Little-known Benevento’s rise to Serie A was one of the most remarkable stories in Italian football but their dream has turned into a nightmare after losing their first nine games in the top flight.
A 3-0 home defeat by Fiorentina on Sunday meant that Benevento set an unwanted record for the longest losing run at the start of a season, overtaking Venezia’s previous mark of eight matches dating back to 1949-50.
The team from the southern region of Campania have scored only two goals those nine games, while conceding 22. To add to their woes, captain Fabio Lucioni tested positive for a banned substance in September and faces a ban of upto four years. Lucioni denies any wrongdoing.
Coach Marco Baroni was confident his side, who play in distinctive yellow shirts with red stripes, could get out of their rut.
“We need to continue believing,” said Baroni, the hero of last term’s Serie B campaign. Italian media has reported his job is under threat.
“Even against Fiorentina, we gave ourselves something to build on. After they scored, we were the more dangerous team and hit the post, but when they struck again early in the second half, all of our problems came back.”
Benevento visit Cagliari on Wednesday, with the Sardinians also struggling after losing seven of their first nine games. They then face much tougher games against Lazio and Juventus.
Benevento was re-founded in 2005 after the original club, which had existed since 1929, folded. After starting in the fourth tier in 2007-08, the new Benevento reached Serie B for the first time last season where they finished fifth and won promotion through the play-offs.
But like Carpi and Frosinone before them, they have struggled to make an impact in the top flight. Benevento made more than 15 new signings during the close season in their bid to be competitive, although around half of those were on loan and none cost more than 3 million euros ($3.52 million).
Moulding them into a competitive team has proved a challenge especially as a number of the new recruits arrived at the end of August with the league already under way.
Verona and SPAL, promoted alongside Benevento, are also struggling and Napoli owner Aurelio De Laurentiis has led growing calls to cut the number of teams in the top flight from the current 20 to 18 or even sixteen.
Benevento president Oreste Vigorito argued, however, that the real problem lies in the distribution of revenue from the sale of television rights, which is based partly on the popularity and past record of the respective clubs.
“It’s much easier to have a football club in the big cities with this unfair distribution of revenues,” he said. “The way the revenue is divided creates different standards within the same division of the league. We shouldn’t try to cure the cancer by cutting off the leg.”