Maurizio Zamparini has done it again and it should be no surprise really knowing the record of a President with a cannibal instinct for managers. This time Devis Mangia was the one who paid the price for his impetuous decision.
The quick-tempered Palermo patron certainly enjoys playing the bad guy in the game with the mix of adjectives (volcanic, crazy, lunatic)used to describe him which only partially reveal his contorted personality.
Contrary to that, Mangia is the guy everybody likes: funny, lucky and genuine. The 37-year-old has been portrayed as the guy next door who gets a chance to run a top division club and does it better than his multi-badge colleagues. But while the young Coach battled the forces of darkness, a part of the fans and the media lost focus on what was really happening at the Stadio Barbera.
Mangia took charge of Palermo late in August, even before the Serie A season kicked off, following the dismissal of Stefano Pioli, who had already managed to get the Rosanero knocked out of the Europa League by Swiss side Thun.
Had it not been for Director Sean Sogliano, who had worked with Devis at Varese, Zamparini could barely remember the name of the guy who was coaching his Primavera team. Still, the President agreed to give him a chance and kept his word even when Sogliano was evicted from the club.
Mangia had by then gained some credit but still got trapped in-between. He wanted to keep his President happy trying at the same time to show some backbone in his decisions. An admirable, but ultimately unsuccessful tactic.
His record in Palermo is open to interpretation. The Rosanero sit 10th in the table: three points away from a Europa League spot and eight ahead of the relegation zone. They have also been knocked out from the Coppa Italia by Siena which, following last season’s final defeat to Inter, had become a priority also to ensure European qualification. Good enough for a team that lost €44m star-man Javier Pastore in the summer?
Mangia’s team had an impressive home record, but also a relegation trend away from the Barbera. At home, Palermo succeeded against troubled teams which ended up changing managers themselves: Inter, Fiorentina, Cagliari, Bologna and Lecce.
Away, Palermo only collected two points in eight games. Although some of those defeats came against Milan, Juventus and Udinese, the way Palermo let themselves get run over without putting up a fight gave good reasons to consider a change.
Just before the crucial derby against Catania, following defeats at home to relegation battlers Cesena and in the Coppa to Siena, Mangia got everybody entertained by bringing a panettone (Italian Christmas cake) to the press conference saying that he was going to enjoy a piece. This meant that, against the odds, he was still in charge of the club in December. The naïve Mangia was truly playing with fire just before another dreadful performance.
Indeed, he got everybody but Zamparini laughing. The patron was seriously concerned by a team which collected only four points in the last five Serie A games and looked ‘brain-dead,’ as widely reported by local media. After yet another disastrous performance, the President gave Mangia an ultimatum for tomorrow’s clash against Novara - unfortunately for the Coach yet another away game.
But following a somehow irreverent reaction from Mangia, Zamparini was forced to show him the exit door. Having seen Sampdoria unexpectedly going down, Zamparini is trying to prevent the same happening in Palermo. He’s relying on an experienced manager, Bortolo Mutti, who is nowhere near as funny as Mangia, but can help the team bag key points even through ugly displays. Hyped for his style and audacity, the young Mangia has in reality failed to shape a decent Palermo side.
Palermo are on the verge of a tremendous crisis which, with a manager as inexperienced as Mangia, would have left only victims but no survivors. For once, Zamparini made a reasonable choice firing a manager who had already lost his faith because of the reality of things. The President will have time to discuss with Mutti what is necessary to get this weak Palermo side on the right path.
Meanwhile, the former Varese man who didn’t get a piece of that panettone he was craving for must certainly be grateful to the Rosanero and their President. Mangia was given the chance to shine and won over several sympathisers. His popularity has grown bigger than his somehow light achievement.
Like in every love story that ends badly, there is always a different truth to be told…