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Understanding Italian football part 5.1 - The emigration and cycle of Italian Coaches part 1


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By Andrea Tallarita

Tuesday 29 December 2009

In recent months, we have witnessed the emigration of Italian Coaches from the hot climate of Serie A to the rich banks of Britain and the English Premier League. Is this a case of Italian football losing its greatest assets or paving the way for a new generation of tactical masters to grow?


The idea that the Premier League is a better league than Serie A has been iterated with such frequency that simply questioning it has turned into an act of deliberate anti-conformism. The latest and most fascinating problem to enter the topic has been that of the Coaches. Carlo Ancelotti, Roberto Mancini, Fabio Capello, Gianfranco Zola and Giovanni Trapattoni, five Italian managers with varying degrees of success, have all come to ply their trade in the United Kingdom. Among the positions they hold, we find the club which stands first in the boards and the lead of the national team - the two most important thrones in the country. The reason this is interesting is that it provides a double reading key with respect to the competition between English and Italian football. On one hand, we may say that the EPL is better because it has recruited all the best men, even the among the Italians, depriving the Mediterranean peninsula of its weapons. On the other, one has to wonder - if the EPL is so far beyond Serie A, why does it increasingly need to recruit its Coaches from this ‘lower league’ to come over and resolve their problems? Capello was adopted in this spirit, after the disastrous showing at the Euro 2008 qualifying campaigns. The same may be said about Mancini, signed up barely a week ago.



Using this recent development to contend that one league is better than the other would be self-serving, so any readers expecting fiery turns of nationalistic rhetoric must turn elsewhere. Rather the focus of this article will be that of dispelling the two fallacious deductions that are commonly made from this situation - firstly, that the Italian league is being impoverished by the general exodus of its best Coaches (and the flight of Luciano Spalletti to Russia, albeit inconsequential to comparisons between England and Italy, is pertinent to the argument). Secondly, that the reason for the migration of these Coaches is to be found in the monetary power of attraction exercised by clubs in the EPL. While the latter point certainly holds its share of truth (quite a distinctive share in cases such as that of Capello), it is far too facile an argument to account for the phenomenon in its entirety. The reality is that the football cultures dividing the Italian and English nations are so differing in nature that they in turn produce completely different dynamics in terms of managers and their careers.


The transition of Italian Coaches is not simply a question of these men flying off to greener pastures. The concept of ‘pastures’ itself does not apply to the environment which produced them - it is too relaxed and abundant. Italian Coaches, however metaphorically, cannot be compared to a herd of bovine creatures. They are a different kind of animal altogether. And, like all new animals entering an ecosystem, they are being misunderstood by the locals. They are being interpreted (or, better, interpreted away) by the language of economic exchange, which has become ever so conceited in the English islands. Few are willing to understand that explaining alien concepts in your local language leads to false conclusions.


The first of these false conclusions, as we mentioned, is that Italian football is being impoverished by the evacuation of its Coaches. The value of the men who are leaving is demonstrated by the quality of the teams who are picking them up, but saying that Serie A is ‘poorer’ because they have left presupposes a correspondent decline in results. Milan, Roma and to a lesser degree even Inter have all improved in their immediate results and situation since the departures of Ancelotti, Spalletti and Mancini. These Coaches all have an opportunity to export their football philosophies abroad, but since their teams have become stronger by their absence, how is Serie A weaker as a whole? Their replacements have all developed their own style of football, so aesthetic variety does not suffer either.


Another thing should be considered - Italian football culture is the most hermetic among the truly powerful ones in Europe. Much like Italian players are seldom known to emigrate, so Italian teams are very reluctant to adopt foreign Coaches. Out of 20 teams in Serie A, only three include managers from outside the peninsula - Inter, Catania, and Milan - and two of these are special cases. The Coach of Catania, Sinisa Mihajlovic, was brought in three weeks ago to remediate for the desolating results of their then Italian Coach Gianluca Atzori, and Leonardo, head of the Milan squad, was cultivated within the interior system of Milanello for years before being assigned to the bench. He was already a part of the ‘family,’ adopted as he may have been in terms of blood.


Understanding Italian football


Part 1 - Fantasia

Part 2 - Furbizia

Part 3 - Terminology - 3.1 - Tactical deployment - 3.2 - Tactical roles - 3.3 - Player attributes - 3.4 - Tactics

Part 4 - The evolution of tactics since Calciopoli - Part 4.1 - Part 4.2

Part 5 - The emigration and cycle of Italian Coaches - Part 5.1 - Part 5.2




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