7 March 2024

Luciano Spalletti - football manager

National coach has long record of success

Luciano Spalletti reached the pinnacle of his club career by winning Serie A title
Luciano Spalletti reached the pinnacle of
his club career by winning Serie A title
The football manager Luciano Spalletti, who led Napoli to their first Serie A title since the Diego Maradona era before being appointed head coach to Italy’s national team, was born on this day in 1959 in the Tuscan town of Certaldo, just under 50km (31 miles) southwest of Florence.

A late starter as a professional player, at 64 Spalletti became the oldest winning coach in the history of the Italian championship when Napoli won the 2022-23 scudetto.

The achievement turned him into a hero in Naples, where fans celebrated in scenes not witnessed in the southern Italian city since Napoli won two titles in four years with the late Maradona as captain and talisman, the second of which was 33 years earlier in the 1989-90 campaign.

Having hinted before the season finished that he was thinking about taking time out of football, Spalletti confirmed ahead of the final fixture that he would be leaving the club to take a year’s sabbatical.

In the event, his break from the game lasted only three months. Following Roberto Mancini’s resignation, Spalletti was appointed head coach of the Italian national team, officially taking charge on September 1, 2023.

His first major assignment will be to defend Mancini’s European championship title when Italy contest Euro 2024 in Germany, having secured qualification by winning three and drawing two of his first six matches in charge, before switching his attention to qualifying for the 2026 World Cup finals following the failure by the azzurri to qualify for the last two tournaments.

Italy fans will have high hopes that Spalletti can emulate his success in club football, in which he has an outstanding record as a coach following a relatively modest record as a player.

A young Spalletti with his first professional club, Entella
A young Spalletti with his first
professional club, Entella
Brought up in Empoli, about 30km (19 miles) north of Certaldo, Spalletti played at a semi-professional level until his mid-20s, after which he played for a number of clubs in Serie C, the third tier in the Italian pyramid.

He finished his playing career at Empoli in 1993, remaining at the club as a coach and being appointed head coach there a year later.  It was not long before his potential to become a top coach came to the fore as Empoli won back-to-back promotions to return to Serie A for only the second time in their history.

Four years later, after spells with Sampdoria, Venezia and Ancona, Spalletti served notice again that he was capable of making an impact at the highest level by steering unheralded Udinese to fourth place in the 2004-05 season, when their exciting, attacking football enabled them to qualify for the Champions League for the first time.

He was immediately snapped up by Roma, being named Serie A coach of the year in his first season in the capital. While there were no trophies to show for his debut campaign, Spalletti was recognised for bringing order to the club after a chaotic previous year in which they had changed head coach three times, and for changing their style from defensive to attacking as they finished runners-up in the Coppa Italia and qualified for the Champions League.

He retained the Serie A coach’s crown the following year as Roma won the Coppa Italia for the first of two times under Spalletti, reached the last eight of the Champions League and finished runners-up in Serie A, a feat he repeated in the 2007-08 season while also retaining the Coppa Italia and winning the Supercoppa Italia.

More success followed as Spalletti ventured abroad for the first time, his period as head coach at Zenit St Petersburg bringing two Russian Premier League titles, a Russian Cup and a Russian Super Cup.

Back in Italy, Spalletti took charge at Inter-Milan, qualifying for the Champions League in each of his two seasons.

Spalletti won two Russian Premier League championships with Zenit St Petersburg
Spalletti won two Russian Premier League
championships with Zenit St Petersburg
His triumph with Napoli followed two seasons without a job, his achievement at the Stadio San Paolo - by then renamed in honour of Maradona - all the more remarkable for having been achieved with a rebuilt team following the departure of several experienced players in the summer of 2022.

The 2022-23 season saw Spalletti's free-scoring side equal the Maradona team’s record of 11 consecutive wins and reach January before suffering their first league defeat, quickly bouncing back with a 5-1 win against arch rivals Juventus in Naples, the heaviest defeat anyone had inflicted on the Turin side since in 30 years.  

Spalletti’s team were 12 points clear of the field by the end of January and clinched the title with five matches to spare. He was honoured with the Serie A coach of the year award for the third time.

Despite his high profile as a coach, Spalletti has managed to keep his personal life private. Married since 1989 to Tamara, with whom he has three children, he spends his time away from football at La Rimessa, a country estate in the Tuscan hills just a few kilometres away from Certaldo, which he acquired first as a place of solitude but which now provides another source of income.

As well as growing olives for oil and grapes for Sangiovese wine, Spalletti offers upmarket accommodation on the beautifully landscaped 50-acre estate near the village of Montaione in the shape of five luxury rustic villas and apartments created from converted farm buildings.

Boccaccio's birthplace (with the tower) in Certaldo Alto
Boccaccio's birthplace (with the
tower) in Certaldo Alto
Travel tip:

Certaldo, where Luciano Spalletti was born, is a charming town of around 16,000 residents in the Valdesa region of Tuscany, easily reached from Florence by road or rail, it being a stop on the line linking the Tuscan capital with Siena. With a history going back to the Etruscan era, Certaldo began to thrive during the Middle Ages and is well known as the birthplace of Giovanni Boccaccio, the Renaissance writer and poet whose collection of short stories under the title of The Decameron had a profound influence on the development of Italian literature. Boccaccio’s house near the town’s walls in the mediaeval Certaldo Alto - the upper town - is open to the public as a museum and also offers breathtaking views over the surrounding countryside from its tower. The Palazzo Pretorio, or Vicariale, is the restored former residence of the Florentine governors. It has a picturesque facade adorned with ceramic coats of arms and is decorated with frescoes originating between the 13th and 16th centuries. It is also home to a collection of Roman and Etruscan artefacts discovered in the area. 

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One of the converted farmbuildings on Spalletti's country estate outside the village of Montaione
One of the converted farmbuildings on Spalletti's
country estate outside the village of Montaione
Travel tip:

Montaione is a quaint village located about 17km (11 miles) west of Certaldo, a short distance from the Sacro Monte di San Vivaldo, a sanctuary made up of 18 chapels, each representing a site in the Holy Land, which is sometimes known as Tuscany’s Jerusalem. The monastery has works attributed to Giovanni della Robbia, Benedetto Buglioni, Raffaellino del Garbo and Andrea Sansovino. Set on a green hill surrounded by beautiful vineyards, olive trees and woods in a typical Tuscan landscape, Montaione itself boasts much mediaeval charm and has become a popular tourist destination, particularly for well-heeled visitors following a substantial investment by a leisure company in the area, who have opened two upmarket hotels and a 27-hole golf course. Historically, Montaione is also famous for its glass-making, particularly in the production of bottles, flasks and cruets, going back to the 13th century.  The town has a civic museum located within the Palazzo Pretorio and there are the remains of several castles in the vicinity.

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More reading:

Ottavio Bianchi, the northerner who coached Maradona’s Napoli

The film producer and entrepreneur behind Napoli’s revival

The day Maradona signed for Napoli 

Also on this day:

1274: The death of Saint Thomas Aquinas 

1481: The birth of architect and painter Baldassare Peruzzi

1678: The birth of architect Filippo Juvara

1785: The birth of novelist Alessandro Manzoni

(Picture credits: Spalletti at Zenit St Petersburg by Vladimir Mayorov; Boccaccio's house by Davide Papalini; via Wikimedia Commons)

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