Roberto Mancini, or Mancio as he’s affectionately known by those around him, is undoubtedly one of the more colorful characters in the beautiful game.
Fresh from his first Serie A victory since returning to Internazionale, Mancini had surprised many when he accepted to return to an ailing Nerazzuri side. His start during his second spell at the helm of the Milan-based club was far from ideal as he endured a winless first month in Serie A before the 2-0 victory against Chievo on Monday.
Nonetheless, the over-riding feeling in the Inter camp is that if Mancini can’t bring back the glory days back, then no one will. Well, maybe no one except Jose Mourinho whose own return to a former club is going pretty darn well.
A creative forward who was most at home playing in the trequartista position, Mancini boasts a truly enviable CV, both as a player and as a manager.
Despite being just 50 years of age he has managed in three different countries winning trophies with every club he’s coached. His trophy cabinet is impressive: 26 titles won as a player and manager, including six league titles.
His coaching career started alongside another distinctive personality, Sven-Goran Eriksson, who appointed Mancini as his number two whilst the Italian was in the latter stages of his playing career with Lazio. A short playing stint with Leicester City followed which, even if unsuccessful on the pitch, helped instil a love for the English game in Mancio.
After watching him wrapped in a scarf in charge of mega-rich Manchester City, it’s difficult to imagine Mancini managing a club on the brink of financial disaster. However, that was exactly the case during his first managerial job when the feisty Italian was offered the Fiorentina job. Back in 2001, the Viola were in financial ruin with relegation to the lower tiers of Italian football following just a year later. Nevertheless, it was in such circumstances that Mancini led the Firenze club to Coppa Italia glory – the only title of note that Fiorentina have added to their trophy cabinet during the last 18 years.
Such an impressive feat saw Mancini’s former club Lazio come calling with the Marche-born manager once more leading the club to Coppa Italia glory. All this whilst leading another club on the brink of financial disaster.
A call from one of the big boys in Serie A was inevitable with Massimo Moratti tying him up with Inter during the summer of 2004. A first Serie A title in 16 years soon followed, admittedly via a big helping hand from the Calciopoli scandal.
This led to a period of dominance for Inter which reached the pinnacle during Mourinho’s stint.
With Manchester City, Mancini again helped halt another trophy drought, with the Sky Blues winning their first Premier League title in 44 years, again admittedly with another great big fat helping hand – Sheikh Mansour’s millions. Nevertheless, one should never underestimate the dressing room full of incredible egos Manchester City had during the Italian’s stint.
His fiery character unsurprisingly ended up clashing with a number of characters, most notably Carlos Tevez and Samir Nasri, but Mancini still ended up leading his side to a league title that seemed unlikely even for the more optimistic Manchester City supporters during the final weeks and final minutes of the campaign.
It’s such miracles that Inter fans are hoping to see after a frustrating few years in the shadow of the all-conquering Juventus. Their next match against Mancini’s former employers Lazio next Sunday provides the Nerazzuri with the chance of achieving back-to-back victories for the first time since the end of October.
The talent at his disposal is a far cry from the Inter side that won back-to-back titles form 2006 till 2010. Still, in Matteo Kovacic, the Nerazzurihave a real talent in their hands. Just 20 years of age, the Croatian midfielder has netted three Serie A goals this campaign whilst enjoying an 86% pass completion rate with 2.1 key passes per game. As a comparison, the more cautious Gary Medel is successful in 91% of his passes but only manages 0.7 key passes per game.
Mancini’s decision to play Kovacic behind the strikers in a trequartista role against Chievo paid dividends with the young star being central to most of Inter’s forward ventures.
It may still be early to talk of glory days returning back to the black-and-blue half of Milan, but in Mancini the Inter supporters have a coach they finally trust.
The former Sampdoria and Lazio forward has foreseen his fair share of football miracles in the past. With Inter languishing in mid-table, leading them back to the Champions League after a two-year absence will be akin to a miracle.
Like most Inter supporters, I feel that if Mancini can’t perform the miracle, then no one will. Well, no one apart from a certain Portuguese living in London.
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