Saturday, July 19 th, 2014
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Wikimedia Commons, Roger Goraczniak
Roberto Mancini, the most beloved by multimillionaire patrons
Inter, Manchester City, now Galatasaray. Il Mancio seems to lure clubs with huge economic resources
by Pier Vittorio Mannucci
On September 30th, Roberto Mancini was appointed head coach of Galatasaray, replacing Fatih Terim. Mancini’s mission will be to make up for Gala’s disappointing start, with just one win in five games in the Turkish League and the embarrassing 6-1 defeat against Real Madrid in the Champions League opener. Mancini’s start was ambiguous, with a good draw against Juventus in the Champions League and a loss in his first Turkish League Match.

As a player, Roberto Mancini was clearly blessed with talent. After the glorious years in Sampdoria (1 Italian championship, 4 Italian Cups) he played the rest of his career in Lazio, winning another championship and another Italian Cup, and becoming famous for his arabesques and his close-to-impossible goals, often scored with his heel.

His almost unquestionable record as a player does not match his record as a coach, which is marked since the beginning by lights and shadows. After retiring in 2000, he immediately became Sven Göran Eriksson’s assistant coach at Lazio. In February 2001, Fiorentina hired him to replace Fatih Terim, in an anticipation of the recent events in Instanbul. His hiring generated a lot of debate and controversies, since Mancini didn’t have yet attained the coaching badges necessary to coach in Serie A.

A lot of his colleagues felt that he had not paid his dues and that he just got the position thanks to his playing career and his acquaintances. Moreover, he was already under contract with Lazio, and the existing regulation forbad a coach to take up two different teams in the same season. In the end, he obtained a dispensation from the Lega Calcio and was allowed to coach, exacerbating the relationship with his colleagues and boosting their resentment towards him.

His coaching adventure started well, and he immediately won an Italian Cup with Fiorentina. The following year, however, he resigned, and in July 2002 he was hired as the head coach of Lazio. After two good seasons, culminated with the win of another Italian Cup in 2004, he left Lazio to become the head coach of Inter.

His adventure in the city of Milan started very well: Massimo Moratti adored him as a player, and the two got immediately to like each other. Moreover, Inter fans liked Mancini for his strong opposition to Juventus, then controlled by general manager Luciano Moggi. Mancini took upon him to fight what he thought was the hidden and illegal power held by Juventus, obtaining derision and laughs in exchange. History, however, was to prove him right: in 2006, the scandal of Calciopoli revealed the illegal maneuvers of Moggi and Juventus, awarding Inter with a controversial “ex-post” championship, quickly nicknamed by Inter opponents the “carton championship”. In the following years, Moratti acquired some of the best players in Europe, like Zlatan Ibrahimović, Patrick Vieira, Maicon and Luis Figo, giving Mancini an extraordinary team to coach. In 2007, he won his first Italian championship as a coach, with a record breaking 97 points and a run of 17 consecutive victories. In the following years, he won other two Scudetti, but his inability to obtain successes in the Champions League led Moratti to sack him and hire Josè Mourinho in his place.

In December 2009, Mancini took over the position of manager at Manchester City, finishing the season in fifth place, the highest in the club history since the Premier League started (1992-'93). Mancini spent heavily during the following summer transfer window, thanks once again to the generous endowments guaranteed by the president of his club, Khaldoon Al Mubarak. The team improved its record, finishing third in the Premier League, qualifying for Champions League and winning the FA Cup, ending the longest trophy drought in the club history. During season 2011/12, Mancini acquired other stars, including Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri. Thanks to them, and to a thrilling 3-2 win in the last minutes of the last championship match over QPR, Manchester City won the first Premier League title of its history, the third considering the old First Division after 1936-37 and 1967-68.

Despite this, Mancini was sacked at the end of the following season. Champions League proved once more to be his Achilles’ heel, with an exit at the group phase for the second consecutive season. This, plus the loss in the FA Cup final, marked the end of Mancini’s adventure in Manchester.

Mancini’s coaching career has been characterized by a series of strikes of luck: first his early appointment as head coach of a Serie A team after only one year of experience as assistant coach; then, the millions profused both by Moratti and Al Mubarak, which allowed him to create two fantasy-teams in a very short time. His haters say Mancini has always been the right man in the right place, displaying more talent in the selection of his employers than in coaching. On the other side, no one can deny the great successes obtained both with second-tier teams like Fiorentina and Lazio and with ambitious teams like Inter and Manchester City, which saw their abnormally long trophy droughts end under Mancini’s lead.

So, who’s right? Probably the truth lays in the middle: Mancini is a talented coach, who is very good in reviving and improving a team, but lacks the charisma and expertise necessary to bring it to the next level, at the domestic and expecially at the international level. His recent appointment at Galatasaray will thus prove to be particularly challenging, since the team looks more forward to a great performance in the Champions League than to winning the Turkish League. Mancini will have to prove himself a good coach also in Europe, displaying that level of maturity that he never showed in its previous experiences.

Good luck, Roberto: you will need it.

Tuesday, March 18 th, 2014
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