Former UEFA Cup winners Parma on the comeback trail in Serie B

Parma fans

A place in the quarter-finals is at stake

It has been a difficult few years for Parma.

The original incarnation of the club went bankrupt in 2015 and were immediately relegated to the fourth-tier of Italian football – Serie D.

However, their problems started a year before that. After achieving qualification to the Europa League, the club were barred from entering for financial reasons.

That set about a series of sales which predicated the eventual demise of the club. Then-president Tommaso Ghirardi sold the club to a Russian-Cypriot organisation before ownership was then passed on to Giampietro Manenti.

He was later arrested on suspicion of fraud, wages went unpaid and the club sunk to the bottom of Serie A. A points deduction followed before Parma were officially relegated and declared bankrupt.

Due to their financial state, the club was dissolved and then reformed to start again in the Italian amateur leagues.

Then the salvage mission began.

The new Parma began life in a division with a salary cap designed to limit wages to just over £20,000 a year. That meant an overhaul of the squad and a restructure of the club.

Captain and club legend Alessandro Lucarelli was the only player who remained from the previous set-up. He remains there to this day.

Despite the circumstances in which the club found themselves at that time, Parma flourished.

Supporters flocked to the new, old club and Crociati romped to the Serie D title by 17 points. They went the season unbeaten and achieved immediate promotion to Serie C.

It was the same again the following campaign. After a hard-fought campaign in the North & Central East division of Serie C, Parma achieved promotion via the play-off system thanks to a 2-0 victory over Alessandria in the final.

So, to today. Ducali are now one promotion away from a dramatic and emotional return to Serie A after just three years away.

It has been a topsy-turvy season in Northern Italy, though. After a solid start, the club then only won one of their following seven games.

Since then Parma have started to get to grips with their new surroundings. The side famed for their iconic yellow and blue strip have lost just five games since mid-October.

Their defence is among the tightest in the league and two victories in a row prior to last weekend had propelled them right back into the play-off picture. Now managed by German-born Roberto D’Aversa, Parma have a favourable run from now until the end of the season and will fancy their chances of a return to the top table in Italian football.

It won’t be easy, but this is a club who have been famed in recent times for doing things the hard way.

Players including Hernan Crespo, Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluigi Buffon once called Stadio Ennio Tardini their home. The club won the UEFA Cup twice in 1995 and 1999 and the Coppa Italia three times between 1992 and 2002.

Crociati may have fallen on hard times since, but now a new set of heroes could be about to complete the Parma fairytale and take the club back to where they historically belong.

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