“In terms of meticulously studying his opponents, he really reminds me of Mourinho. He has great charisma.” These were the words of then Inter general manager Ernesto Paolillo shortly after Andrea Stramaccioni replaced Claudio Ranieri as the Nerazzurri’s head Coach in March 2012. The young tactician’s initial appointment may only have been on a caretaker basis, but Paolillo’s words were representative of a feeling within San Siro that they might have someone special on their hands.
After injury cruelly deprived him of the opportunity of a playing career in the mid 1990s, Strama spent over a decade prior to landing the top job at Inter working his way up the coaching ladder. Spells working in various roles within the youth sectors of AZ Sport, Romulea - in whose academy he grew up playing - and Roma caught the eye of the Nerazzurri, who handed him a three-year contract to take charge of their Primavera team in 2011.
His impact was instant. Less than a year into his new role, the then 36-year-old completed the job of guiding Inter’s youngsters to victory in the prestigious NextGen Series, earning him a reputation in some quarters as the ‘Italian Andre Villas-Boas’. A mere day after the triumph, the rise of Stramaccioni was complete when he was unveiled as first team boss.
Of course, the way Strama’s Inter tenure subsequently unfolded showed that it was a case of too much too soon for the rookie Coach. Though initial results in charge were good enough to earn him the post full time, the following season’s ninth place Serie A finish fell way below expectations. In truth, the roots of the Nerazzurri’s problems stretched far deeper than the poor campaign over which Stramaccioni presided, while other mitigating circumstances also conspired against him in his efforts to turn the ailing giants around.
Nevertheless, there was no way President Massimo Moratti was ever going to tolerate a mid-table finish just three years after seeing Inter win a historic treble of Serie A, Coppa Italia and Champions League under Mourinho. Following what was in his words a ‘cursed’ season, Strama was unsurprisingly sent packing and placed on gardening leave.
Fast forward a year and the tactician has now been given a second bite at the Serie A cherry, having in recent days been confirmed as Udinese’s new boss. He was formally presented as Francesco Guidolin’s successor at a Press conference on Friday afternoon in an appointment that, on the face of it at least, seems an ideal fit for both parties.
“He is a knowledgeable Coach who is very up to date,” Bianconeri sporting director Cristiano Giaretta said of his side’s new acquisition. “He has a great desire to develop and coach the youngsters.” At a club renowned for giving emerging talent its chance, Strama should find his Udinese remit far more familiar than the one he was handed at Inter. Where at San Siro he was judged almost entirely on the cut-throat industry of results, much more emphasis in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia will be placed on his ability to nurture exciting young prospects - his proven forte.
Furthermore, the expectations placed upon him at Udinese results-wise will of course be much lower than they were in Milan. The Bianconeri's underwhelming 13th place finish under Guidolin last season gives Stramaccioni ample opportunity to preside over an improvement next term, while he will also be able to call on his predecessor – who is staying at the club behind the scenes – as a mentor. A reduced media spotlight and Udinese’s seeming desire for continuity and long-term planning should also help provide the 38-year-old with a more favourable environment in which to work than at San Siro, where he was very much thrown in at the deep end.
The infrastructure and philosophy of Udinese mean they are a club at which Strama, with his own attributes and track record, has the potential to thrive. Should he do so, his time at Inter will be viewed as nothing more than a false start to his senior coaching career.