The wait is finally over. It took much longer than anyone would thought, but Italy finally found a new Coach to lead the team into the new era, as Roberto Mancini has been confirmed as the new Azzurri boss more than six months after the elimination by Sweden.
Gian Piero Ventura’s horror show has been extremely painful for all fans of Italian football, but the truth is that missing out on the World Cup actually highlighted issues that might’ve been neglected otherwise. Just a few days ago the Italian football federation made an important step forward by announcing that B-Teams of Serie A clubs will be included in Lega Pro for the 2018-19 season and now they’ve made another one by confirming Mancio as the new Coach of Azzurri.
It is true that the former Inter tactician was not first choice and his appointment would probably raise some eyebrows, but the 53-year-old was a magnificent player, has enough experience in top clubs and there is no doubt that he commands respect. Those are all factors that weren’t there during Ventura’s reign and while it would be wrong to compare Mancini with the ex-Torino boss, the new Italy manager brings much more optimism than Ventura ever did.
Yes - there were probably more popular and likable options like Carlo Ancelotti or Antonio Conte, but after all, if Carletto didn’t want to coach a national team and Conte didn’t want to follow the rules, were there really any better candidates than Mancio?
His trophy cabinet includes two Scudetti, one Premier League title, four Coppa Italia cups, an FA Cup, Community Shield and one Turkish Cup. It is true that Mancini has failed to shine in any international competitions so far, but he was always known for his ability to build a solid foundation in a team as well as for his intolerance towards any unhealthy behaviour in the locker room.
A clear example for the Italian’s hard-ball approach was the substitution of Mario Balotelli in 2011 at Manchester City, when during a summer friendly the striker attempted an arrogant backheel when being one-on-one with the goalkeeper. Mancini understandably went completely berserk and took Super Mario off the field right after the incident.
Ironically, there is a pretty good chance that Mancini will be the man who will revive Balotelli’s career in the Nazionale, as the inability of the likes of Ciro Immobile, Andrea Belotti and Lorenzo Insigne to replicate their club form in an Azzurri jersey has opened the door for other players to step in.
Many were blaming Ventura for not starting Insigne in both games against Sweden, and while they had a point, let’s be honest, would his inclusion in the starting XI miraculously turn Italy into a great side?
The truth is that Insigne is not Roberto Baggio, nor is Immobile Pippo Inzaghi, so nobody should be expecting them to bang goals out of nothing. Mancini is smart enough to know that and he should also give a chance to new players as well as older ones like Balotelli or Sebastian Giovinco, who were ignored during Ventura’s reign.
However, putting the attacking woes aside, the biggest riddle that Mancini should solve is the goalkeeper position. Gianluigi Buffon’s expected retirement at the end of the year would have an extremely big impact, not only on Juventus, but on the wholeof Italian football.
Italy’s tradition demands that the national team should be built from the back, so finding the right man between the sticks would be Mancini’s big test. Whether this would be Mattia Perin, Gianluigi Donnarumma or somebodyelse, the manager needs to make sure that the new goalkeeper should be in the right state of mind.
There are many question marks surrounding the defence and the midfield, but regardless of the players that Mancini will choose, there is little doubt that he would be listened to and in control of the situation. There were reports suggesting that Andrea Pirlo might become Mancio’s assistant manager and if that is true, the Maestro’s presence would be a huge morale and motivational boost for the players.
Just like any new project, the shaping of the new Azzurri will take time and considering that Mancini’s teams were never known for their fluidity or attractive football, there will surely be games, that would give plenty of reasons for pessimism. Therefore, the key factors for the revival of Squadra Azzurra will obviously be hard work, but even most importantly patience.
Despite that he has his flaws as a manager and he has failed to win a major international trophy on a club level, Roberto Mancini has what it takes to build solid foundations for the future. After all, at the moment nobody is expecting from Italy to win the World Cup, they just need to qualify for it.