Agius excited about new season after inking new Latina contract
Andrei Agius heads into the new season with renewed confidence after putting pen to paper on a two-year deal with US Latina.
The Italian club’s decision to tie Agius to a new contract reflects their esteem for the Malta defender who played a key role in helping them retain their Prima Divisione (Serie C1) status with a series of assured performances in the heart of defence in the final weeks of the 2011-12 championship.
“I’m definitely approaching the new season with greater optimism,” Agius told The Times.
“I’m returning to an environment I know very well. The aim really is to continue where I left off last season.”
It was around two weeks ago that Latina announced that they had renewed Agius’s contract by another two years but the deal was rubberstamped a few days ago.
Bar a short spell with Birkirkara in the second half of season 2010/11, Agius has been playing abroad since he was 16.
Agius, who turns 26 in August, endured a difficult start to his career with Latina due to a lack of first-team opportunities but his perseverance was rewarded as he went on to establish himself as a first-choice player as the campaign neared its end.
“The final stages of last season, when I started to play regularly, helped me to earn a new contract at Latina,” Agius said.
After going through two coaches, Stefano Sanderra replacing Massimo Ghirotto in February, Latina have installed Fabbio Pecchia, the former Napoli and Juventus player, as their new manager.
The change means that Agius has to prove himself all over again but he’s undaunted by the challenge.
“Fabio Pecchia is an important name in Italian football,” Agius said.
“I met him after I signed the contract. He gave me a training programme to follow before pre-season and told me what he’s expecting from me this season.”
Latina only avoided relegation after beating Triestina in a decider last month but Agius is confident that the club will improve in 2012/13.
“Last year’s experience should stand the club in good stead,” Agius said.
“Latina hadn’t been in Serie C1 for many years before last season. I think that we have the material to move forward this year.”
Sporting director Mauro Facci expressed his satisfaction that Agius has committed himself to Latina.
“We are happy that Agius has signed a new contract,” Facci said.
“He’s a player we appreciate and value highly. Our objective was to keep him.”
Facci acknowledged that Agius showed his true worth once he began to play regularly. “Initially, he encountered some difficulties, also because he hoped to find more space in the team,” Facci said.
“But, Andrei managed to get more first-team chances towards the end of the season and he seized his chance.”
An eventful season beckons Agius not only with Latina but also with the national team who kick off their 2014 World Cup campaign in September.
The second qualifier is against Italy in Modena and Facci is pleased about Agius’s potential participation in the matches against the Euro 2012 finalists.
“It’s a pleasure for us that one of our players will have the chance to showcase his talent against Italy,” Facci said.
“I hope that Andrei performs well in those games.”
Facci echoed Agius’s comments when spelling out Latina’s objectives for 2012/13.
“We want to do better and suffer less than we did last season. Our ambition is to improve and consolidate our place in the division,” he said.
Livorno buy Montebello
Livorno have signed Luke Montebello for good after the Maltese teenager impressed during his one-year loan spell with the Italian club’s youths last season.
Italian website tuttomercatoweb.com reported that Livorno have taken up the option to make Montebello’s move a permanent one.
Montebello, who was on the books of Birkirkara, was invited to join Livorno after catching the eye of club scouts who, on the MFA’s initiative, came over to Malta last year to have a closer look at the country’s most promising youth players.