The top of the Serie A table has an all too familiar look about it so far this season; until that is, you get down to fourth spot and see Cagliari sitting proudly in the Champions League places after a blistering start to the campaign.
The club from the beautiful island of Sardinia are winning plaudits from all over the mainland for their attractive style of play under coach Rolando Maran.
The Rossoblu’s rise to prominence makes them a contender to become the new “Hipster” club of 2020, relegating German side St Pauli to second place after their recent dominance. Expect to see Cagliari shirts being worn in the South-East London hipster hotspots as folk go about their Saturday mornings buying overpriced bread from the local street markets, before heading home to their designer beards.
Here are five reasons why we think the islanders will become the most fashionable club in the hipster community.
The iconic centre-forward turned 75 earlier this month and the man many feel to be the most handsome fella ever to kick a football, led Cagliari to their only ever league title in 1970.
As far as hipsters are concerned, Riva’s chiselled looks perfectly illustrate the image of the late 60’s male and he wore a polo-neck jumper better than anyone else (until Vincenzo Montella got the manager’s job at Fiorentina).
Riva had such a powerful shot he was nicknamed “Il Rombo di Tuono” (the thunder clap) and he was part of the Italy team that reached the final of the 1970 World Cup. Riva stayed loyal to Cagliari for 13 years between 1963 and 1976 despite numerous advances from Italy’s heavyweight clubs.
Look back at any photograph from that era and its impossible not to wonder how Riva never made it in the movies in a country that gave us La Dolce Vita.
The smoking gun
Bringing things right up-to-date, Belgian midfielder Radja Nainggolan returned to Sardinia last summer to the club where he rose to prominence. It can be no surprise that their incredible upturn in form has coincided with his return and the man known as “Ninja” looks to have finally found a coach that will let him smoke his fags in peace.
Banished from the national team for having a cheeky puff outside of his hotel window, Nainggolan then proceeded to post a video of himself having a toke while wasted at a New Year’s Eve party during his time at Roma, in which he basically told the club that he couldn’t give a f**k what they did to him the next day.
He’s not your stereotypical footballer is Nainggolan; here’s a guy who prefers an afternoon in the tattooists than one playing on his X-Box and there’s no doubt that he’s the darling of the Cagliari tifosi and the hero in this incredible run they are on.
You may remember around 25 years ago, then Newcastle United chairman Sir John Hall declaring that it was his dream to have a starting XI at St James’ Park containing only players from the North-East.
Of course, this never came to fruition (unless you were a fan of Jossy’s Giants) but over in Sardinia, Cagliari President Tommaso Giulini looks to be making better progress based on the same philosophy.
The current plan is to take all the best talent from the island and develop it through the various age categories until there is a starting XI of players born and bred in Sardinia and while this may be seen as yet another pipe dream, the club are certainly doing their bit for the environment trying to keep their carbon footprint down to a minimum.
One city, one club:
The chances are that if you were born in Sardinia then you’re a Cagliari fan. Sure, there are the glory hunters who still declare their love for Juventus of one of the Milan clubs but in the main, Giulini and company can count on the support of the locals.
The 11,000 or so who make the fortnightly pilgrimage to the Sardinia Arena are some of the most passionate in Serie A, despite playing in a temporary stadium that looks like it’s been erected for Countryfile Live instead of football.
This, however, is another reason for hipsters to fall in love with Cagliari; a team that plays in a stadium that’s not perfectly symmetrical and doesn’t look like it’s been bought from IKEA. One day they will move back to their original home at the Sant’Elia, but only the optimists believe they’ll be back sometime in the next 20 years.
Here for the beer
Sardinia boasts the highest consumption per capita of beer in Italy, almost twice the amount of the national average, so what better place to spend a football weekend for someone whose current ones are taken up discovering micro-breweries in Dulwich.
Despite the initial outlay for a flight over to the island, the amount of money you can save on three days on the piss makes a trip to Sardinia a must for the “I saw you coming crowd” of South-East London. The most commercialised beer in Sardinia is Birra Ichnusa and a pint will set you back about three quid, about half what you’ll pay in the Hog and Truffle back in the UK.
What’s more, when you return home, you can always try to convince Tarquin down the local, to get some behind the bar in time for Christmas.