Ever since the start of the 2010/11 season, Serie A has been at the forefront of managerial development.
A crop of young managers have been rewarded for hard work by being offered the lucrative managerial jobs of managing some of the heavyweights of Italian football. These managers have achieved promotions with clubs from the lower leagues, saved clubs from Serie A relegation and turned relegation candidates to Serie A mid-table teams. Now let’s examine a four of many of these examples to the rest of the footballing world.
Cesare Prandelli’s appointment as the manager of the Italian national team ushered in
a new era of Italian football. Whilst some nations may see success in the Champions League as the sole benchmark of success, Italy - along with Spain - still continue to see International success at youth and senior level as a benchmark. Prandelli made his biggest strides as a manager by transforming Fiorentina into challengers for Champions League spots, achieving top four finishes on three occasions. For Prandelli to be given such a big job, replacing the legendary World Cup winning Marcello Lippi and resurrecting Italian pride after the dismal showing at the 2010 World Cup is one to be applauded. Finishing second at Euro 2012, third at the Confederations Cup in 2013, Prandelli has put the Azzuri back on the map. Impressively, he’s the manager who has gotten the best out of Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano, two
of football’s enigmatic bad boys.
Domestically things have been no different. Max Allegri made his name getting Sassuolo promoted from Serie C1 to Serie B in 2007/08 and achieving a top ten finish with Cagliari in 2008/09. Allegri was snapped-up by AC Milan for the 2010/11 season giving him his first chance at managing one of the world’s biggest clubs. He broke Inter Milan’s five-year stranglehold on Serie A by winning the title in his first season at the helm. His first three seasons at Milan have all culminated in top three finishes, despite a noticeable changing of the guard at the club with many long-serving legends being phased out for new, younger players for the 2012/13 season. Many other managers would have thrown in the towel at that stage, not Allegri. He embraced the challenge. Allegri defied the odds as his Milan side snuck into the Champions League after a difficult start to the season in 2012/13. His European exploits have involved masterminding a 4-0 thrashing of Arsenal, a 2-0 home win and some brave draws against Barcelona, whom Milan have had the misfortune of facing eight times in three seasons. There’s the small matter of being able to deal with Silvio Berlusconi and Adriano Galliani - a craft Allegri has mastered.
There can be no doubt that the poster-boy of the new breed of Italian managers is Antonio
Conte. Conte turned Bari from relegation-battlers in Serie B to Serie B champions in eighteen months, he also achieved promotion to Serie A with Siena in 2011. These performances were rewarded by Juventus who made their former captain their manager in May of 2011. Before Conte, Juventus had endured a horrible two year period, with consecutive seventh place finishes, group-stage eliminations in the Champions League and Europa Leagues as well as an embarrassing European elimination by Fulham.
Enter Antonio Conte. How things have changed. Back-to-back Serie A titles back-to-back Italian Super Cup’s, a runners-up spot in the Copa Italia, domestically Conte has excelled. His youthful European career has seen his win games at the fortresses of Celtic and Shakhtar Donetsk, whilst effectively-eliminating Chelsea from the group stages of last season’s competition with an impressive 3-0 home win. Conte’s ability to impose discipline and dedication, his ability to promote unity within a squad by placing emphasis on the collective and his tactical awareness have made him a two-time Serie A winning manager. From his 4-2-4 to his 4-3-3 to a couple of variations of the 3-5-2 to a 4-3-1-2, Conte has never been scared to implement different formations – with great success!
Fiorentina have played their part in the trend by giving Vincenzo Montella and Siniša Mihajlović opportunities after excelling with smaller clubs. Vincenzo Montella Montella impressed all and sundry as his Catania side challenged for a Europa Leaguem spot in 2010/11 which led to Fiorentina appointing him as their new manager. After being involved in arelegation-battle the season before, Montella transformed Fiorentina to a challenger for Champions League places. Montella steered a newly-constructed Fiorentina side to a surprising fourth place finish last season as his newly-assembled team of journeymen, free agent and low-cost shrewd signings gave Queens Park Rangers a master class on how one actually assembles a new squad of 15-20 new players successfully. Their brand of free flowing football has gained Montella many admirers.
Whilst Serie A might not be everyone’s cup of tea, there cannot be any doubt that as far as a managerial factory goes, Italian football does well. From Ancelotti, Capello, Mancini, Spalletti all winning league titles abroad in the past decade, Italian football thrives on producing top-level managers. Many a foreign manager like Benitez, Mourinho and Garcia have all claimed that Serie A is the most tactically demanding league they have ever worked in. it potentially raises the point of highlighting the fact that players who are well-drilled tactically, will have a superior reading on a game, analysis of the opposition and understanding of the flow of football matches which has seen Serie A excel in the production of top-level managers. What is it about Italian football that has produced great managers in bulk like no other European country? We may never know, but the rest of Europe should take note.
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