On Friday June 13, Italy Coach Cesare Prandelli held a Press conference in Manaus on the eve of his team’s World Cup opener against England. “Our feelings are great,” he confidently declared of the Azzurri’s chances at football’s most prestigious tournament. “We have worked in a way that means we will be ready physically and mentally.” Secure in the knowledge that he had recently finally penned a new two-year contract as boss of his country, the scene seemed set for what should have been the pinnacle of the 56-year-old’s coaching career. Italy expected.
Three weeks on to the day, Cesare Prandelli is set to become the new Coach of Galatasaray. In what has been a remarkably quick turn of events even in today’s football, it seems unbelievable to think that just 10 days ago the Azzurri took to the field against Uruguay knowing a draw would be enough to secure their place in the Last 16 in Brazil. This is especially the case for Prandelli himself, who resigned in the immediate aftermath of the debacle in Natal and appeared set to take a break from football. Much sooner than anyone could have expected, however, the former Fiorentina boss is back in the club game.
“Prandelli brings together the characteristics we want in our Coach,” the Istanbul club’s President Unal Aysal said on Thursday when confirming he had all but signed off on his man. “I am convinced we can achieve great results with him.” While many will view Prandelli’s decision to head to Gala as a backward step in his career, his new role at the 19-time champions of Turkey will present challenges and pressures that he has arguably never faced before.
Put simply, Gala are a club used to winning and their failure to do so last season was dealt with ruthlessly. Much loved title-winning Coach Fatih Terim was sacked following a poor start to the campaign and his refusal to commit to a new contract paved the way for the arrival of Roberto Mancini.
The former Inter and Manchester City tactician’s spell in charge, despite some questionable domestic results, would be considered a qualified success at most clubs – not at Gala though. Progression to the Last 16 of the Champions League at the expense of Juventus was followed by a second place Super Lig finish and victory in the Turkish Cup. From the outside, it was not a bad first season in Turkish football for Mancini, particularly when considering his team were already off the pace in the title race when he arrived. However, Aysal was unhappy that marquee signings such as Didier Drogba and Wesley Sneijder had not yielded a third straight championship. Coupled with reported disagreements over direction in the transfer market, Mancini had to go.
It is clear therefore that Prandelli will not be allowed a lengthy bedding in period once the new season begins. A man who has always prided himself on a creed of long-term stability, fair play and building a project will now be expected to hit the ground running and deliver instant results in Istanbul, or face the consequences. For all the commendable things he achieved during his two most recent jobs with the Viola and Azzurri, there is still one thing missing from his CV – a major trophy.
“It’s not as easy a League as it might seem,” Mancini’s assistant Fausto Salsano said of his experiences in Turkey. “The stadiums are always full and the support is passionate. Prandelli will find a club that is ambitious and is ready to invest.”
Though competition will come from the likes of city rivals Fenerbahce and Besiktas, there will be no excuses for Prandelli if he fails at Gala. They are both the wealthiest and most historically successful club in the country, while they also boast Champions League football as an added incentive for perspective signings. At Fiorentina and even the Italian national team, there was an acknowledgement that Prandelli was up against rivals with superior resources and players. Silverware, therefore, was hoped for but not expected.
At a club renowned for its fanatical support and refusal to accept second best, however, there will be no hiding place for Prandelli. His good work in his previous roles as a plucky underdog has given him the perfect opportunity to finally break his major trophy duck. If he wants to enter the bracket of European football’s elite Coaches, it is imperative that his reign at Galatasaray is a success.