MILAN — At the age of 71, Claudio Ranieri will have to continue working his managerial magic if newly-promoted Cagliari is to avoid going straight back down to Serie B.
Ranieri has already pulled off something of a masterstroke just to get Cagliari promoted. The Sardinian team is returning to Serie A a year after being relegated, as is Genoa. The other promoted side, Frosinone, is ending a four-year absence.
The odds are highly stacked against all three teams still being in Serie A at the start of the 2024-25 season.
Frosinone, Genoa and Cagliari will replace Spezia, Cremonese and Sampdoria — the teams relegated at the end of last season.
Cremonese went straight back down to Serie B, a year after finishing runner-up in that division.
Indeed, the last time that no promoted teams were relegated from the Italian top flight was in the 2007-08 season when Juventus, Napoli and Genoa survived their first season back in Serie A.
Frosinone earned promotion by winning Serie B for the first time in its history, securing the title in its penultimate match with victory over second-place Genoa.
It was the culmination of an impressive season for the team that had clung onto the top spot since the 10th round of fixtures. Frosinone also scored the most goals and conceded the fewest in Serie B.
But much of the credit goes to Fabio Grosso, who decided not to extend his contract after just over two years in charge – informing the club president of his decision via text. He was replaced by former Roma and Sassuolo coach Eusebio Di Francesco.
It will be Frosinone’s third-ever season in Serie A, and its first since 2019. The club — which is based 75 kilometers (47 miles) southeast of Rome — will be hoping history does not repeat itself as it has gone straight back down on the two previous occasions.
Italy’s oldest soccer team is making its return to the top flight after a one-year absence.
Its chances of staying there could rest on how quickly new signing Mateo Retegui adapts to Serie A.
The 24-year-old Retegui was signed from Boca Juniors although he had recently been on loan at Tigre, where he scored 30 goals in 48 league matches.
Retegui was already a familiar name in Italian soccer after scoring in his first two matches for the the national team in March. The Argentina-born forward has Italian citizenship through his maternal grandmother.
And Retegui has already scored for his new club, netting two goals in Genoa’s 4-2 win over Modena in the Italian Cup last week.
Alberto Gilardino’s coaching skills have also never been tested in Serie A, although he swiftly got to grips with his first experience in Serie B.
Gilardino — who won the 2006 World Cup with Italy as a player — was originally appointed as caretaker coach in December after the dismissal of Alexander Blessin but was given the job on a permanent basis after an improvement in performance and a positive string of results.
Cagliari is another team making an instant return to Serie A but that seemed barely possible at the turn of the year.
Back in December, Cagliari was 14th in Serie B with just 22 points from 18 matches, prompting it to fire coach Fabio Liverani and hire Ranieri — who famously steered Leicester City to the English Premier League title in 2016.
Back at the club that effectively launched his managerial career more than 30 years earlier, Ranieri achieved another seemingly improbable feat as he steered Cagliari to a fifth-place finish and a spot in the promotion playoffs.
A stunning comeback helped Cagliari get past Parma in the semifinal before a stoppage-time goal saw the Sardinian team beat Bari in the final, just as it appeared its opponent would earn the last promotion place.
Ranieri was seen crying on the field as he celebrated with his players and he recently said he expected Cagliari to be the final club in his coaching career.
He added: “this is the right place to end, I feel that I’m finally closing a circle.”