Gianluca Atzori hopes Floriana FC will be this season’s surprise package

Floriana coach Gianluca Atzori hopes the Greens will be the surprise package of the BOV Premier League as the club embarked on a project which president Johann Said hopes will put back the club where it belongs. Said and Atzori were speaking at the presentation of the squad which was held on Wednesday at the club premises.

President Johann Said said that although Floriana have several new players, a new administration and almost an entirely new technical staff, the club’s objective was to build on the positive of his predecessors while putting the club on a more professional level. He said that the administration went through a complete overhaul with a number of professionals now serving the various roles within the committee. Said announced that Ivan Curmi had just been appointed full-time administrator while team manager Anthony Gafa is also working for the club on a full-time basis.

“My objective is to put club back where it belongs as I believe that Floriana are the most glorious club and they deserve it.”

With regards to the technical staff, the Floriana president said that sporting director Nereo Omero decides on the players to form part of the squad and serves as a link between the senior side and the club’s youth sector. Newly-appointed coach Gianluca Atzori is assisted by two assistant coaches, Darren Vella and Carlo Simionato who will also serve as physical trainer.

The club signed no less than fifteen new players, including goalkeeper Andreas Vella, Zachary Cassar, Neil Micallef, Mark Fenech, Adam Magri Overend, Mattia Veselji, Owen Spiteri and young goalkeeper Aidan Portelli Isherwood, foreigners Georgi Kitanov, Christian Rutjens, Oulaid El Hasni, Emiliano Callegari, Eugeniu Rebenja and Andrei-Cosmin Ciolacu. Augusto Rene Caseres and Bradley Sciberras returned from spells on loan while veteran Manolito Micallef re-joined the club.

Key players like Ryan Camenzuli, Brandon Paiber, Daniel Agius and Jan Busuttil are still with the club along with some of the foreign players including captain Matias Nicolas Garcia, Kristian Keqi and Ulises Arias.

The Floriana president admitted that the club had to take certain decisions to release or transfer players who were part of last year’s squad, insisting that the transfer campaign was based on the club’s planning for the next five years. He thanked all the players who are no longer with the club for the services rendered and said that in some cases, the decision was taken by mutual consent; in other cases, there were players who wanted to leave while in others, it was a question of balance between the budget and the technical aspect. Johann Said said that sporting director Nereo Omero was there to decide on these matters.

“We want to play to win. Each game should be treated as a final. We respect our opponents and referees and expect others to respect us. I do not accept playing well and losing. I want to see the team play well and win,” said the Floriana president.

The Floriana president said that on re-joining the club last season, the Greens were lying in the lower part of the table, ending up just three points above the relegation zone. For him, this was the biggest challenge but in the mean time, a number of colleagues helped him create a new structure for the club and therefore by the beginning of this season, this was already in place with clear objectives with regards to the various roles within the club and the members of the squad. He added that although the presence of several young players in the club was a challenge, one had to start from somewhere.

In his conclusion, Johann Said thanked the sponsors, namely Harmont and Blaine, Caffe Pascucci and Go and Fun. He thanked the members of the committee, technical staff and players and the volunteers who help the club.

Coach Gianluca Atzori said that he was glad to join the club and that since his arrival, the club did whatever possible to grant his requests. He said the club did a good job to give him this squad at his disposal and that now it was up to him and the players to achieve whatever was possible. He said that from what he had seen, the league was a very competitive one and Floriana could have their say.

“I was impressed by the great competitivity of the Premier League. From what I have seen in the first two match days, there is no team who will dominate. There is no big difference between Hamrun Spartans and the rest of the teams, including us.”

Atzori said he was glad to be working with several young players and was glad with the players’ willingness to work hard – something which he struggled to find even in Italy. The Floriana coach said that while respecting their opponents, the team should go on the pitch to honour the club’s history.

“After two months working with these players, I am confident. There are several young players who need to grow. Before aiming for results, the first objective should be for these players to grow. There were several changes in the squad and therefore it was obvious that we would find some difficulties as it takes time for the players to amalgamate well to become a team. However, I believe that we are at a good point. There are ample margins of improvement. I hope that we improve in the shortest time possible. “

“We aim at challenging the three, four teams who will be challenging for the title. We hope to be just there behind them in the table. I like to play to win and we will play to win. I would like to be the Premier League surprise package,” concluded Atzori.

Sporting director Nereo Omero thanked club for this appointment and said he was honoured to take this new challenge. He said the past two months had been a great experience working with thirteen new players plus two – Eugeniu Rebenja and Andrei-Cosmin Ciolacu – who had joined the club just before the transfer deadline and should be available in the coming days after finishing the quarantine period.

Omero said that throughout the transfer campaign, he tried to maintain equilibrium between the club’s vision and the needs of coach Gianluca Atzori. He said he was proud of the fact that the average age of the squad is less than twenty four. He said that he was confident the club has now laid the foundations for a competitive squad for the coming years as the players have all the qualities to do well. He added that almost all new arrivals have long contracts or an option to stay with the club.

He thanked the technical staff for their support and said that the team, despite the several new arrivals, had shown improvement over the past weeks. He said that hard work was still necessary but the foundations for the future were solid, also thanks to the nursery.

For this season, Matias Nicolas Garcia will be serving as captain after he was selected for this role by the rest of the players. He said he considered this role as being very important for him and thanked the club for doing a good job this summer.

Matias Garcia had the team had a great pre-season, despite problems related to quarantine for some of the players and in their first two Premier League outings, the team managed to fight back twice in the 2-2 draw with Santa Lucia and were then unlucky to be held in a draw by Sliema Wanderers despite playing a great game. Garcia said the players are now looking forward for Saturday’s derby and hoping for a win.