Showing posts with label Andrea Pirlo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Andrea Pirlo. Show all posts

10 June 2018

Carlo Ancelotti - football manager

Four-times winner of the Champions League

Carlo Ancelotti in the Milan colours in which he twice won European football's top prize as both a player and a manager
Carlo Ancelotti in the Milan colours in which he twice won
European football's top prize as both a player and a manager
Carlo Ancelotti, a former top-level player who has become one of football’s most accomplished managers, was born on this day in 1959 in Reggiolo, a small town in Emilia-Romagna.

With Real Madrid's defeat of Liverpool in the 2022 final, he became the only manager to have won the UEFA Champions League four times - twice with AC Milan and twice with Real Madrid. He is also the only coach to have managed teams in five finals.

Ancelotti, who has managed title-winning teams in four countries, is also one of only seven to have won the European Cup or Champions League as a player and gone on to do so as a manager too.

As a boy, Ancelotti often helped his father, Giuseppe, who made and sold cheese for a living, in the fields on the family farm, which is where he claims he acquired his appreciation of hard work.

But despite the cheeses of Emilia-Romagna having international renown, especially the famous Parmigiana-Reggiano, he saw how his father struggled to make enough money to feed his family and vowed to make more of his own life.

Ancelotti is one of the most accomplished coaches in world football
Ancelotti is one of the most accomplished
coaches in world football
His talent for football, allied to that work ethic, enabled him to fulfil that promise.

After playing for his local youth team in Reggiolo, Ancelotti was snapped up as a teenager by Parma, making his debut in Serie C - the third tier in Italian football - in the 1976–77 season, at the age of 18. His two goals in the decisive play-off earned the gialloblu promotion to Serie B the following year.

He joined Roma in 1979, staying in the capital for eight trophy-laden seasons, winning the Coppa Italia four times and his first Serie A title in 1983, under the great Swedish coach Nils Liedholm.

Then came six seasons with Arrigo Sacchi’s magnificent AC Milan team, which won the Scudetto - the Serie A title - in 1988, and the European Cup in both 1989 and 1990. He won his third Scudetto when Fabio Capello replaced Sacchi as manager.

An efficient and assiduous midfield player, he could create goals and score them, which earned him a place in the Italian national team, although injuries restricted him to 26 senior caps and caused him to miss the 1982 and 1986 World Cups as well as the Olympics in Seoul in 1988.  He did win a bronze medal as part of the Azzurri squad at the 1990 World Cup on home soil.

As a mentor to several future top-class players, including Giuseppe Giannini, Demetrio Albertini and Andrea Pirlo, Ancelotti displayed burgeoning man-management skills even while still a player.

Ancelotti with the Champions League trophy after winning it for the third time with Real Madrid in 2014
Ancelotti with the Champions League trophy after winning
it for the third time with Real Madrid in 2014
Persistent knee injuries forced him to quit at the age of 33. He moved immediately into coaching with the Italian Football Federation at the national training headquarters at Coverciano, near Florence, where he rose to be assistant to his former Milan manager Arrigo Sacchi on the Azzurri coaching staff as Italy reached the final of the 1994 World Cup.

Ancelotti stepped on to the club management ladder in familiar territory with Reggiana in Serie B in 1995. He had to wait seven years for his first major trophy, but claimed the biggest prize first as AC Milan, his fourth club after Reggiana, Parma and Juventus, won the 2002-03 Champions League final, defeating Juventus in the final on penalties.

Now major trophies came thick and fast: a Serie A title with Milan in 2004 and a second Champions League in 2007, when victory over Liverpool in the final in Athens made up for the catastrophe of losing the 2005 final to the same opponents in Istanbul after being 3-0 up at half-time.

The Stadio San Paolo in Naples, where Ancelotti takes up his next management position in July
The Stadio San Paolo in Naples, where Ancelotti takes
up his next management position in July
Moving to England, he led Chelsea to a Premier League-FA Cup double in 2009-10, won the French Ligue 1 title with Paris St Germain in 2013, followed by a third Champions League with Spanish giants Real Madrid in 2014.

After taking some time off for a back operation, Ancelotti resurfaced at Bayern Munich, where he succeeded Pep Guardiola and led the German giants to their fifth consecutive Bundesliga title. But lack of success in the Champions League led to his dismissal in September 2017.

He later had spells with Napoli back in Italy and Everton in England, before returning to Real Madrid in 2021.

Having been with his first wife, Luisa, for 25 years before they divorced in 2008, Ancelotti is now married to the Canadian businesswoman Barrena McClay, whom he met while they were both working in London. He has two children, Katia and Davide, from his first marriage. Davide was on his father’s coaching staff at Bayern Munich.

(Updated on 09-06-22)

The Rocca di Reggiolo in Ancelotti's home town
The Rocca di Reggiolo in Ancelotti's home town
Travel tip:

Ancelotti’s home town of Reggiolo is close to the border of Emilia-Romagna and Veneto, about 32km (20 miles) north of Reggio Emilia in the Padana plain. It is the same distance from Mantua in the Veneto and was the frequent target of attacks between the 12th and 14th centuries, when Mantua and Reggio disputed possession. This led to the construction of the impressive walled castle that remains the town’s main feature.

Piazza San Prospero in Reggio Emilia often hosts a market
Piazza San Prospero in Reggio Emilia often hosts a market
Travel tip:

Although the city of Reggio Emilia is often described as the home of Italy's world famous hard cheese, Parmigiano-Reggiano - known in English as Parmesan - is thought to have originated in the commune of Bibbiano, in the Reggio Emilia province, about 15km (9 miles) to the southeast.  The province is also believed to have given Italy its tricolore national flag, with evidence that a short-lived 18th century republic, the Repubblica Cispadana, had a flag of red, white and green.  The city lacks the cultural wealth of neighbouring Parma and is consequently less visited but it has an attractive historic centre with a number of notable buildings, including the Basilica della Ghiara and the 10th century Basilica di San Prospero, which overlooks the elegant Piazza of the same name.

More reading:

How Arrigo Sacchi started a tactical and technical revolution in Italian football

The genius of Andrea Pirlo

Coaching veteran Fabio Capello has won Serie A five times

Also on this day:

1918: The death of writer and composer Arrigo Boito

1940: Italy enters the Second World War


26 May 2018

Luca Toni - World Cup winner

Striker one of stars of 2006 triumph in Germany

Luca Toni with the World Cup in 2006. The hand gesture is the one he habitually made after scoring a goal
Luca Toni with the World Cup in 2006. The hand gesture
is the one he habitually made after scoring a goal
The footballer Luca Toni, who played an important role in Italy’s achievement in winning the soccer World Cup in Germany in 2006, was born on this day in 1977 in the small town of Pavullo nel Frignano in Emilia-Romagna.

Toni scored twice in Italy’s 3-0 victory over Ukraine in the quarter-finals before starting as the Azzurri’s main striker in both the semi-final triumph over the hosts and the final against France, in which they eventually prevailed on penalties. Toni hit the bar with one header and saw another disallowed for offside in the final.

The goals were among 16 he scored in 47 appearances for the national team but it was his remarkable club career that makes him stand out in the history of Italian football.

A muscular 6ft 4ins in height and hardly the most mobile of forwards, he was never seen as a great player, more an old-fashioned centre forward of the kind rarely seen in today’s game.

Yet between his debut for his local club, Modena, in 1994 and his retirement in 2016 following his final season with Hellas Verona, Toni found the net 322 times in club football, which makes him the fourth most prolific goalscorer among all Italian players. Most times, he celebrated by shaking his hand near his right ear, which he once explained began as meaning 'listen up - I just scored a goal!'

Toni in the colours of Fiorentina, for whom he scored 31 goals in the 2005-06 season
Toni in the colours of Fiorentina, for whom
he scored 31 goals in the 2005-06 season 
He scored more career goals indeed than Roberto Baggio, Francesco Totti and Gianluca Vialli, all of whom would probably figure in most fans’ idea of an Italian ‘hall of fame’. More too than the prolific Juventus and AC Milan star Filippo Inzaghi.

Of his contemporaries, only Alessandro del Piero (346) scored more, while historically he doffs his cap only to Silvio Piola (364) and the Internazionale legend Giuseppe Meazza (338).

In a nomadic career that saw him wear the colours of 13 different Italian clubs - plus one in Germany and one in Dubai - Toni was twice the capocannoniere - top scorer - in Serie A, hitting 31 goals for Fiorentina in 2005-06, which was the biggest individual tally in Italy’s top division for 47 years, and then sharing the honour with Inter’s Mauro Icardi some nine years later, in the 2014-15 season, when he scored 22 for Hellas Verona.

Toni did not make his Serie A debut until he was 23, by which time he had already played for five clubs in six seasons in the lower divisions.  He made his first start in the top flight for Vicenza and subsequently played alongside Baggio and Pep Guardiola at Brescia.

It was with Palermo in Serie B that Toni made his first real impact as a goalscorer. He scored 30 times as the Sicilian club won promotion in 2004 to end an absence of more than 30 years from Serie A and a further 20 the following season as the Rosanero qualified for the UEFA Cup for the first time in their history.

Toni was the No 9 for the Azzurri in the 2006 World Cup final
Toni was the No 9 for the Azzurri
in the 2006 World Cup final
Those goals brought his first call-up for the Azzurri and a big-money move to Fiorentina, where his goals in 2005-06 propelled Fiorentina to fourth place and qualification for the Champions League, although the place was rescinded after Fiorentina were caught up in the calciopoli match-fixing scandal.

Toni showed great loyalty to the fallen club, offering to stay with them even after they were ordered to start the following season in Serie B, a sentence commuted on appeal to a 15-points deduction in Serie A.  When he left at the end of the 2007 season it was only because an approach from Bayern Munich in Germany allowed him to keep his pledge of not joining a rival Italian club.

His first season in the Bundesliga was a huge success, his 24 goals helping Bayern win the title. He also scored both goals as Bayern beat Borussia Dortmund 2-1 to add the German Cup and complete the double. Despite an ankle injury keeping him out for a long spell, he still managed 14 goals in his second season.

After falling out with manager Louis Van Gaal midway through the 2009-10 season, Toni was on the move again, spending brief spells with Roma, Genoa, Juventus, Al Nasr in Dubai and Fiorentina again. It looked like his career was drawing to a close but then newly-promoted Verona took a gamble by offering him a one-year contract to play on beyond his 37th birthday.

It paid off handsomely as Toni enjoyed a renaissance, rediscovering his old deadliness in the penalty area to score 20 goals in the 2013-14 season and 22 in the 2014-15 campaign, by the end of which he was 38, when his 22 goals made him the oldest capocannoniere in the history of Serie A.

Toni (left) and his teammate Miroslav Klose  in the Bayern Munich team in 2007-08
Toni (left) and his teammate Miroslav Klose
in the Bayern Munich team in 2007-08
His retirement at the end of the 2015-16 season came with a fairytale ending in a 2-1 home win over already-crowned Serie A champions Juventus, in which he scored Verona’s first goal with a penalty taken in the so-called Panenka style, chipped delicately into the centre of the goal after the goalkeeper commits himself to diving left or right.

After retirement, Toni took courses with a view to remaining at Verona as director of football but left in 2017 and has more recently worked as a pundit.

Married to the model Maria Cecchetto, with whom he has two children, he was back on a football pitch earlier this month in a star-studded testimonial for the great Azzurri midfielder Andrea Pirlo, getting on the scoresheet as usual as the match ended 7-7.

The Castle of Montecuccolo at Pavullo nel Frignano
The Castle of Montecuccolo at Pavullo nel Frignano
Travel tip:

Pavullo nel Frignano, where Luca Toni was born, is a town of around 17,000 inhabitants in the Modenese Apennines. It is home to the medieval Castle of Montecuccolo, birthplace of the 17th century condottiero - mercenary - Raimondo Montecuccoli. Pavullo sadly suffered extensive damage during the Second World War because of its proximity to the German defences on Gothic Line.

The Arena di Verona hosted a football match in the early days of the local football team, Hellas Verona
The Arena di Verona hosted a football match in the early
days of the local football team, Hellas Verona
Travel tip:

Toni’s final team, Hellas Verona, acquired its name after it was founded in 1903 by a group of students from the prestigious local lyceum, where a classics professor put forward the name Hellas, which is the Greek equivalent of the Latin word patria, meaning homeland. The city was largely indifferent towards football at first but the Veronese began to take more of an interest after the club staged a game against their local rivals Bentegodi in the city's Roman amphitheatre, now famous as the Arena di Verona, attracting national media attention.

Also on this day:

1805: Napoleon Bonaparte crowned King of Italy

1955: Formula One motor racing champion Alberto Ascari tragically dies in a crash at Monza


11 August 2017

Massimiliano Allegri - football coach

Former AC Milan boss has topped Conte's record

Massimiliano Allegri led Juventus to three consecutive league and cup doubles
Massimiliano Allegri led Juventus to three
consecutive league and cup doubles
Massimiliano Allegri, the man who looked to have taken on one of the toughest acts to follow in football when he succeeded Antonio Conte as head coach of Juventus, was born on this day in 1967 in Livorno.

Conte won the Serie A title three times and the domestic double of Serie A and Coppa Italia twice in his three years as boss of the Turin club.

Allegri took over only in 2014 but has already exceeded Conte’s record, leading the so-called Old Lady of Italian football to the double in each of his three seasons in charge.

The 2016-17 title was the club’s sixth in a row, setting a Serie A record for the most consecutive Scudetto triumphs.

Allegri was well regarded as a creative midfielder but although there were high spots, such as scoring 12 Serie A goals from midfield in a relegated Pescara side in 1992-923, he enjoyed a fairly modest playing career which was marred by his suspension for a year as one of six players alleged to have conspired in fixing the result of a Coppa Italia tie while with the Serie B club Pistoiese.

In coaching, he followed the customary Italian route of learning his craft in the lower divisions, tasting success for the first time in 2007-08 with the Emilia-Romagna club Sassuolo, guiding the club to promotion to Serie B for the first time in their history as Serie C/A champions.

Andrea Pirlo praised Allegri's calm approach
Andrea Pirlo praised Allegri's calm approach
This earned him a move to Serie A with Cagliari, where he steered the Sardinian team to ninth place, their best top-flight finish in 15 years and enough to win him the league’s Panchino d’Oro award for coach of the year for 2008-09, ahead of title-winning Internazionale boss Josè Mourinho.

Despite the award, Cagliari’s unpredictable owner Massimo Cellini relieved him of his managerial duties in April of the following year, with the team again sitting in a respectable mid-table position.

But Cagliari’s loss was AC Milan’s gain.  Appointed in June 2010, he led the rossoneri to the Serie A title in his first season, winning a place in the affections of supporters by defeating city rivals Inter in both matches.

He was not able to maintain Milan’s high level, in part due to the club’s failings in the transfer market.  They won the Supercoppa Italia at the start of the following season with another victory over Inter but lost out to Conte’s Juventus in their title defence.

In the 2012-13 season Milan recovered from a poor start and climbed from 16th place to finish third but in January 2014 he was dismissed.

Ironically, his early success with Juventus was built around the experience and vision of the veteran midfielder Andrea Pirlo, whom Allegri had controversially deemed surplus to requirements in Milan on the grounds of age.  However, Pirlo bore no grudges and praised Allegri for the “sense of calm” he brought to the team compared with the frenetic style of Conte.

Allegri succeeded Antonio Conte at Juventus
Allegri succeeded Antonio
Conte at Juventus
What has set Allegri apart from some coaches is his flexible tactical approach, with his players adept at switching systems for different opponents, sometimes changing formation several times during a match.  The constant has been a formidable defence built around Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini, often referred to as BBC.

For all his domestic success, Champions League glory so far eludes Allegri, as it has Conte.

He reached the final with Juventus in 2015, losing 3-1 to Barcelona in Berlin, and again in 2017, when a 4-1 reverse against Real Madrid was a particular disappointment after the team had conceded only three goals all told in reaching the final.  Allegri has admitted he considered resigning after the match.

Away from football, Allegri has a daughter, Valentina, by his marriage to Gloria, from whom he is divorced, and a son, George, by long-term girlfriend Claudia, with whom he is now separated after an eight-year relationship.

The Piazza della Repubblica in Livorno
The Piazza della Repubblica in Livorno
Travel tip:

Livorno is Tuscany's third-largest city after Florence and Pisa and tends to be somewhat overlooked as a tourist destination. Yet it has an historic 17th century port, which once served merchants from all over the world, reputedly some of the best seafood restaurants on the Tyrrhenian coast and an historic centre given a unique character by a network of Venetian-style canals and some elegant belle époque buildings.

Sassuolo's Ducal Palace
Sassuolo's Ducal Palace
Travel tip: 

Overshadowed by nearby Modena, which is just 17km (11 miles) to the north-east, Sassuolo is a town of 40,000 inhabitants on the banks of the Secchia river that was once in the possession of the Este family and until the 19th century was part of the Duchy of Modena. The title Lord of Sassuolo currently belongs to Prince Lorenz of Belgium, Archduke of Austria-Este. Hence the town has Ducal Palace, designed by Bartolomeo Avanzini.  The town has since the 1950s been the centre of a thriving ceramic tile industry, supplying 80 per cent of the Italian market.