Some thought it an odd choice when Alessandro ‘Billy’ Costacurta, the former Milan defender and current television pundit, was chosen to be co-Commissioner of the FIGC. He was tasked with choosing and negotiating with a new Coach for the Italy squad, but in a Press conference on Saturday managed to do everything wrong.
Here is what Costacurta said to the media and what message came across.
“We will tell you the name of the new Coach on May 20.”
Marvellous, a specific date. A pity then that only the day before that, FIGC Commissioner Roberto Fabbricini – technically Costacurta’s superior – had declared he wasn’t sure whether Italy would have a tactician by the time a friendly against France rolls around in June. If anyone thought there was a united front within the Federation, even a makeshift one, then they were sadly mistaken.
“If we have the opportunity to get someone better than Gigi Di Biagio, and I don’t think there are many, then we will."
This was the nugget of the ill-fated Press conference from Costacurta, the ultimate back-handed compliment. He simultaneously managed to make clear Di Biagio is by no means their first choice, nor the best option, but he is the most available. Imagine those as your wedding vows and see if your partner has already found a divorce lawyer midway through the first dance.
The Nazionale isn’t a job anyone would want to take on right now, let alone a Coach who is already under a rich contract elsewhere. Carlo Ancelotti fears it’ll put his legacy at risk, but it could be just what he needs after the surprise Bayern Munich sacking and bitter end to his Real Madrid experience. Antonio Conte has been there and done that, so should learn from Marcello Lippi that second stints on the Azzurri bench rarely go well. Roberto Mancini is handsomely-paid at Zenit St Petersburg and frankly a massive risk for the Federation to bet on.
However, Costacurta confessing as much in front of the media while pointing to interim boss Di Biagio as some sort of managerial booby prize is not helpful.
“I think it’s more important to think about the players we have, because I doubt Jose Mourinho or Pep Guardiola would’ve done better yesterday.”
Not content with insulting his Coach, Costacurta moved on to denigrating an entire generation of Italian players as inferior and unmanageable. I don’t buy this idea that there is no talent in the squad, it’s simply a matter of finding a way to get the best out of them as a unit.
Most of the young talents coming through were expected to shine at the European Under-21 Championships in 2017, but they failed to deliver on their undoubted potential. Who was the tactician in charge? Gigi Di Biagio.
Besides all of that, Costacurta is right about one thing: Mourinho or Guardiola would not have done better. That’s because Mou has been exposed as the Catenaccio-and-counter charlatan he really always was and Guardiola needed a whole year of intensive training to get Manchester City playing his football. Neither would be suited to the role of Italy CT.
This is a position that requires a selector of players more than a Coach in the Maurizio Sarri mould, someone who can work out how best to use his resources in a very short space of time and get those ideas across with minimal practice. Basically, Italy need Ancelotti.