Venezia: The Viking Doge
Amid the saturated coverage and futile screaming of transfer deadline day, there was one story I made sure to keep an eye on. Venezia striker Joel Pohjanpalo had been linked with enough clubs to give Fabrizio Romano a migraine, and I was hoping he'd do the 'right' thing and stay in Venice.
After a summer of Saudi plundering and general football malaise, I just wanted someone to restore my faith in football; even just a little. Step forward, Joey P.
I've written about Pohjanpalo before, when he was filmed strutting down the touchline with a pint in his hand after a long day of terrorising defenders. The more I learn about him, the more I like this wine collecting, goal scoring, sartorial son of a gun. In a world of ostentatious Gucci wearing manchildren, Pohjanpalo cuts a figure of subtle sophistication. It helps that he spends his professional hours draped in the sport's finest threads.
He signed a new deal in front of fans in the city, wearing the club's new gondolier-themed jersey.
Despite offers/interest/Twitter journo mumblings, Pohjanpalo saw fit to stick around in Venice and even signed a new deal this week, doing so in front of a swarm of fans in the city, dressed in the club’s new alternate jersey, a nod to the gondoliers whose hooped jerseys dominate the canals of Venice. Impeccable vibes all round.
Leeds United were (briefly) linked with signing him, as rumours surfaced that Joey P had a €3m release clause; dangerously low for a 19 goal Serie B striker. Cremonese were mentioned, a club with perhaps a little more cash behind them than Venezia, but not one worth abandoning Paolo Vanoli’s project for.
However, as deadline day neared, Everton signed Beto from Udinese and Pohjanpalo’s name popped up as a potential replacement. At this point, Venezia fans were desperate for the window to slam shut onto any prying fingers with deep pockets and promises of riches/top flight football.
Venezia have built a squad that could finish in the top two, if they can stay injury free and consistent.
That the window ended with Pohjanpalo still at Venezia is a testament to his ability to understand what he’s got going for him; a starring role in a team that, through continuity and smart recruitment, has built on the momentum of last season’s run to the playoffs. Their form turned in March, driving them from 16th to 8th, just sneaking into the playoffs ahead of Palermo. Since then, they have quietly curated a squad that has a legitimate claim at a top two spot, if only it can find consistency and stay lucky with injuries.
I’m sure there was some work done on the club’s end to highlight why a move to Serie A or the EFL isn’t all it seems, and that signing a new contract until 2027 would be much better. Personally, I’d have just taken a little walk along the Grand Canal and stopped for some cicchetti, then offered Pohjanpalo a Greggs sausage roll, though I’m sure Venezia were a little more couth than that.
So, thank you to Joel Pohjanpalo for giving me a small boost of faith and showing me that football isn’t dead yet, after a summer in which the ugliest elements of it have reared their grotesque visages. For every multi-millionaire chasing ‘life-changing’ money in the Middle East, for every unfortunate player that gets a baseball contract at Chelsea, or every finger jammed in the ears to ignore abuse, there’s a Joel Pohjanpalo.
Perhaps I’m being a little overly dramatic about a player showing a semblance of loyalty to their club, but the bar is on the floor these days, so it’s nice to celebrate the good things. After an excellent 2022-23, another big year at Venezia and they'll be bringing back to the title of Doge of Venice purely to elect big Joey P. Vote Pohjanpalo.