What a player he was. Many consider Filippo Inzaghi to be one of the greatest goalscorers not only in Italy, but all over the world and it is easy to see why. The former Juventus and Milan striker banged more than 300 goals during his career, won a World Cup, two Champions League trophies, as many UEFA Super Cups, a FIFA Club World Cup, three Scudetti and a Coppa Italia.
Considering all of his success as a player, it is easy to see why Inzaghi is still struggling to get out of his own shadow and start being recognised as a Coach, rather than the goalscoring machine he was back in the day.
It’s true that Inzaghi hasn’t won nearly enough as a Coach in order for people to compare his achievements on the bench with what he won as a player, but comparing the two would be unfair, simply because Super Pippo’s playing career was truly exceptional. It is highly unlikely that the 45-year-old will ever match his achievements as a player, but that does not mean he is a bad Coach.
Actually, it can be said that Inzaghi had a quite unlucky start to his coaching career, as after showing enough promise at the helm of the Milan Primavera, Super Pippo was appointed as Coach of the first team in arguably one of the worst periods in the club’s history.
Inzaghi was appointed in June 2014 after another former player and club legend Clarence Seedorf was sacked shortly after failing to qualify for European competition, despite spending just four months at the helm of the club. The Dutchman inherited the team from Massimiliano Allegri, who was already feeling the pressure of the unrealistic expectations set by the management.
Inzaghi failed to get the best of a squad full of ageing players and youngsters who lacked the quality and the character to maintain the levels of the past.
Unfortunately for him, this put a big stain at the very beginning of his career, as Supper Pippo was deemed by many as unfit to handle a big club.
However, Super Pippo’s second job proved to be a hugely successful one, as he became a champion of Lega Pro and earned a promotion to Serie B with Venezia. Inzaghi also won the Coppa Italia Lega Pro in the same year, despite the presence of Parma.
He showed significant growth in his abilities during his Venezia spell, as this time, although at a significantly lower level, he did what he failed to do at Milan - find balance between experience and youth, as he managed to build a very cohesive unit, based on the young talents of Leo Stulac and Emil Audero and the know-how of the seasoned heads of Nicholas Frey and Cristiano Del Grosso.
The following year also saw Super Pippo progressing as a Coach, as Venezia finished fifth in Serie B, which earned them a place in the play-offs. In the play-offs Inzaghi’s team eliminated his former teammate and life-long friend Alessandro Nesta, who was just appointed as Coach of Perugia, before suffering a defeat against Palermo in the semi-finals.
Inzaghi’s heroics at Venezia deservedly earned him a chance of redemption in Italy’s top flight, as Bologna chairman Joey Saputo appointed him shortly after sacking another Milan legend, Roberto Donadoni, before the start of the current campaign. The reasoning behind Donadoni’s dismissal was the lack of progress, as the ex-Italy midfielder finished 15th for two consecutive seasons, but whether or not the Rossoblu had the quality to top that remains controversial.
It is good to see that club’s management has so far backed up Inzaghi, as Bologna are currently 18th and have won just two of their 14 Serie A games. The Rossoblu are yet to win an away fixture and it would be easy to blame Inzaghi for their unconvincing displays so far, but considering that Simone Verdi, Antonio Mirante, Adam Masina and Federico Di Francesco all left during the summer, avoiding relegation was always going to be Bologna’s main goal this term.
This would be hard to achieve, as the club didn’t find a proper replacement for Verdi, who was by far their most influential and creative player in the last few seasons. Finding an alternative source of Verdi’s quality and creativity is the biggest challenge, Inzaghi has faced so far, as the 10 goals and as many assists that the winger achieved meant that he contributed directly in half of Bologna’s goals last season.
In order to make up for Verdi’s loss, Inzaghi has tried to adapt his team’s playing style in order to get the best out of the exceptional athleticism and aerial ability of summer signing Federico Santander. The Paraguayan has been excellent for up-front, but Rodrigo Palacio’s fitness woes, as well as the poor form of another summer signing Diego Falcinelli, have limited the service he’s been given.
Despite all those issues, Inzaghi has shown bravery by constantly fielding a long list of young players, as Riccardo Orsolini, Mattias Svanberg, Arturo Calabresi, Federico Mattiello and Ibrahima M’baye have all featured regularly since the start of the season.
However, despite the glimpses of promise that Bologna have shown so far, Inzaghi needs to start getting more consistent results, if he wants to keep his place at Stadio Renato Dall’Ara until the end of the season. If he manages to do that, he’ll get one step closer of being appreciated for his managerial ability rather than his past as a player.