The Next Italian Coach

Luigi Di Biagio in charge of the Azzurri, for now

After the Giampiero Ventura era which ended with the disaster of not qualifying for World Cup 2018 and the federation’s failure to elect a new president theĀ  transitional phase for Italian football and the national team remains deep in uncertainty. For the time being Luigi Di Biagio, the former and current U21 coach, has been put in caretaker charge of the Azzurri for the up coming friendlies (against Argentina on March 23, England on March 27 and France on June 1) in the spring.
Di Biagio, the former Roma and Inter Milan midfielder, has had a relative poor record as U21 and U20 coach. Such as it is Di Biagio will is a candidate to get the job full time, his case will be helped by good friendly results but even without that the choices are not all that plentiful. Several players retired after the qualifying failure and there is room for new blood. The conditions have changed but it is debatable if the attitude has.
Antonio Conte, Carlo Ancelotti, Roberto Mancini and Claudio Ranieri are the big known names that come to most minds automatically.
Conte is unlikely to accept a return to a national team job. Chelsea are not at their best as of right now but even if he does quit the London team he has options such as a rumoured PSG link.
Ancelotti might seem a natural choice as he is out of a job since being sacked by Bayern Munich. He has a long club coaching career behind him but it is somewhat doubtful that a return to club football is not in the cards.
Roberto Mancini is doing well at Zenit and may be unwilling to leave a lucrative job in Russia for a rebuilding team.
Ranieri rebuilt his reputation at Leicester in England but had been a failure at national team level with Greece just before achieving that miracle in England.
The other names that are obvious in name and reputation are Juventus’ Massimiliano Allegri and Napoli’s Maurizio Sarri. It is also doubtful they could be convinced to let go of a club coaching job. Sampdoria’s Marco Giampaolo is an upcoming coach who has done well with his team, currently sixth in the Serie A. Could he be one option? A surprise name perhaps but who? The answer will probably only arrive in the summer.

The Italian Mess: Italian Football’s Decline

Roberto Baggio was unable to kick start a change in Italian football

The Italian league and the administrators running the league and the teams have been accused of plenty and the teams don’t have the best reputation when it comes to promoting youth, there are exceptions but notables ones like Marco Verratti end up in France to get regular game time.

What some have recognized the Italians need is a more structured youth system. In some other countries like Spain, Portugal and Germany B or II teams of top level teams play in the second or lower divisions. It is also important that the teams realize and agree collectively that youth promotion and emphasis on it can also be cheaper and better. Much like it happened in Germany where Bundesliga teams, in partnership with the federation, took action after German national team’s failures in the late 1990s and early 2000s. As an almost direct result German football rose again and has been consistently successful in the last decade or so.

Attempts have been made in Italy to improve this and to set up such structures. The national team, the Azzurri, have done relatively well at times under good coaching and the talent that is nevertheless plentiful. Winning the World Cup in 2006 and reaching the final of Euro 2012 to name two such successes in the not too distant past. However the negatives and shortcomings have never been eliminated.

Back in 2010 Roberto Baggio, the famous and legendary Italian player, was given the task of reforms within the FIGC (The Italian federation), in particular youth development. He quit less than three years later unable to enact much, the Italian system resisting major changes. Not long after that Carlo Tavecchio was elected to be the president of the federation. Promises were made, crucially of reducing the size of the Serie A to 18 teams from 20. However Tavecchio was also of the old ways and was racist as well, using banana eating to describe some players and later conversations of him regarding gays and jews were leaked as well. His choice to appoint Giampiero Ventura to follow Antonio Conte in 2016 was seen as a mistake and so it proved to be. After the failure to reach the World Cup for the first time in 60 years they both resigned or were forced out.

The elections to replace Tavecchio have now failed to produce a result. After four ballots no one was able to gain the necessary number of votes (50%+ required for the fourth ballot) and the recognized change candidate, former Roma player Damiano Tommasi, fell after the first ballot. Sooner or later someone new will be in charge and the next federation president will have the opportunity to make changes. A proper youth strategy and set up and boldly pushing in a reduction in Serie A’s size to 18 teams to allow for more training and recuperation time plus a less congested fixture list are at least two steps forward. He would also have the important decision of choosing the next national team coach. That coach would hopefully have more ready players at his disposal and uses them well.