Even months before Italy’s European Championship triumph, their dapper manager Roberto Mancini knew his side would conquer the continent. In an interview with fashion magazine GQ, he detailed his summer plans: “The objective is to spend the summer in Portonovo signing autographs as a champion manager.” It’s a beach in the Italian province of Ancona near Jesi, the town Mancini grew up in and where he spends time, swapping the Armani for a beach t-shirt and shorts, or often going topless, flaunting his still chiselled physique.
He said this partly in jest, but Mancini has always been firm in his assertions and views.
But after his idyllic vacation, once the new season of Calcio rings in next month, Mancini would drive back to the Centro Tecnico Federale di Coverciano, the technical headquarters of Italian football in bustling Rome, known simply as Coverciano, plotting and planning the next project for the European champions with his trusted aide Gianluca Vialli, the football association’s technical co-ordinator Maurizio Viscidi, and other members of the technical staff.
Mancini is a hands-on man, he used to detest long hours in the boardroom watching presentations, but has resigned to the inevitable realities of managerial existence. “I like spending time watching players than getting stuck in boardrooms,” he had once told Canal Plus. He devours as many games as possible, Serie A, Serie B, Champions League, Europa League, whatever he could lay his eyes on so that he could solve the next puzzle for his team.
Much of the what-next discussions could revolve around the World Cup in Qatar late next year. Towards the latter stages of his press conference after the final, Mancini hinted as much. “There is more for this group to achieve in the coming years.” He didn’t say it as many words, but what he implied was a footballing dynasty, which for all their quality and World Cup-winning abilities, Italy has never managed. Like the French or the Spaniards in different stretches of footballing history. Only two nations have previously completed the World Cup/European Championship double – France in 1998 and 2000, and Spain in 2008, 2010 and 2012.
It has puzzled Mancini. “When we made it into the Italy team (as players), we found (Giuseppe) Bergomi and (Franco) Baresi from the previous generation, both were world champions. Soon afterwards, (Paolo) Maldini and (Roberto) Baggio were added to it. You tell me how we always finished second or third without ever standing on the top of the podium like the 1982 and 2006 generations.”
Despite quality managers, generational talents, and a robust system, Italy could never achieve what Spain or France did. A hot streak later, they would fizzle out. The 2006 World Cup winners did not reach anywhere near another trophy; neither did the Tiki-Italians of Cesare Prandelli in 2012. Mancini wants to change history.
The batch of Mancini could dream. The core of the group is young and sturdy, though they remain a work in progress. There are ageing veterans in the backline — Giorgio Chiellini is 36, Leonardo Bonucci 34 and Francesco Acerbi 33. Mancini, in his scouting tour across the country, would be keeping an eye out for young defenders; he already has a young Milanese, Alessandro Bastoni, widely touted as Paolo Maldini’s potential successor. More worrying is perhaps the dearth of the old-fashioned No. 9, in the Christian Vieri-Pippo Inzaghi mould. Lorenzo Insigne is more of a winger, Ciro Immobile more centre-forward than a striker; Andrea Belotti lacks finesse and is immobile.
A classical striker would give Mancini more space for tactical manoeuvring. In the Euros, he stuck mainly to a hybrid 4-3-3, which enabled their adversaries to plan against Italy according to their strengths. Spain chose a false nine with clever movements to trick and test the old guard of Chiellini and Bonucci; England picked an extra defender to neuter Italy’s wing-play. Both plans disrupted Italy’s flow and exposed their vulnerability on the left flank in the absence of the vibrant full-back Leonardo Spinazzola. There were times when Italy seemed reactive and confused. Those failings would not have escaped Mancini’s notice.
NEW DELHI, DECEMBER 25: Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha today addressed a special event to commemorate birth anniversary of Shri.
Major Reshuffle Effected in Revenue Department Srinagar, Sep 29 : Jammu and Kashmir administration led by Lieutenant.
The approval for world’s first DNA based ‘ZyCov-D’ vaccine of Zydus Universe is a testimony to the innovative zeal of India’s.