June 24, 2024

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Mancini’s resignation leaves Italy in a blue moment – can they improvise like Miles Davis?

Mancini’s resignation leaves Italy in a blue moment – can they improvise like Miles Davis?

The president of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC), Gabriele Gravina, received a notification on Saturday evening. It was the PEC – Certified Emails that replaced the fax machine in the legends of football binding paperwork. The letter, on behalf of Roberto Mancini, tendered his resignation as manager of Italy.

Waiting for the long weekend. Literally, in this case.

Ferragosto is a public holiday. Visit one of Italy’s major cities at this time of year and apart from the tourists, it’s deserted. Italians on the beach. It’s the last weekend before the start of a new Serie A season. The chance to be by the sea rather than the stands of some of the pitches up and down the Bell Pass area. But relaxation was not for Gravina. Not as it should have been.

This summer was marked by turmoil.

Paolo Nicolato resigned from his under-21 position after his Azzurri side failed to exit the European Championship group stage in late June. A team led by Newcastle United newcomer Sandro Tonali never recovered from refereeing errors in the opening match against France, which were egregiously uncorrected in the absence of VAR and goal-line technology from the competition in Georgia and Romania.

A month later, Melina Bertolini delivered her notice following the group stage eliminations from the Women’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand. Criticized for leaving a captain like Juventus captain Sara Gama at home, Bertolini’s team choices and belief in inexperience backfired.

Players felt lonely on the other side of the world. No one from FIFA flew in to support the team in showing distrust.

Gravina did not escape criticism.

His priorities have been called into question amid reports that he had considered running in regional elections in the Abruzzo region, where, as anyone who has read Joe McGuinness’ 1999 book knows, he was once president of the Castel di Sangro miracle club.

Gravina brushed it off and rode things off. There were enough highs to drive the lows to the back of people’s minds.

Gravina (Claudio Villa/Getty Images).

Italy reached the final of the Under-20 World Cup in Uruguay in early June, with goals from player of the tournament Cesare Casadi. Then in July, after a series of near misses, they won the Under-19 Euro for the first time in two decades, a long-awaited award for the work of the federation’s technical coordinator Maurizio Visside.

Suddenly, the future looked bright again and Mancini had plenty of reason for optimism and reason enough to stay in the job.

Just 10 days ago, FIFA announced an “evolution” in its structure. This has hit the mainstream news at a time of tight transfer crunch because Gianluigi Buffon, after finally hanging up his gauntlet at the age of 45, has joined the national team squad. Buffon takes over the role left by the late Gianluca Vialli as head of the delegation; It’s a motivational onboarding position, and its purpose is to set the tone in training camp, make sure standards are met and teach players how to play the national anthem.

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In the end, the small edition of FIGC’s renewal was more important than Buffon’s title.

Mancini has been given greater supervision of the Under-21s and Under-20s. This necessitated that she have a greater say in team selection and the stylistic and philosophical fit of these teams. Both will train and play like their senior team to facilitate the graduation of players from one player to the next; Something that wasn’t much of a problem anyway when you consider that Mancini gave 57 players their first appearances in Italy in his five years.

Buffon joined FIFA as head of delegation (Parma Calcio 1913 / Getty Images).

On the surface, it meant more power. But in this house full of cards, the reshuffle didn’t end there. Mancini’s crew, a group of brothers formed during his playing days at Sampdoria, is pretty much cannibalized. Fausto Salsano stayed by his side in the dugout, but Alberico Ivani and Giulio Nochiari’s time with the national team came to an end.

While change is never easy, there are still jobs for the boys.

His trusted assistant, Attilio Lombardo, became the under-20s coach after he succeeded Carmine Nunziata Nicolato at the helm of the under-21s. Antonio Gagliardi, the ingenious and tactically astute English footballer who was on the staff when Italy won the Euros in 2021, is back at home in Coverciano after single-handedly shooting and assisting Andrea Pirlo. The promotion of Alberto Pollini, who led the Under-19s to the Euros in Malta, was well deserved and a huge reward that was honestly hard to envy.

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Italian Sports Minister Andrea Abbudi, upon hearing Mancini’s notice, tweeted, “I am surprised, disappointed and bewildered.” “It is a sudden decision about Ferragosto: everything is so strange. It makes me think: did he agree to the dates recently announced or not?”

The timing of Mancini’s resignation surprised everyone.

If he had stepped into the sunset after Italy’s shock defeat to North Macedonia in that ill-fated World Cup play-off in March last year, it would have been understandable. But the memories of Italy going 37 matches unbeaten and winning the Euros for the first time in more than half a century were still fresh two years later.

The inevitable and thankless calls to Mancini’s head in the immediate aftermath of that loss in Palermo overlooked the small details, the match-breaks and the penalty misses Jorginho missed in Basel and Roma against Switzerland, a team that qualified for Qatar at the expense of Italy.

Getting over it was hard. Going on without Vialli, his closest friend and endless source of positivity, was too. After climbing a mountain, Mancini unexpectedly found himself at the bottom again. He envisioned winning the World Cup last December. Italy’s participation in that tournament was another natural end point, regardless of the outcome.

Mancini and Vialli (Claudio Villa/Getty Images).

Instead, the man who led Italy to epic salvation was desperately needing it, back to square one. He tried to pick himself up and dust himself off. Mancini led a junior side to the Nations League quarter-finals earlier this summer. But in the Dutch city of Enschede, he cut through a declining figure and looked like a spent force after Italy lost to defending champions Spain 2-1 in the semi-finals. The method of defeat was painful, as the decisive goal came in the 88th minute.

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Once again, Mancini stayed when it made perfect sense for him to go. Certainly more plausible than leaving on August 13, amid strong suspicion that Saudi oil money has led him to lure a competitive salary – a contender for the Saudi Professional League, anyway – with their national team (under caretaker manager since Hervé Renard resigned in March to lead the national team). France at the Women’s World Cup and with the Euro Asian Cup approaching in January).

Having worked at Abu Dhabi-owned club Manchester City and others in Russia and Turkey, Mancini’s prospects are as wide as his pockets are deep.

There are two schools of thought about the suddenness of his passing.

First of all, the timing is really bad as Serie A starts later than the other big leagues and so the players will be a bit more ruthless in the next round of the European Championship qualifiers.

The team going into their matches on September 9 and 12 need to pick up the presto and Italy are in a delicate position.

While reaching the quarter-finals of the Nations League will at least guarantee them a spot in the qualifiers for a place in next summer’s Euros, Italy will want to avoid having to use them. After losing to England at home in March for the first time since 1961, the best Italy can certainly hope for is a second place in Group C, which comes with automatic qualification. Standing in their way, painfully enough, is the resilient North Macedonia and Ukraine.

The risk of immediately and irrevocably losing face to the new coach is therefore very high.

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On the flip side, Mancini has been with his grace to get out when coaches of the caliber of Luciano Spalletti and Antonio Conte are available.

In some ways, it couldn’t be better, and that puts pressure on Gravina. He honestly can’t screw this up like his predecessor Carlo Tavecchio did in 2016 by replacing Conte with Gian Piero Ventura. Gravina will have to build on the promises of the Under-19s and Under-20s and points to the number of Italians who started for Inter Milan, Roma and Fiorentina in last season’s three European Championships.

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“I don’t rule anything out,” Spalletti said when asked in May about taking the job in Italy one day. “I have to think about what inspires me and the national team will definitely inspire me, because it will allow me to take some time abroad every now and then. It would be a good solution for sure, but I would need an idea of ​​what kind of national team it would be.”

Spalletti left Napoli this summer (Andrea Staccioli/Insidefoto/LightRocket via Getty Images).

Not far from Coverciano, Italy’s training base in Florence, is the Tuscan farmhouse where Spalletti is vacationing, grazing his ducks and driving the vintage tractor tour after handing Napoli their first league title in 33 years last season.

The bald Jamali wanted to spend more quality time with his family after two intense seasons in the Bay Area, especially with his young daughter, and the rhythm of international football, combined with the prestige of being a CT (Commissario Tecnico), provided him with an attractive work-life balance.

However, FIGC will need to pay the €3.25m (£2.8m; $3.56m) clause for him to remain under contract with Napoli, unless owner Aurelio De Laurentiis demands what his country cannot do for him. Rather what he can do for his country. The requirement is non-competition after all, and national teams don’t compete with clubs.

As for Conte, he has already run a crack at the job and left high for Chelsea in 2016. He has been emotionally conflicted about his departure, in the wake of the penalty shootout defeat by Germany in the Champions League quarter-finals. euros in France. Italy’s worst team in decades, in terms of talent, played the best football in the tournament and left the impression that they could have won it all had Simone Zaza and Graziano Pelle not made such ridiculous choices with their penalty kicks.

So, Conte has unfinished business with Italy, but his salary level was exorbitant and the team is less knowledgeable than the team he took control of in 2014, which relied heavily on Juventus teams in previous seasons.

Make no mistake, in order to be credible, Gravina has to attract one of those two.

Carlo Ancelotti looks set to work in Brazil next year.

Presumably Claudio Ranieri can’t leave Cagliari on a swing, so he’s emotionally attached to that club – and besides, his last international for Greece went so badly that some Leicester City fans couldn’t believe he was appointed to replace their relegation in 2015. Fighting Rescuer Nigel Pearson.

The 2006 World Cup champions have varying degrees of coaching experience now but they are not entirely convincing.

It’s a bluesy moment, and whether Gravina has Miles Davis’ genius for improvisation is questionable.

(Top photo: Claudio Villa/Getty Images)