Beginning next Saturday, Italian Serie A1 will open their pools for the 100th season. After the Hungarian League, the Italian Serie A1 is considered the strongest in Europe. But unlike Hungary, the past several years for the Italian League has been a race for first, with Pro Recco and Brescia battling out in front of everyone else.
Genova’s Pro Recco is, as usual, the favourite for the Serie A1 title this year. On the hunt for their 13th championship in a row and 33rd championship overall. The last team to win the title before Pro Recco’s thirteen year reign was Savona in the 2004/2005 championship. Everyone is looking this year to the team from Lombardy, in hopes they can put an end to Pro Recco’s dominance.
Rudic’s Return to Italy
The Genoese seem even stronger than last season, especially with Ratko Rudic on the bench. Rudic returns to water polo replacing Vladimir Vujasinovic, who couldn’t withstand the loss in the last season’s Champions League final and left the team. Rudic retired from coaching two years ago after an adventure with the Brazilian National Team. Considered the most successful coach in water polo history, he accepted a call to return to the sport and take over an “All Star” team from Liguria. The summer was very busy for Rudic’s new team, trying to create conditions that will win all 3 titles in the 2018/19 season.
Pro Recco has finally solved their goalkeeper position problems with the arrival of Marko Bijac from Jug Dubrovnik. Bijac is considered one of the best in the world and surely, will help Pro Recco’s defense. Other player additions include Jug Dubrovnik’s Vincenzo Renzuto, Mladost Zagreb and former member of the Croatian National Team, Luka Bukic and Canottieri’s Alessandro Velotto. Out of the USA at the beginning of 2019 will come Italian born American, Luca Cupido.
Along with Matteo Aicardi and Michael Bodegas, the champions counted on being especially powerful on the center-forward position with future newcomer Niksa Dobud and Joseph Kayes. However, Dobud won’t be available until April due to his FINA doping suspension.
According to the rules, in Serie A1 teams can include four foreigners and in Pro Recco’s case, some of the best water polo players in the world will have to sit in the stands for the Italian league games. In Rudic’s squad for Serie A1, foreigners that will play include Bijac and Bukic as EU citizens, and Mandic and Ivovic (newly promoted captain) as non-EU citizens. Filip Filipovic, at least until February, will only participate in Champions League.
Like Pro Recco, Brescia has also strengthened their team and seem very close in depth to their biggest rival in years. Though they have just two new acquisitions, both from Sport Management, they are huge names in the water polo world, Pietro Figlioli and Valentino Gallo. The last, and only time, Brescia won the championship was in 2003. Maybe this season they’ll walk away with the trophy. That seems to be even more possible if they host the Final Six in May (23th to 26th).
Two Wide Open Spots for the Final Six
BPM Sport Management should lead the remaining teams, but have seen a reduced budget. They are entering the new season without some key players such as Figlioli, Gallo and Petkovic, as well as both center-forwards, Blary and Baraldi. Younger players like Alesiani, Bruni, Damonte, Dolce and Casasola will be tasked with filling these gaps. With these young but strong players, BPM should again be highly ranked and possibly the third team in Italy.
Last season Ortigia was the biggest surprise. They missed third place in Champions League qualifications tournament in an impressive shootout against Sport Management. With Albert Espanol in their line up this year their aspirations could be even higher.
Two remaining spots for the Final Six, the system which was also confirmed for 2019/2020 season, should be wide open for several teams. Savona and Canottieri, last season participants, have lost some key players, while Catania and Quinto did nice jobs throughout the summer adding to their rosters with some good players. Florentia, however, made no change to their players from last season.
At the end of the season the bottom teams will drop to Serie A2, while another spot is waiting for a team in Play Out.
Arrived: Marko Bijac (Jug Dubrovnik), Luka Bukic (Mladost Zagreb), Luca Cupido (Newport), Niksa Dobud (from 19th of April), Joseph Kayes (OSC), Vincenzo Renzuto (Jug Dubrovnik), Alessandro Velotto (Canottieri Napoli),
Left: Jacopo Alesiani (BPM Sport Management), Lorenzo Bruni (BPM Sport Management), Edoardo Caliogna (Camogli), Goran Volarevic (Pescara)
Arrived: Pietro Figlioli (BPM Sport Management), Valentino Gallo (BPM Sport Management)
Left: Mario Guidi (Bogliasco), Edoardo Manzi (Posillipo), Vjekoslav Paskovic (Roma Nuoto)
BPM Sport Management
Arrived: Jacopo Alesiani (Pro Recco,) Luca Damonte (Savona), Lorenzo Bruni (Pro Recco), Vincenzo Dolce (Canottieri Napoli), Giacomo Casasola (Ortigia), Ivan Zanetic (Waterpolo Verona)
Left: Fabio Baraldi (Crotone), Romain Blary (Pays d’Aix), Pietri Figlioli (Brescia, Valentino Gallo (Brescia), Antonio Petkovic (Mladost Zagreb), Federico Panerai (Trieste)
Arrived: Albert Espanol (Barceloneta), Matthew Farmer (Hunter Hurricanes), Damiano Pellegrino (Waterpolo Catania), Sebastian Susak (Como Nuoto)
Left: Giacomo Casasola (BPM Sport Management), Robin Lindhout (Quinto), Gianluca Patricelli, Andrea Tringali
Arrived: Giacomo Novara (Torino 81), Filippo Corio (Imperia)
Left: Luca Damonte (BPM Sport Management), Gustavo Guimaraes (Oradea), Roberto Ravina (Bogliasco), Davide Steardo, Andras Teleki (Szolnok)
Arrived: Maros Tkac (Hannover), Djordje Tanaskovic (Crvena zvezda), Milos Vukicevic (Pays d’Aix), Julien Lanfranco (Acquachiara Ati 2000)
Left: Fabrizio Buonocore (Cesport), Vincenzo Dolce (BMP Sport Management), Gianpiero di Martire (Posillipo), Massimo di Martire (Posillipo), Alessandro Velotto (Pro Recco), Federico Lapenna (Latina), Manuel Rossa (Acquachiara)
No changes in the team roster for 2018/19 season
Arrived: Gianpiero di Martire (Canottieri Napoli), Massimo di Martire (Canottieri Napoli), Nikolaos Kopeliadis (Vouliagmeni), Edoardo Manzi (Posillipo), Ioannis Papakos (Apollon), Andrea Maria Scalzone (RN Napoli)
Left: Lorenzo Briganti (Acquachiara), Nicola Cuccovilo (Catania), Maxwell Bruce Irving, Cancelor Ramirez
Arrived: Duje Buzdovacic (Jadran Split), Nicola Cuccovilo (Posillipo), Filip Jankovic (Partizan), Daniel Presciutti (Torino 81), Dimitrije Risticevic (Partizan), Aurelio Scebba (Pol. Muri Antichi), Ruben Riolo (Etna), Andre Condemi (Cus Unime)
Left: Zeljko Kovacic (Jadran Split), Damjan Danilovic, Egon Jurisic, Marino Divkovic, Andrea Sparacino
Arrived: Mattia Antonucci (Roma Vis Nova), Andrea Narcisso (Roma Nuoto)
Left: Luca di Rocco (Latina), Giacomo Gianni (Latina), Matteo Spione (Roma Nuoto), Andrea Tulli (Latina)
Arrived: Mario Guidi (Brescia), Roberto Ravina (Savona)
Left: Alessandro Brambilla (Metanopoli), Federico Cimarosti (Lavagna 90)
Arrived: Federico Panerai (BPM Sport Management), Niccolo Rocchi (Nice)
Left: Nino Blazevic, Jacopo Giacomini
Arrived: Tomas Bielik (Novaky), Bojan Paunovic (Primorac Kotor), Nikola Vavic (USC), Robin Lindhout (Ortigia), Riccardo Pellerano (Promogest), Blagoje Mujovic (Tuscolano)
Left: Filippo Bianchi, Alessandro Palmieri (Metanopoli)
Arrived: Jordan Camilleri (Neptunes), Tommaso D’Ascoli (Lazio (Waterpolo), Matteo Carlo Ciotti (Roma Vis Nuoto), Vjekoslav Paskovic (Brescia), Matteo Spione (Lazio)
Left: Alessandro Calcaterra (Pescara), Andrea Narciso (Lazio), Alessio Navarra (Roma 2007), Mirco Pinci
Serie 1 Championship will begin with the first round game on Octeboer 13, 2018 with following match ups:
Savona – Florentia
Roma Nuoto – BPM Sport Management
Posillipo – Catania
Bogliasco – Pro Recco
Quinto – Trieste
Ortigia – Lazio
Brescia – Canottieri Napoli