Parma have returned to Italy’s Serie A, securing a third successive promotion after being dumped into the fourth division following a series of financial crisis which led to bankruptcy.
The club from the historical town in Italy’s northern Emilia-Romagna region sealed second place behind Empoli in Serie B after a 2-0 win at Spezia while rivals Frosinone could only draw 2-2 against Foggia.
“Tre anni fa ci davano per morti: si sono sbagliati”
— Parma Calcio 1913 (@1913parmacalcio) May 18, 2018
“I feel an extraordinary satisfaction for what these guys have done,” said coach Roberto D’Aversa. “We made history, no one had ever managed to get to Serie A in this way.”
Chinese businessman Jiang Lizhang took over the Italian club last year after it was promoted to the second tier.
“It’s a kind of magic,” said Lizhang, who also owns Spanish club Granada and has a five percent stake in NBA team Minnesota Timberwolves.
Grande Parma! ??? https://t.co/UCVSQuD5LW
— Gianluigi Buffon (@gianluigibuffon) May 18, 2018
Parma had been declared bankrupt in 2015 and demoted to Serie D.
“After the crash I promised this team that I would bring it back to its rightful place in Serie A. I have honored the commitment,” said 40-year-old captain Alessandro Lucarelli.
“It can’t be real, it’s impossible. Nobody could have imagined a finale like this, not even in my wildest dreams.
“The others were celebrating, then we heard a huge cheer from the stands. I don’t know what happened.”
Parma were heading for the play-offs until the 89th minute, when Frosinone conceded a goal for a 2-2 draw with Foggia.
“This is a journey we started three years ago in front of these amazing fans,” continued Lucarelli.
“We had difficult moments, we always got back on our feet. They never gave up and I am proud to have been their captain.
“Now I can stop, we’ll see. I just need to celebrate right now.”
D’Aversa took charge in December 2016 and secured back-to-back promotions.
During the 1990s, Parma were amongst the top sides in Italy and Europe winning the UEFA Cup in 1995 and 1999 and Cup Winners Cup in 1993. To many, they became a second favourite team with a multitude of brilliant players such as Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Hernan Crespo, Lilian Thuram, Juan Veron, Roberto Sensini, Enrico Chiesa and Gianfranco Zola.
However, success came at a cost with the club relegated to Serie D in 2015 after going bust before they clawed their way back up the divisions.
With Empoli and Parma securing automatic promotion, a third place in Serie A will be decided by a series of play-offs between Frosinone, Palermo, Venizia, Bari, Citadella and Perugia.
Agency France-Presse (with additional edits from Simon O’Keeffe)