniga’s stoppage-time winner, two goals that served as anti-sickness tablets for Henry.

Despite their below par performance, Como showed resilience to take the points. Henry’s club fully deserves the plaudits for a spectacular season, one which could culminate in Serie A promotion for the first time in over two decades.

Serie B is famous for its competitiveness. At this stage of the season, two victories can catapult a mid-table side like Cittadella into the Playoffs. With one loss for Como, third-place Venezia could snatch automatic promotion away from them (the top two go up). It’s no wonder that Henry was sweating over the result.

Cittadella had the nervy Biancoblù rattled for the majority of the game, squandering a succession of chances until Filippo Pittarello gave them the lead in the 71st-minute.

Como got over the line courtesy of their opulent substitutes bench with former Italian international Verdi striking from the edge of the penalty box. With 108 games of Serie A experience, Goldaniga knew where to be in the final moments to scramble the difference-maker over the line.

In truth, Cittadella, who are no strangers to heartbreaking last-gasp defeats, deserved to take something home to Veneto and Henry probably knew it. In 2021, back when Como won the third division, the Granata were set for a historic first-ever Serie A promotion only to be denied by Venezia’s 93rd-minute decider in the Playoff Final.

What could have been a illustrious transition from microscopic to modest – think Sassuolo in 2013 – ended with the dismantlement of that Cittadella squad. Only half a dozen of 2020-21’s team remain, their replacements loaned in or signed on free transfers from Serie C sides like Entella, Avellino and Triestina.

But despite the loss to Como, and despite a three-month long free-fall from fourth to 13th position, coach Edoardo Gorini has secured an eighth straight season in the second tier, the longest tenure of any club in the division.

That’s an amazing accomplishment for a side that represents a walled thirteenth century medieval town set between Treviso and Vicenza. Cittadella’s Pier Cesare Tombolato stadium can hold up to 7,623 spectators, just over a third of their inhabitants.

Città thrives on local talent, with 28 of 29 players hailing from Italy. Along with unsung heroes Simone Branca, Alessio Vita and Nicolo Pavan, goalkeeper Elhan Kastrati is one of their longest-serving players, the Albanian goalkeeper earning two international call-ups since joining in 2020.

Moreover, the club’s all-time record transfer is Alfredo Donnarumma, according to FootballTransfers.com, who cost €600,000 ($644,000) in 2013, twice the sum spent on new players during the 2023-24 campaign. Their entire squad is valued at $14.32 million, the third-lowest in Serie B, with leading scorer Luca Pandolfi rising to $590,000 since joining for free from Juve Stabia last summer.

To think that humble Cittadella, a club that barely has a decent image available on Getty, is consistently punching above their weight. Few Calcio fans talk about them, their social media coverage doesn’t cater to English-speakers (here is one that does), but they’re still battling harder than ever against sleeping giants like Parma and Sampdoria, beating the latter 2-1 earlier this season.

On the field, Cittadella is a team of unfamiliar yet ambitious workhorses who thrive on cohesion and discipline. Painfully, Como’s victory over them is symbolic of a team with serious ambitions to join Serie A surpassing a proud club that had its shot but narrowly missed. But they will grind you down if given the chance, just ask Henry.

“When I walked into the meeting we were one nil down against Cittadella,” Henry admitted.

“So, you guys didn’t notice, you were talking to me, I was not answering. And then I saw the goal of Verdi’s, I felt a bit better. Then, obviously Goldaniga scored so I felt a bit better. I was sweating.”

As a fan and shareholder of Como, Henry still has another reason to perspire. Allow me to set another scene: if promotion-chasing Venezia win both of their remaining league matches, the Lariani must defeat one of Modena or Cosenza to clinch their first Serie A berth since 2003. Failure to do so could eventuate in a Playoff skirmish with a vengeful Cittadella who could qualify for the top eight by beating Bari and Cremonese over the next six days.

Parma’s promotion last week means that Serie A will have a sixth US-owned team in 2024-25. Indonesian and Henry-owned Como could be next.

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