As a decision looms about the future of the 2019/20 Serie A season, an update on the current state of play in Verona.
Whilst so much has happened since our last update on 6 March 2020, in footballing terms it has been a period of unprecedented inactivity and uncertainty. Having endured the world's longest and strictest lockdown, Italy is gradually readjusting to the next phase of its pandemic response.
For the players of Hellas Verona, who like the rest of us have been subject to strict social isolation and quarantine measures, it means that they have finally been able to train again.
Whether they will have the opportunity to resume one of the most successful championship campaigns the club has experienced in over 30 years remains to be seen, as there are considerable bureaucratic, clinical and logistical obstacles to overcome
The impact of the virus
Mattia Zaccagni is the only Hellas Verona player to have tested positive for COVID-19. On 17 March, after experiencing some symptoms, the club confirmed that the young winger had tested positive. On 23 April, following a period of self-isolation and recovery, Zaccagni tested negative. He has now made a full recovery and is training along with the rest of the squad.
Teammate Matteo Pessina told Radio Anch'io lo sport "in the end he was fine, he didn't have any major symptoms, only a fever for a few days, but he got a little scare".
On the training camp
On the 8 May, in compliance with a rigorous series of clinical protocols, Hellas Verona players were permitted to return to their training camp at the centro sportivo “Paradiso” at Peschiera near Lake Garda. Groups of five players arrived in shifts and trained individually across three pitches.
After a two-month hiatus, the training has involved a gradual programme of individualised conditioning exercises, increasing intensity with each passing day.
In order to proceed to the next stage (group training) a further series of tests, including blood analysis, spirometry (to test pulmonary functions) and swabs were conducted on each player.
From 18 May, players were allowed to train in small groups of 6 or 7 players. Social distancing restrictions were still in place and the use of balls was not yet permitted.
Finally, on Tuesday 19 May pictures emerged of excited looking Verona players training with balls! According to the Italian Football Federation protocol, Verona could finally commence squad training with balls on Wednesday 20 May.
While the German Bunesliga is once again up and running and the Scottish Premiership have already announced that their season will not recommence, in Italy speculation and confusion continues.
The plan currently under consideration proposes a start date of 13 June with 2 fixtures to be played between then and the middle of August.
Meanwhile UEFA have set a deadline of 25 May for individual federations to set out their plans for concluding the current season. A final decision on whether Serie A will go ahead is expected towards the end of May.
The only certainty is that if games do go ahead, they will be played behind closed doors. Everything else, including the possibility of neutral venues, changes to the rules (including number of substitutes and protocols in the event of a player testing positive for COVID, remains up for discussion
Hellas Verona currently sit in eight place in the league, a point below Milan but with a game in hand. While the club's objective this season was survival, European football remains a tantalising prospect for next season.
Hellas have 13 fixtures still to play:
Gossip continues to circulate about the future of some of Verona's most impressive players this season. In particular, Inter, Napoli Lazio, Fiorentina, Tottenham, Everton and Manchester United have all recently been linked to Marash Kumbulla.
Lazio have also been linked with Davide Faraoni, who has been one of the most impressive attacking full backs in Serie A this season.
Meanwhile, Miguel Veloso has extended his contract with Hellas, while Matteo Pessina, currently on loan from Atalanta, is also likely to extend his stay in Verona.
The future for Juric
Having made such a positive impact since arriving in Verona last summer, speculation continues regarding the future of coach Ivan Juric. The Croat has an automatic right to extend his contract with Verona, having secured Serie A football for Hellas next season. As well as Fiorentina, local press have reported that West Ham are also interested in the charismatic Croatian technician.