Thursday March 22 2018
Sacchi: ‘Italy must focus on style’

Arrigo Sacchi says the Italian national team “has a duty to give itself a style”, and doesn’t think the March friendlies will tell us much.

The Azzurri failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, and as things stand there is no permanent CT or head of the FIGC.

“Enough words, it’s time for change,” Sacchi told Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Provided, of course, that we want to change course. The commissionership of the FIGC is an opportunity to be seized, there’s a chance to design a project, to put the right people in place and have concrete ideas.

“Of course, we can’t be subjected to the usual Italian cronyism, otherwise what are we talking about?

“In my opinion there is only one path to follow: put the ball in the centre of the pitch.

“After years of football obscurantism, Italy has a duty to give itself a style. In terms of play, first of all, but also culturally.

“It will never be possible to have football reduced to one simple verb: ‘to win’. Ok, winning is important but if you win without deserving it then what’s the point? Nothing.

“Objectives have to be reached through values like courage, harmony and beauty. Otherwise successes will remain isolated, they won’t multiply.

“They’ll always be single moments and not part of a story.

“Firstly there’s a concept we need to understand: there’s never an end to the worst. If we think we’ve hit rock bottom with the failure to qualify for the World Cup then we’re on the wrong track.

“We need to understand our mistakes, because if you don’t understand your mistakes you can fall back into them.

“Italian football is a mirror of society, we’re a cunning people, who have tactical schemes even when we go shopping…

“But with no strategy, tactics mean nothing. We’ve always had defensive football, and the last offensive war we fought was when we were the Romans…

“How could it possibly be strategic to leave the ball to your opponents, as most of our teams do?

“To find a solution you have to read reality and see how to counter things. How do we play? We wait, we destroy and we hit on the break.

“I ask you, is it easier to destroy a house or to construct one? I think basically anyone can destroy a house, but not build one: you need engineers, architects. That’s what we need here.

“It seems to me that lately football has been imitating politics. People look to take care of their image.

“In 2010 I was called by the Federation after the disaster of the World Cup in South Africa, to direct the youth teams.

“[Gianni] Rivera and [Roberto] Baggio were nominated with me, with different roles which I could never understand.

“I said: ‘I’ll come, but know how I work’.

“Lately, for example, this casting around for a CT of the national team has bothered me. There’s a list of names, you evaluate them, you browse… but how?

“We’re talking about good professionals, with years of work behind them. It’s about choosing.

“If I want defensive football, I go for this candidate. If I want attacking football, I turn to this other Coach. If I want predominantly tactical football then I go for this option.

“There’s no need for people to audition, you need to have a clear idea in your mind, pursue it and then implement it.

“I’m tired of hearing ‘it’s enough to win’ or ‘only winning counts’. That’s how you destroy other values.

“We Italians, in football as in life, are used to getting the best result with the least possible effort. But that’s not the right way to progress.

“Football was born as an attacking team sport, but we interpret it purely defensively. But if we play defensive football then we penalise the youngsters, their optimism and their technical qualities.

“For example, if I keep the ball for 70 minutes, I’ll have more chance to touch it, to play with it and to have fun than someone who only keeps it for half an hour. Am I wrong about that?

“When I suffer, I feel bad and I don’t enjoy myself. I don’t know about you, but that’s how it happens for me…

“I always wanted my teams to control the pitch and the game.

“When I told [former Milan President Silvio] Berlusconi to take [Maurizio] Sarri I told him: ‘he came to San Siro and dominated with Empoli. With Empoli, am I making myself clear?’

“His Napoli entertain and fascinate me.”

They’re behind Juventus though…

“Juve are extraordinary in terms of their character, their physical strength and their determination; as well as for the history and culture which have belonged to that club for over a century.

“They pulled off a masterpiece against Tottenham, and they can go far in the Champions League.

“I consider [Massimiliano] Allegri to be a teacher who has elevated tactics to the highest level. Well done, but he forgot the beauty and harmony, the music that a football team must play.”

Italy face Argentina and England in friendlies this month, and the former Milan Coach was asked what those games will tell us.

“Little or nothing,” Sacchi shrugged.

“There isn’t yet a clear idea of who will be the next CT, so this is a transitional period.

“[Luigi] Di Biagio is a good Coach, in the Under-21s he brought through and improved players who will be useful for the Azzurri, I wish him all the best.

“But I think that the games for the national team bench will be done later, and I hope they’re crystal clear games.”

Sacchi was then asked about the main names in the frame, Antonio Conte, Carlo Ancelotti, Roberto Mancini, Claudio Ranieri and Luigi Di Biagio.

“They’re different from each other, just as they’re different in the style of football they play.

“We need to go back to my previous thoughts: first I need to know what I want to do, then I choose the man who will guarantee I reach that objective.

“When I was technical director at Parma in the mid-2000s, I had a project in mind. I had a list of names: [Luigi] Del Neri, [Cesare] Prandelli and [Gianluca] Vialli, one of my former players.

“We contacted them in strict order of preference. The first didn’t accept, Prandelli said yes right away and we built something important.

“That’s how you give yourself a future and a style.

“The environment is fundamental in such a process, and by the environment I mean the directors, the commentators, the fans.

“If you’re not all in tune, then it’s hard to get good results. I read [Mino] Raiola’s statements, he’s a member of that environment and he was going against Di Biagio for failing to call [his client Mario] Balotelli.

“He spoke about the FIGC in despicable terms, using the word disgusting.

“I understand that it’s his job to defend his client, but someone like him should only be saying thank you to football: it changed his life.

“Why not ask yourself why Balotelli hasn’t been considered for some time? There must be something, unless the CTs who have followed each other are all mad?”

Sacchi was then asked for four or five steps he would take to bring Italian football back.

“First: the academies. All professional clubs must create academies and give players 16-18 hours a week with qualified coaches. That’s the first step.

“The second step is that the Federation has to create these coaches through the Coverciano Supercorso.

“Thirdly, there has to be a common protocol among all the youth sectors as exists in Germany where, after 2000, they made changes and came back to being great.

“The fourth step, the decisive one, is the creation of Federation centres of excellence where youngsters can train and, as a result, improve.

“All this is clear, with a strong idea: the ball has to be at the centre of the project.

“Do Italian players lack technique? Group technique, not individual technique. We Italians still teach individual technique, to kick the ball against the wall and trap it.

“But we don’t make them interact with each other, and so we don’t develop them.

“I’ll tell you an anecdote: at Milan, when we’d play football-tennis, no-one wanted [Ruud] Gullit in the team.

“Instead the first to be chosen was [Christian] Lantignotti, who had very good individual technique. I hardly need to explain the difference between the two on the pitch…

“There are Coaches who go out and play games, and I like them. I’m thinking of Sarri, of course, of [Gian Piero] Gasperini and [Marco] Giampaolo.

“Also [Eusebio] Di Francesco, who is facing a thousand difficulties but is trying to create something important in a difficult environment like Roma.

“And I’m watching with interest what [Walter] Zenga is doing at Crotone and [Roberto] De Zerbi at Benevento.

“To sum up: the ball in the middle of the pitch. Create academies, and second teams with age limits.

“Of fundamental important is the training of coaches. A similar working protocol for all clubs.

“And, please, no auditions for the CT.”

Watch Serie A live in the UK on Premier Sports and get your first month free. £5.99 thereafter until September with promo code: ITALIA