The president of the Italian coaches association Renzo Ulivieri recently spoke of his disgust at the lack of patience with Italian coaches, stating that ‘By the 11th round, six coaches had gone. Italian football is over-heated with no time for patience, especially with debut coaches.’ Does his statement hold water, or are there holes within his words?
First of all, the ‘one club per-season’ rule for coaches needs some explaining. If a tactician is sacked after the first game of the league season, then he cannot take charge of another team until the following pre-season or after. The only club he is still eligible to work for is the team that has already fired him. And similarly, clubs can only hire someone out of work since the end of the previous season.
Because there have been nine changes at the top already this season, surely all the best out of work coaches have been taken? Looking back at every Serie A coach from the past three seasons, it could be argued only two coaches still out of work are of genuine Serie A quality. The obvious one is Gigi Del Neri, most recently of Juventus. He did well with Sampdoria, leading them into the Champions League before leaving for Juve, but his spell in Turin did little to enhance his reputation. The second is Gigi De Canio, who quit Lecce after saving the southerners from relegation last season. Whether or not he’s a big enough name to lead one of the better sides in the league is another argument.
That leaves a string of former Serie A coaches out of work. The template for this group would be someone such as Mario Berretta. It could be argued the 52 year old has been given enough chances to prove his worth in Serie A. Since being axed by Siena in 2008 after two spells in Tuscany, Berretta has been relieved of his duties by Lecce (27 games), Torino (five games, Serie B), PAOK (zero games in Greece) and Brescia (seven games.) The fact no club has hired him from the beginning of the season since Lecce in 2008 indicates that president’s are reluctant to invest in an ’Allenatore’ perceived as damaged from the start of a season. But because of the ’one club per-season’ rule, as the season wears on the patrons take on the role of a shopper arriving too late in the sales. All the best things have been taken, so they must choose reluctantly from the bargain bins. As Maurizio Zamparini has seemingly proved this season with Bortolo Mutti at Palermo, you don’t always get what you want.
So who are the new coaches getting their chances in Serie A and how long are they being given in the job? Last season (2010-11), two Serie A coaches made their debuts in the league, Pierpaolo Bisoli of Cagliari, and Diego Simeone of Catania, who arrived half-way through the campaign. Bisoli was given the boot by November 2011, whilst Simeone avoided being pushed by jumping once the season had finished. This season, there were four debutants. Eusabio De Francesco and Devis Mangia have already left at Lecce and Palermo respectively, whilst Luis Enrique and Beppe Sannino at Roma and Siena have both survived despite rumours of them leaving during bad runs.
Arrigo Sacchi, the former Milan coach and now TV pundit, spoke recently about new idea’s being needed in Calcio and spoke of ‘non-football’ people coming into the game as coaches. Sacchi himself never made it as a player and points to Jose Mourinho and Zdenek Zeman as examples of coaches not playing professionally. He said: ‘I would let anyone, from pharmacists to porters become managers. This way we would stop the domination of the single way of thinking.’
Change unfortunately for Sacchi is something that occurs slowly in Italian football. For example, despite the numerous calls and hot air blown regarding new stadiums for clubs, only Reggiana in Serie C and until recently Juventus, own their grounds. So if presidents are to move away from the impulsive hiring and firing of coaches, it’s likely debut Serie A tacticians such as Sannino at Siena and moreso Luis Enrique at a big club like Roma need to succeed. Whether they’re given the time to break the mould is something less certain.