15 January 2017

Gigi Radice - football coach

Former Milan player steered Torino to only title in 68 years

Gigi Radici, whose coaching methods were inspired  by the 'total football' of Dutch coach Rinus Michels
Gigi Radici, whose coaching methods were inspired
 by the 'total football' of Dutch coach Rinus Michels
Luigi 'Gigi' Radice, the only coach to have won the Italian football championship with Torino in the 68 years that have elapsed since the Superga plane crash wiped out the greatest of all Torino teams, was born on this day in 1935 in Cesano Maderno, near Monza, some 24km (15 miles) north of Milan.

An attacking full-back with AC Milan, where he won the Scudetto three times and was a member of the team that won the 1962-63 European Cup, Radice made five appearances for Italy, including two at the 1962 World Cup finals in Chile.

He switched to coaching in 1965 after a serious knee injury ended his playing career prematurely and achieved immediate success with his local club, Monza, whom he guided to promotion as champions in Serie C.

After leading Cesena to promotion to Serie A for the first time in the Emilia-Romagna club's history in 1972-73 Radice had spells with Fiorentina and Cagliari before Torino owner Orfeo Pianelli hired him in 1975.

Stadio Comunale, now the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino,  has been the home of the club for much of the club's history
Stadio Comunale, now the Stadio Olimpico Grande Torino,
 has been the home of Torino for much of the club's history
Torino had finished third in 1971-72 and in the top six in each of the following three seasons but were not close to breaking the dominance of city rivals Juventus, whose 1974-75 Serie A title was their third in four seasons and 16th overall.

Yet Radice transformed Torino's fortunes instantly, toppling the bianconeri at the first attempt as I granata - the Maroons - finished two points ahead of Juventus to win their seventh Scudetto and the first since the Grande Torino team of the 1940s.

Crucially, Torino beat Juventus in both of the season's derby matches, each played at the shared Stadio Comunale.  Radice's team won 2-0 as the 'home' side in December and by the same scoreline in the return fixture in March, the two games watched by a total of almost 120,000 spectators.

Radice had a reputation for taking a tough, no-nonsense approach with his players that earned him the nickname 'the Iron Sergeant' and sometimes 'the German.'  On the field, his Torino teamed played at a high tempo, pressing their opponents all over the pitch as Radice tried to implement the so-called 'total football' created by the Dutch coach Rinus Michels, of whom he was a great admirer.

Paolino Pucci with the trophy he won as Serie A's top scorer in 1975-76
Paolino Pucci with the trophy he won as
Serie A's top scorer in 1975-76
It was an antidote to the rather sterile, defensive tactics favoured by some Italian coaches and earned Radice the Seminatore d'Oro award as Serie A's best coach for 1975-76. His two strikers, Paolino Pulici and Francesco Graziani, thrived in his system, scoring 36 goals between them in the title-winning season.

For Pucci, who spent 15 seasons with the club, ending his career as Torino's all-time record goalscorer with 172 goals, it was the best season of his career, bringing him 21 Serie A goals.

Juventus reasserted their superiority in the city by winning back their crown the following season, with Radice's Torino runners-up.

Radice achieved two more top-three finishes before leaving the club in 1980, a year after he had suffered serious injuries in a road accident.  He returned for a second spell in charge in 1984, again achieving success at the first attempt when Torino were runners-up to Verona in 1984-85.

He moved on again after Torino were relegated in 1989 and his coaching career never again reached the same heights, although his Fiorentina's team were second at the half-way stage in the 1992-93 season before a row with the club's chairman, Vittorio Cecchi Gori, cost him his job.

He retired at the age of 63, having returned to his first club, Monza, where he ended on a high note by winning promotion to Serie B.  Now 82, he still lives in Monza. His son, Ruggero, one of three children, followed him into football and was a member of the Siena team that won an historic promotion to Serie A in 2003. He now coaches in the youth section at the Tuscan club.

The black and white marble facade of the Duomo in Monza
The black and white marble facade of the Duomo in Monza
Travel tip:

Cesana Maderno is a town of around 35,000 inhabitants situated about 15km from Monza, the Lombardy city best known for its motor racing circuit, which has been the home of the Italian Formula One Grand Prix every year bar one since 1950.  The city has other attractions, including a 14th century Duomo, built in Romanesque-Gothic style with a black and white marble facade, and the church of Santa Maria in Strada, also built in the 14th century, which has a facade in terracotta. The Royal Villa, on the banks of the Lambro river, dates back to the 18th century, when Monza was part of the Austrian Empire.

Travel tip:

Although the home of Italy's former royal family and the first capital of the modern Italy, its architectural style gives Turin a different look from most Italian cities.  Dominated by Baroque palaces and churches built when Turin was part of the Kingdom of Savoy, it is sometimes called 'the little Paris' on account of the wide boulevards and white buildings that are typical of the French capital, of which the elegant 19th century cafes in the city centre are another echo.

More reading:

Nevio Scala - the coach behind Parma's golden era

Claudio Ranieri - the man who made the Leicester miracle happen

The Torino winger who became the world's most expensive footballer

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