Giuseppe Sannino was the latest victim of Serie A's most ruthless presidentOne can forgive the local journalists covering Palermo for their curiosity. After all, they probably have a sweepstake. "The most frequent question I've been asked since I came here," Giuseppe Sannino lamented, "is always: 'How long will you last?'"
It must be tedious, granted, but what did the 54-year-old manager really expect?
If the club historian had been on hand, he perhaps would have tapped Sannino on the shoulder and whispered in his ear that the average tenure of his 15 predecessors had been just 179 days. Oh, and that a coach hasn't completed an entire season at Palermo from start to finish since the 2004-05 campaign.
Like everyone who accepts the job at the Renzo Barbera, Sannino must have known what he was getting into.
"You have gone to dinner with Hannibal Lecter," wrote Gabriele Romagnoli in La Repubblica. "You have married the clone of Elizabeth Taylor. You have signed a contract with Maurizio Zamparini." Do so and it's fatal to your career, ending in divorce and maybe, if you're lucky, a nice Chianti.
Sannino was sacked at the weekend following Palermo's 1-1 draw at home to Cagliari. And to think, he had been just two minutes away from his first win in Serie A at the club.
Summer signing Arevalo Rios had given Palermo the lead shortly before half-time, drilling a shot beyond the otherwise excellent goalkeeper Michael Agazzi who had kept Fabrizio Miccoli out earlier with an improvised Scorpion save. They then looked to have extended their lead in the second half, only for Massimo Donati's header to be harshly disallowed for offside.
As the final whistle approached, there was a growing sense that the decision might come back to haunt Palermo and Sannino. Sure enough it did in the 88th minute.
Nicolas Bertolo gave the ball away cheaply in a dangerous area allowing Cagliari midfielder Daniele Conti to send a cross into the box. Palermo goalkeeper Samir Ujkani managed to save a point-blank volley from Gabriele Perico but the ball bounced back up in the air for one of Italy's most promising young strikers Marco Sau to nod in the equaliser.
Without a win after their opening three games and still in the relegation zone, Palermo left the field under a cacophony of whistles. Reached later that evening, Zamparini revealed he'd been told it was a "disgusting" performance. "I didn't watch the game," he admitted. But somehow he had already seen enough.
When Zamparini was asked if Sannino's job was under threat, he retorted: "I'd prefer to get drunk rather than answer that question." Maybe, he did. After all, we all do silly things under the influence of alcohol. Not many of us, however, can say we have fired 41 coaches in 25 years at the helm of various football clubs.
To Sannino's credit, he had the good grace to thank Zamparini for the opportunity. "I hoped to have more time but football is like this," he sighed. Although Sannino is the first coach to receive his marching orders this season in Serie A - Zamparini won the annual sprint again - consolation can be found in the knowledge that he at least lasted longer than Stefano Pioli. Lest we forget, he had been appointed ahead of the 2011-12 season only to get the chop even before it began.
While predictable, it's still a shame. Sannino deserved a chance. He has worked his way up from nothing and has never been afraid to get his hands dirty. After retiring as a player following many years in Italy's lower divisions, he worked as a janitor at a local health authority. Not many coaches in Europe's top five leagues can say that.
"I displayed a lot of humility, cleaning corridors, rooms and even toilets," Sannino told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I was prepared to eat shit to ensure my family didn't go hungry."
Yet Sannino it seems was born to coach. He guided Varese from the bottom of Serie C2 to within a play-off of earning promotion to Serie A, then kept Siena up in his first job in the top flight. There's no doubting he is a very good at what he does.
A disciple of Arrigo Sacchi, his devotion to the former Milan tactician's own brand of 4-4-2 might have cost him at Palermo, partly down to the fact the team weren't best-suited to it, not least because there's no space for a No.10 like Josip Ilicic. He ended up pushed out-wide.
But it would be wrong, however, to lay all of the responsibility for Palermo's woes this season on Sannino's shoulders. His assistant Ciccio Baiano raged: "Palermo haven't won for six months. Last year the team saved itself at the last minute and were weakened further by the departure of three players."
Club captain Fabrizio Miccoli agreed. "This team isn't like last year's," he explained, "because if one player has gone to Inter [defender Matias Silvestre], two to Fiorentina [goalkeeper Emiliano Viviano and midfielder Francesco Della Rocca] and one to Roma [full-back Federico Balzaretti], it means that we have lost elements that were important on as well as off the pitch. We are not the Palermo that went away and won at Juve two years ago."
Even the quickest of glances at the team sheet from that night in Turin is enough to explain why Palermo are no longer the force they once were. Salvatore Sirigu and Javier Pastore have gone to PSG. Antonio Nocerino is at Milan. Edinson Cavani, who didn't even start in that famous victory over Juventus, has since established himself as one of the world's elite strikers at Napoli.
It doesn't take a genius to deduce that the task facing Sannino's replacement Gian Piero Gasperini is a daunting one, even if the former Genoa coach knows the club and its traditions well having spent five years at the Renzo Barbera as a player in the late '70s and early '80s. Yet whatever makes Gasperini think Palermo is a good place to rebuild his reputation after a disastrous spell at Inter is beyond many onlookers.
"I see scepticism around this team, but I am very confident," he said at a press conference in Milan. Standing alongside Gasperini before the unveiling of his latest benchwarmer, Zamparini gave a shrug and said: "By now it's no longer news that I change coaches, but it's always painful."
Who, though, does it hurt the most? Zamparini, his wallet and/or the club? Fearing an uncomfortable battle against relegation for a second season in a row, angry Palermo fans are in absolutely no doubt as to who.
James Horncastle will be blogging for us on all matters Serie A throughout the season. He contributes to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, The Blizzard and Champions magazine amongst others.