If you are the youngest in the family, you’ll know the feeling of being last to every milestone. If you happen to be in the same line of work as your elder sibling, then that just makes it even worse. As Niles Crane said to Frasier: “By the time I get around to it, it’s all chewed meat!” But, of course, Niles proved to the best character in that show and Simone is emerging as the coaching star of the Inzaghi tribe.
This wasn’t the case as a player, of course, because SuperPippo was – as the nickname suggested – beyond the ordinary. Simone netted four in one European match, but it was more of a curio than a genuine achievement. Pippo got the most prestigious trophies at Juventus, Milan and for Italy, he was clearly the better striker and quite rightly is held in high esteem as one of the best hitmen in Serie A history. Granted, his technique was questionable, he was always offside and ran like a confused baby flamingo, but the man knew how to score goals. As Carlo Ancelotti famously put it: “He is in love with the ball and the feeling is mutual.”
Simone was a bulkier figure, a slower player and less likely to be on the end of every rebound. Pippo was pure instinct and attitude, Simone tried to reason his way towards the goal. It’s perhaps no wonder that the younger Inzaghi became the better Coach. Instinct is impossible to teach and also a pretty good indicator you weren’t paying much attention to tactics in training. There is a reason why most ex-players who go on to be Coaches tend to be defenders or midfielders, as they were the ones whose movements were strictly regimented.
Nobody really expected much from Simone Inzaghi when he took over as stop-gap solution not once, but twice, the second time running to the rescue after Marcelo Bielsa’s abandonment. He brings a sense of genuine belonging to Lazio, having succeeded here as a player, and watched the homegrown talents like Italian Super Cup winner Alessandro Murgia come up through the youth academy. He put his trust in Thomas Strakosha, who went from third choice to first in goal, and was rewarded handsomely. He got the best out of Ciro Immobile and Felipe Anderson, saw the Keita Balde Diao problem coming a mile off and never complained about the lack of spending at the club.
Now Simone Inzaghi has taken the Aquile to their first silverware since the Coppa Italia in 2013 and nobody, not even the most fervent Juventus supporter, could argue he didn’t deserve it. If a top five finish and the Coppa Final was an immense achievement, the tactician just proved with the Supercoppa that he is no fluke. Lazio totally outplayed the Bianconeri and did it without arguably his two best forwards. If Felipe Anderson or Keita had been on the pitch, Juventus would’ve conceded a lot more than three goals.
Throughout last term, Simone adjusted his system to suit the players and opponents, moving seamlessly from four at the back to three, something that Max Allegri at Juventus is still trying to perfect.
Pippo was immediately given the Milan bench, squandered it in admittedly difficult circumstances and risked ending his management career the moment it started. Instead, he dropped down into Lega Pro and took Venezia to promotion, where they will play in Serie B this season. Simone had his apprenticeship and earned every scrap of success without relying on his name. He spent five seasons in the various levels of the Lazio academy, notching up trophy after trophy, including their first Coppa Italia Primavera in 35 years. This is no flash in the pan.
If the elder brother was the better striker, there’s no question in my mind who is the superior Coach.