The pain of watching the World Cup draw on Friday and not seeing Italy’s name was one thing. Having that disappointment compounded by the Azzurri faithful’s favorite candidate to be Italy manager just deepens the purgatory we find ourselves in, writes Frank Crivello.
Carlo Ancelotti wants to remain in club football, but says the national team is an objective for him one day. His wishes deserve to be respected — while currently unemployed, he remains one of world football’s greatest managers of the last quarter-century.
Some club out there will be happy to acquire his services considering his seemingly endless amount of accomplishments.
So where does that leave the Azzurri? As I opined in a previous piece on the next great Italian managers, there is clearly no shortage of options. An embarrassment of riches does have a downside, as picking the wrong man could set Italy further back as a footballing nation.
On top of that, he must be able to successfully integrate the wave of young players that are on the verge of breaking through.
So who could be up to the task? Let’s weigh up the pros and cons of a few names, merely ordered alphabetically:
- The Case For: Proven winner in Italy. Has steered Juventus to two Champions League finals in three seasons. Has been effective between playing four-man and three-man defenses. Allegri has shown the ability to adapt tactically too; his Juve teams have shown superiority in possession and chance creation, but can also be organized defensively. Allegri may get to a point with Juventus where he has taken them as far as he can, and may be ready to take on a new challenge.
- The Case Against: At this stage in his career, you’d really have to nitpick. A 3-1 loss to Barcelona and a 4-1 loss to Real Madrid in the aforementioned Champions League finals are signals that, just maybe, he can’t win the big one. Also, like Ancelotti, Allegri might feel his home is in club football. Some managers may not like having limited access to their players, which is the case with national team coaches.
Who do you think should be the next Italy manager, assuming Ventura steps down…
— TheFootballRepublic (@TheFootballRep) 15 November 2017
- The Case For: Made mention of this in my previous piece that included him — Carrera just knows how to win. The unbeaten run at Juventus while caretaker manager and a Russian Premier League title with Spartak Moscow prove this. Going into Matchday 6 of this season’s Champions League, Spartak had a shot at qualifying for the knockouts at the expense of either Liverpool or Sevilla. Was on a run where a defeat at Sevilla was the only loss in a 19 match stretch in all competitions. His 4-2-3-1 that he favors would work, especially with the stable of full backs that Italy have. It would also offer a system where a player like Lorenzo Insigne would thrive.
- The Case Against: For all the success, Carrera is not the splashy name that Italy fans would want. The Russian Premier League is an underrated one in terms of its quality, but it’s not perceived as a major European league when you consider the ‘big five’. Further, the pressure is not on as much when you’re the caretaker manager. When you weigh it all up, has Carrera really been anywhere where he’s had to be the favorite, or where every move of his is scrutinized?
- The Case For: He’s done it already, and Conte got Italy to the Euro 2016 quarterfinals with a roster far less talented than the one he would inherit. If he’s really tired of things at Chelsea and wants to leave at the end of the season, the FIGC would be smart to wait and see if he has any interest.
- The Case Against: A big reason why Chelsea have been so successful under Conte’s watch is N’Golo Kante. He’s a French International. Italy really have no one like him in their set up. True, they have some capable midfielders, but none that cover the ground that Kante does. Further, you can’t underestimate how good the BBC and Gianluigi Buffon were at those Euros. Can Conte get that out of the new players coming up?
Italian Football Federation president Tavecchio: "Allegri and Mancini? You're getting warmer. Conte? Fire."
Italy confirm they want Chelsea boss Conte to return as manager.
— Matt Lewis (@mattlewis27) 19 November 2017
EUSEBIO DI FRANCESCO
- The Case For: He is proving at Roma that he has an incredible effect on the players under his watch. Stephan El Shaarawy and Aleksander Kolarov in particular are rejuvenated with Di Francesco in charge. His 4-3-3 system would strike the right balance, and would make the best use of the current Italy players’ qualities. Outlasting Chelsea and Atletico Madrid in the Champions League group stage shows he’s got the big-game potential. Want more proof of his effect? Look at how downright awful Sassuolo have become since Di Francesco left them.
- The Case Against: He just arrived at Roma and it’s going to take an extraordinary effort for the FIGC to pry him away, should they intend on trying to make Di Francesco the next Italy boss. Because he’s just getting started with the Giallorossi, it will be a long time before Di Francesco even considers the Azzurri.
- The Case For: He’s done it before. And since that stint, which ended at Euro 2008, he has taken Parma to 6th in Serie A before they went into financial ruin. Donadoni currently has Bologna in 9th in Serie A, playing with a peskiness that we’re used to seeing from Italy teams. He also seems to be maximizing the talent of Simone Verdi among other young talents. He favors a 4-3-3 system, which would work with the current player pool.
- The Case Against: He’s done it before, and the Azzurri faithful weren’t particularly impressed. Donadoni might have inherited the Italy job at a time where he didn’t have the necessary experience. I’m sure if the FIGC called, he would listen, but he might also like the security he seems to have with the Rossoblu.
- The Case For: Maximizing the talents of the players he has at Sampdoria? Integrating younger players and putting them in position to shine? Check. Giampaolo has a system at Sampdoria where he experienced some turnover in the summer, plugged in new players, and kept on winning.
- The Case Against: That system is a 4-3-1-2 with a t Someone in the Italy camp would have to be pulled out of their comfort zone to fit that role. Insigne? Verratti? Someone else? It’s also not known if Giampaolo will adapt tactically to the players. We already went through this problem with Giampiero Ventura.
- The Case For: Another manager who is making the most with the resources he has to work with. Lazio moved on from a couple key players in the summer, and Inzaghi has just plugged the gaps with emerging talents like Sergei Milinkovic-Savic and Luis Alberto, among others. He’s gotten Ciro Immobile to play beyond what any of us thought he could do, and that’s good since Immobile should be Italy’s main striker for the next 2-4 years. Favors a 3-5-2 system, but one that could work with an Insigne-Immobile pairing up front (next Italy manager, if you are going to play a front two, then this is your two; don’t do what Ventura did).
- The Case Against: As I mentioned about Inzaghi previously, he is a Lazio lifer, and the way things are going, he has that gig for as long as he wants it. Similar to Di Francesco at Roma, it would take a lot of persuading. Also, is he experienced enough for a project like Italy?
- The Case For: If you can do that at a place like Leicester City, you deserve a mention on this list. What’s crazy is that he’s flying under the radar in Ligue 1 with an impressive season as manager of Nantes. Underappreciated, but always seems to win.
- The Case Against: The tactics are an awful fit for the current player pool. Ranieri would have to adapt a lot. Everyone will remember his Leicester 4-4-2, but his Nantes side are more 4-2-3-1. Regardless, Ranieri’s teams have long ball style among their characteristics, and the current Italy player pool is not set up for that.
- The Case For: Do I need to make a case? Have you seen how Napoli play? Sarri would be an ideal candidate as his system would showcase two players who are thriving at his club: Jorginho and Insigne. And let’s face it, the defenders in the Italy camp will be a step up from what he has with the Partenopei (save for Kalidou Koulibaly), and the goalkeeping is better, too. Azzurri fans should demand this.
- The Case Against: The first one is, would he want the Italy job? Sarri is a Napoli man, and he might be at his dream job. Second, for all the attractive attacking football, what have Napoli won? It’s being fussy, but even with this start to the season, Sarri’s Napoli have been all style and no substance (yet).
- The Case For: Spalletti’s teams are routinely at the top of the Serie A t He employs a 4-3-3 that, like the others who do so on this list, would be a great fit for the current crop of talent. A striker like Immobile would flourish under Spalletti’s system, as would Insigne. He’s taken Inter and molded them into a Scudetto contender, going unbeaten in their first 15 league games.
- The Case Against: Tick, tick, tick. Spalletti’s Roma teams always self-destructed when things tightened up and the pressure was on. I’ve said multiple times, while Inter’s start to this season is nice, I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Maybe it won’t, but history with Spalletti (and Inter) suggests it will. Tactically and in style, Spalletti would make a great Italy manager, but it’s the psychological side of his teams in big moments that have me worried.