Friday April 12 2019
Happy birthday, Marcello Lippi

Today is the 71st birthday of 2006 World Cup-winning CT Marcello Lippi, one of Italy’s greatest Coaches.

Born on April 12 1948 in Viareggio, Lippi began his spent most of his playing career as a centre-back with Sampdoria, captaining the Blucerchiati and making over 200 appearances.

In the summer of 1979 he joined Pistoiese, helping them to win promotion to Serie A, though they went straight back down.

The defender then ended his career in Serie C2 with Lucchese before moving into coaching.

Lippi returned to Sampdoria as Coach of the Primavera side, before learning the ropes in the lower leagues with the likes of Siena, Pistoiese and Carrarese.

His first Serie A job came with Cesena in 1989-90, and the Tuscan kept them in Serie A before being sacked the following season.

Following a return to Lucchese and a spell with Atalanta, Lippi was given the Napoli job in 1993.

The Partenopei were in disarray, struggling to move on from the glory days of Diego Maradona and engulfed in a financial crisis.

Lippi nonetheless led them seventh place and a place in the UEFA Cup, with the tactician making a young Fabio Cannavaro a key part of his team.

“I had already noticed his qualities in the pre-season training camp,” Lippi later told Supermax.

“We started badly in the league, with two defeats. The defence did not convince me and I decided to change, putting Fabio in the centre.

“He was young, but it did not take long to understand that he would become a champion. He played the first game and never lost his place.”

Taking Napoli into Europe was enough to convince Juventus to bring Lippi to Turin, having not won the Scudetto since 1986.

Lippi immediately remedied that, winning Serie A and the Coppa Italia in his first season, as well as reaching the 1995 UEFA Cup final.

A team which included a young Alessandro Del Piero then won the Champions League in the following season, before two consecutive Scudetti in 1997 and 1998, years in which the Old Lady was beaten in the Champions League final.

A downturn in form in the 1998-99 season - perhaps in part due to a knee injury suffered by Del Piero - saw Lippi leave the club, and he joined Inter for the following campaign.

The Coach led the Nerazzurri to fourth place and the Coppa Italia final, but he was sacked after one game of the 2000-01 campaign.

Carlo Ancelotti was sacked as Juve boss at the end of that season, heralding Lippi’s return to Turin.

The Bianconeri sold Zinedine Zidane to Real Madrid that summer, but Gianluigi Buffon, Pavel Nedved and Lilian Thuram arrived, with Lippi immediately delivering another Scudetto.

Juve were a point behind Inter going in to the final day, but the Beneamata collapsed to a 4-2 defeat away at Lazio, and Lippi pipped his former team, as well as Fabio Capello’s Roma, to the title.

Juventus cruised to another Scudetto the following season, but they were once again beaten in the Champions League final, this time going down to Milan on penalties.

After a difficult 2003-04 season in which the Bianconeri finished third and lost in the Coppa Italia final, Lippi once again departed.

In his two spells in Turin he took charge of 405 games, winning 13 national and international trophies.

Lippi was appointed as Italy CT in July 2004, after Giovanni Trapattoni’s side had been knocked out of Euro 2004 at the group stage.

After a relatively straightforward qualifying campaign, Italy were in good shape ahead of the 2006 World Cup after crushing friendly wins over the Netherlands and Germany.

Back on the peninsula though the Calciopoli scandal was brewing, and the CT used that to create a siege mentality.

Captained by Fabio Cannavaro, Italy came through a group which included a Czech Republic side then ranked second in the world, setting up a Last 16 tie with Australia.

Marco Materazzi was sent off, but Fabio Grosso was awarded a dubious penalty in injury time and substitute Francesco Totti smashed it home.

A comfortable 3-0 win over Ukraine followed, before one of the matches of the 21st Century against hosts Germany in the semis.

A pulsating, end-to-end game finished goalless, but Lippi did not conform to Italian stereotype in extra-time.

He sent on both Alessandro Del Piero and Vincenzo Iaquinta after the 90th-minute, looking to win the game rather than settling for penalties.

Fabio Grosso curled one in on 118 minutes, before Del Piero put the game to bed after a fine counter-attacking move.

The final against France did go to penalties after a 1-1 draw and Zinedine Zidane’s red card, but all of the Azzurri takers scored theirs, David Trezeguet missing to put Italy on top of the world.

Lippi opted to go out on a high, but he returned to the job two years later after Roberto Donadoni was sacked.

The old adage of “never go back” proved to be more relevant for La Nazionale than Juve though, and Italy were humiliated at the 2010 World Cup, failing to win a single game in a group made up of Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia.

That appeared to be the end of Lippi’s career, but he returned to the bench in China in 2012, joining Guangzhou Evergrande.

He won the domestic double in his first season, before becoming the first Coach ever to win both the European Champions League and the Asian Champions League.

Lippi then announced his retirement in 2014, with Fabio Cannavaro stepping in to replace him at Guangzhou and the veteran moving upstairs to be director of football.

Citing homesickness, Lippi left in early 2015 but he has since returned to the Far East and is currently Coach of China.

Though he may still be working, for most Italians the abiding memory of Lippi will be lifting the World Cup in 2006, while he’s still revered by Juventini as one of their greatest-ever Coaches.

In the Champions League, his duels with Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United became legendary, and there is huge mutual respect between the two.

“Marcello Lippi is one impressive man,” Ferguson wrote in his autobiography.

“Looking into his eyes is enough to tell you that you are dealing with somebody who is in command of himself and his professional domain. Those eyes are sometimes burning with seriousness, sometimes twinkling, sometimes warily assessing you – and always they are alive with intelligence. Nobody could make the mistake of taking Lippi lightly.”


World Cup: 2006
Serie A: 1994–95, 1996–97, 1997–98, 2001–02, 2002–03
Coppa Italia: 1994–95
Supercoppa Italiana: 1995, 1997, 2002, 2003
Champions League: 1995-96
UEFA Cup: 1994-95
UEFA Supercup: 1996
Intercontinental Cup: 1996
Chinese Super League: 2012, 2013, 2014
Chinese Cup: 2012
AFC Champions League: 2013

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