Northern Ireland international Kyle Lafferty is widely expected to sign for Serie B club Palermo this week, and join up with his former FC Sion teammate Gennaro Gattuso, who has been appointed their manager after bringing his playing days to an end.
The move signals the end of a tumultuous five years in which the striker may be keen to move on from. Lafferty signed for Rangers from Burnley in 2008 for £3 million and thus began a four your stint at the club in which he achieved much success, yet left unloved by many Scottish fans, despite 38 goals in 138 competitive games (as well as three SPL titles, two Scottish League Cups and a Scottish Cup).
An incident which did not endear him to fans occurred in 2009 in an SPL game against Aberdeen. During an off the ball altercation with Charlie Mulgrew, Lafferty got his opponent sent off when he feigned an injury, saying he was head-butted by the Aberdeen defender.
Ranger’s manager at the time Walter Smith condemned his actions and fined the striker, before the SFA stepped in and handed him a two game suspension for simulation (the first time they had ever taken this kind of action).
In his final year at the Glaswegian club, in which along with all the other players he had to accept a 75% pay cut, his attitude didn’t impress manager Ally McCoist, who insisted that the players needed to stick together while the club was in such financial chaos (McCoist went on the ban him for two weeks, stating he had to stay clear of all training sessions).
When the club’s financial issues resulted in them needing to re-emerge in the Scottish Third Division, the striker took exception at being told his contract would be moved to the new incarnation.
The Ibrox club tried to stop star players leaving, but Lafferty did manage to get his move that summer and selected Switzerland as his next destination. In July 2012 he began playing for FC Sion, going on to score eight goals in 28 appearances.
His first season in Europe was not an easy one and the club had to deal with the instability of having five different coaches (Michel Decastel was in charge twice), thanks to the ownership of Christian Constantin. The architect had appointed 30 managers since he took control of FC Sion in 2002 and has put himself in the management role twice.
One of the managers that Lafferty played under was Gattuso, who spent his last season in football as a player-manager, before taking up his full management role in Italy. The former Italy international clearly saw the Northern Irish striker as the ideal man to help Palermo get back into Serie A at the first time of asking.
It will be the first time since 1951 that Northern Ireland has had a player playing in the Italian professional leagues and Lafferty will hope to become a first-team player and get back to scoring goals. This will be vital for the Northern Ireland national team for whom Lafferty is the man they hope has the potential to help them qualify for an international tournament.
image: © tom brogan