Showing posts with label Nevio Scala. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nevio Scala. Show all posts

9 August 2018

Filippo Inzaghi - football manager

World Cup winning player turned successful coach

Filippo Inzaghi took Venezia to the verge of a place in Serie A
Filippo Inzaghi took Venezia to the
verge of a place in Serie A
The former Azzurri striker Filippo Inzaghi, who was a member of Italy’s 2006 World Cup-winning squad, was born on this day in 1973 in Piacenza.

A traditional goal poacher, known more for his knack of being in the right place at the right moment than for a high level of technical skill, Inzaghi scored 313 goals in his senior career before retiring as a player in 2012 and turning to coaching. He has recently been appointed manager of the Serie A team Bologna.

Inzaghi came off the substitutes’ bench to score the second goal as Italy beat the Czech Republic 2-0 to clinch their qualification for the knock-out stage of the 2006 World Cup in Germany but found it impossible to win a starting place in competition with Luca Toni, Alberto Gilardino, Francesco Totti and Alessandro Del Piero in Marcello Lippi’s squad.

He also picked up a runners-up medal in Euro 2000, hosted jointly by Belgium and the Netherlands, where he scored against Turkey in the opening group game and against Romania in the quarter-final but was overlooked by coach Dino Zoff in his team for the final.

Inzaghi scored more goals than his hero Marco van Basten in his career with AC Milan
Inzaghi scored more goals than his hero Marco van
Basten in his career with AC Milan
His club career was one of success after success, principally during his time at Juventus and AC Milan.  A Serie A winner with the Turin club in 1998, he was twice a Scudetto winner with Milan, with whom he twice won the Champions League, beating his old club Juventus in the 2003 Final at Old Trafford, and overcoming Liverpool in the 2007 Final in Athens, when Inzaghi scored both Milan’s goals and was named Man of the Match.

Inzaghi’s goals tally, which includes 10 Serie A hat-tricks, is the seventh highest in Italian football history and he is the fourth highest goalscorer in European club competitions with 70 goals, behind only Raúl, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. His 43 goals in international fixtures for Milan, for whom he scored twice against Boca Juniors of Argentina in the 2007 Club World Cup final, is a club record.

At international level, Inzaghi earned 57 caps for the Italy national team between 1997 and 2007, scoring 25 goals.

The sons of a textile salesman, Inzaghi and his younger brother Simone, who would also go on to be a striker in Serie A and the Italy national team, were brought up in the village of San Nicolò, just outside the city of Piacenza in Emilia-Romagna.

Filippo - also known as ‘Pippo’ - grew up wanting to emulate Italy’s 1982 World Cup hero Paolo Rossi and later Milan’s great Dutch striker Marco van Basten.

Inzaghi (centre, No 9) and the rest of the AC Milan team celebrate winning the Champions League in 2003
Inzaghi (centre, No 9) and the rest of the AC Milan team
celebrate winning the Champions League in 2003
He began his career with his local club, Piacenza, where he became a first-team regular after a couple of spells on loan to lower division clubs. His 15 goals in 37 matches in the 1994-95 Serie B season earned his club promotion to Serie A.

Despite their success, Piacenza accepted an offer from Parma for their star striker. However, though he became a favourite with the fans, Inzaghi’s career under coach Nevio Scala stalled after an injury and he was sold on again after one season.

The next move, to Atalanta of Bergamo, brought his big breakthrough. Even though Atalanta finished only 10th in Serie A, Inzaghi scored 24 goals, which made him the league’s Capocannoniere - top scorer. Incredibly, he scored either home or away against every other team and was named Serie A Young Footballer of the Year.

The success earned him a 23 billion lire move to Juventus, where he would stay for four years, in which time he became the first player to score a hat-trick in the Champions League twice, helped the bianconeri win the Scudetto in 1997-98 with 18 goals and scored six times in helping the team reach the Champions League final, where they lost 1-0 to Real Madrid.

Inzaghi turned to coaching when he  retired as a player in 2012
Inzaghi turned to coaching when he
retired as a player in 2012
Despite his 89 goals in 165 games for Juventus, he eventually fell out of favour and was sold again in 2001, this time for 70 billion lire to Milan, where he suffered a knee injury early in his first season but returned to form a potent partnership with Andriy Shevchenko and later Kaká in the 11 years that would be the most successful of his career, ultimately overtaking his hero Van Basten on the list of the club’s all-time top goalscorers.

A serious knee injury meant his involvement in the 2010-11 title-winning season was limited.  Less frequently used as a first-choice striker, he was told he would not be retained at the end of the following season, at which point he announced his retirement, a month short of his 39th birthday.

He began his coaching career immediately as head coach of AC Milan’s Primavera (Under-19) team and took over as head coach of the first team in July 2014 after the dismissal of his former playing colleague, Clarence Seedorf, under whose stewardship the club had failed to qualify for either of the European club competitions for the first time in 15 years.

Inzaghi could not bring about an improvement, but his dismissal after one season enabled him to find his first success as a club manager with Venezia, in the third tier of the Italian league system, known as Lega Pro.

Venezia won Lega Pro in Inzaghi’s first season in charge and reached the Serie B play-offs in his second year, although they missed out on a return to Serie A.

Nonetheless, with an impressive win ratio of more than 50 per cent from his 95 matches in charge, it was no surprise when Bologna, 15th in the 2017-18 Serie A season, offered him a return to the top flight.

The Chiesa San Nicolò in Inzaghi's home village
The Chiesa San Nicolò in Inzaghi's home village
Travel tip:

Inzaghi’s home village of San Nicolò is a parish in the municipality of Rottafreno, which literally translates as ‘broken brake’ and often provokes laughter. It is thought the name may go back to the time of Hannibal and the Second Punic War (218-202 BC), when Hannibal was said to have been forced to spend the night in the village after his horse’s bit, which serves as a brake for the rider. Local people embraced the story so enthusiastically that the town’s municipal emblem includes the head of a horse with a broken bit.

Piazza Duomo in Piacenza
Piazza Duomo in Piacenza
Travel tip:

Piacenza is a city of 103,000 people in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. The main square in Piacenza is named Piazza Cavalli because of its two bronze equestrian monuments by Francesco Mochi featuring Alexander Farnese, Duke of Parma and his son Ranuccio I Farnese, Duke of Parma. The city is situated between the River Po and the Apennines, between Bologna and Milan. It has many fine churches and old palaces. Piacenza Cathedral was built in 1122 and is a good example of northern Italian Romanesque architecture.

More reading:

Marcello Lippi, Italy's 2006 World Cup-winning coach

Nevio Scala and Parma's golden era

The World Cup heroics of Paolo Rossi

Also on this day:

1173: Work begins on the bell tower that would become the Leaning Tower of Pisa

1939: The birth of politician Romano Prodi


5 July 2017

Gianfranco Zola – footballer

Brilliant forward voted Chelsea’s all-time greatest player

Gianfranco Zola scored 58 goals for Chelsea in the Premier League
Gianfranco Zola scored 58 goals for Chelsea
in the Premier League
Gianfranco Zola, a sublimely talented footballer whose peak years were spent with Napoli, Parma and Chelsea, was born on this day in 1966 in the Sardinian town of Oliena.

Capped 35 times by the Italian national team, Zola scored more than 200 goals in his club career, the majority of them playing at the highest level, including 90 in Italy’s top flight – Serie A – and 58 in the English Premier League.

He specialised in the spectacular, most of his goals resulting from his brilliant execution of free kicks or his dazzling ball control.

Zola went on to be a manager after his playing career ended, although he has so far been unable to come anywhere near matching his achievements as a player.

He was probably at his absolute peak during the seven years he spent playing in England with Chelsea, whose fans named him as the club’s greatest player of all time in a poll conducted in 2003, shortly before he left to return to Sardinia.

However, it was probably the four years he spent with Napoli, his first Serie A club, that were his making as a player, after being spotted playing club football in Sardinia for Nuorese and Torres.

Zola was signed in 1989 and although his appearances at first were limited, he developed a close bond with the club’s Argentinian icon, Diego Maradona, often spending hours alongside him after normal training had finished, trying to emulate his skills, especially in taking free kicks.

He would later comment that he “learned everything from Diego.”

Zola was hugely popular with Chelsea's fans
Zola was hugely popular with Chelsea's fans
Although he was essentially still a fringe player at that stage, Zola scored two goals as Napoli won Serie A in 1989-90, giving him his only league winner’s medal.

When Maradona left under a cloud, having been banned from playing for drug offences, Zola took his mantle, largely on the maestro’s recommendation, to which manager Claudio Ranieri responded by giving Zola the No 10 shirt worn by Maradona.

Napoli were not the force they had been without Maradona, yet Zola scored 12 goals in the 1991-92 season and another 12 in the 1992-93 campaign, in which he also made 12 assists, giving him the accolade alongside Fiorentina’s Francesco Baiano of providing the most assists over the Serie A season.

He scored 32 goals in 105 appearances for Napoli, whom he left in 1993 only because the club, in a difficult financial situation, began to sell off their best players to pay debts.

Transferred to Parma for 13 billion lire, Zola established himself as one of the best creative players in Italy alongside Roberto Baggio and Alessandro del Piero.  He scored 18 goals in his first season and 19 in his second campaign as the gialloblù just missed out on the Serie A title in a hard-fought battle with Juventus.

Favoured by manager Nevio Scala, he was less popular with Scala’s successor, Carlo Ancelotti, who could not accommodate Zola’s talents in his 4-4-2 system, leaving the player too often a frustrated figure on the bench, despite his record of 49 goals in 102 appearances.

News that Zola was unsettled began to circulate and in November 1996, Chelsea’s then-manager, Ruud Gullit, pulled off what would come to be regarded as one of the biggest transfer coups in Premier League history, signing Zola for £4.5 million.

He lit up the Premier League, helping Chelsea win the FA Cup twice, the League Cup, the Charity Shield, the UEFA Cup-Winners’ Cup and the UEFA Super Cup.  He helped them qualify for the UEFA Champions League twice as they finished third in the Premier League in 1999 and fourth in 2003, with Zola their leading goalscorer on each occasion.

Zola, pictured on the touchline as West Ham manager, has not found success as a coach
Zola, pictured on the touchline as West Ham
manager, has not found success as a coach
His goals were often either big-match winners, such as in the 1996-97 FA Cup semi-final against Wimbledon or the 1997-98 Cup-Winners’ Cup final winner, when he scored within seconds of coming off the subs’ bench, or else works of art, none more celebrated than the mid-air backheel he executed to score from a corner in an FA Cup tie against Norwich in 2001-02.

Zola scored 16 times in what would be his final season at Stamford Bridge, having decided he would finish his career back in Sardinia with the island’s top club, Cagliari.  A week after he gave his word to Cagliari that he would be their player in 2003-04, Roman Abramovich completed his takeover of Chelsea.

The Russian billionaire was desperate to keep Zola at Stamford Bridge but the Italian told him he would not renege on his promise.  Rumour has it that Abramovich even considered buying the entire Cagliari club in order to transfer Zola back to Chelsea.

In the event, Zola kept his promise, helping Cagliari gain promotion to Serie A in his first season, before retiring at the end of the 2004-05 season, scoring twice against Juventus in his final match.

Capped 35 times by Italy, scoring 10 goals and playing in the 1994 World Cup finals in the United States, Zola then moved into coaching, at first as assistant to his friend and former Chelsea teammate Pierluigi Casiraghi in the Italy Under-21 set-up, then in club football.

However, his management career has so far been dismal compared with his playing career.  He has managed West Ham, Watford and Birmingham City in England, Cagliari in Italy and Al-Arabi in Qatar, but has been either sacked or obliged to resign from all five posts because of poor results.

Married to Franca, Zola has three children. His son, Andrea, has played for West Ham reserves and for Essex non-League club Grays Athletic.

A church and market in Oliena
A church and market in Oliena
Travel tip:

Oliena, a mountainous town notable for its multi-coloured rooftops, sits in the shadow of Monte Corrasi, towards the north of the island of Sardina, about 100km (62 miles) south of Olbia and 200km (124 miles) north of Cagliari. Probably founded in Roman times, it is famous now for beautiful silk embroidery and its red wine, Nepente di Oliena.

The waterfront at Cagliari
The waterfront at Cagliari
Travel tip:

Cagliari is Sardinia’s capital, an industrial centre and one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean. Yet it is also a city of considerable beauty and history, most poetically described by the novelist DH Lawrence when he visited in the 1920s. He set his eyes on the confusion of domes, palaces and ornamental facades which, he noted, seemed to be piled on top of one another as he approached from the sea. He compared it to Jerusalem, describing it as 'strange and rather wonderful, not a bit like Italy.’

22 November 2016

Nevio Scala - footballer and coach

Led Parma to success in golden era of 1990s

Nevio Scala led Parma to unprecedented success after taking charge in 1989
Nevio Scala led Parma to unprecedented
success after taking charge in 1989
Nevio Scala, a European Cup winner with AC Milan as a player and the most successful coach of Parma's golden era in the 1990s, was born on this day in 1947 in Lozzo Atestino, a small town in the Euganean Hills, just south of Padua.

A midfielder who also played for Roma, Vicenza and Internazionale at the top level of Italian football, Scala was never picked for his country but won a Serie A title and a European Cup-Winners' Cup in addition to the European Cup with AC Milan.

But his achievements with Parma as coach arguably exceeded even that, given that they were a small provincial club that had never played in Serie A when Scala was appointed.

He had given notice of his ability by almost taking the tiny Calabrian club Reggina to Serie A in 1989 only a year after winning promotion from Serie C, and needed only one season to take Parma to the top flight for the first time.

With the massive financial backing of Calisto Tanzi, the founder and chairman of the local dairy giants Parmalat, Scala then led Parma into a period of sustained success no one could have predicted.

With a galaxy of top international players at his disposal, including Tomas Brolin, Antonio Benarrivo, Gianfranco Zola and Faustino Asprilla, Scala coached his side to play a swashbuckling brand of football that took the established big hitters by surprise.

Gianfranco Zola, one of the stars of the  Parma team of the 1990s
Gianfranco Zola, one of the stars of the
Parma team of the 1990s
Between 1991 and 1995, Parma won the Coppa Italia, the European Cup-Winners' Cup, the European Super Cup and the UEFA Cup and the team Scala handed over when he was replaced by Carlo Ancelotti in 1996 went on to finish runners-up in Serie A in 1997.

He went on to enjoy more success as a coach, but outside Italy, winning trophies in Germany with Borussia Dortmund, in the Ukraine with Shakhtar Donetsk and in Russia with Spartak Moscow.

Scala returned to live in his home town of Lozzo Atestino, where he served on the local council and ran unsuccessfully as mayor in 2007.

He moved into football punditry on radio and TV with state broadcaster Rai, making regular appearances on the Sunday evening TV review of the Serie A programme, Domenica Sportiva. 

He was linked with a return to coaching, first at the Scottish club Motherwell and later with AS. Roma.  When he did return to football in 2015 it was as president of Parma, although a very different Parma from the one he coached.

Since he left the Stadio Ennio Tardini, Parma has twice been made bankrupt, first in 2004 in the wake of the catastrophic collapse of Calisto Tanzi's Parmalat empire, which saw the business tycoon jailed for fraud and criminal association, and again in 2015, when the relaunched club folded with debts of €218 million.

In July 2015, with the support of pasta makers Barilla, the club made another fresh start as SSD Parma Calcio 1913, taking its name from the year of foundation of the original club and was granted entry to Serie D.

Scala was appointed president and former player Luigi Apolloni as head coach.  The new club sold more than 9,000 season tickets, more than doubling the Serie D record and won promotion at the first attempt into professional football league Lega Pro.

The 13th century Valbona Castle at Lozzo Atestino
The 13th century Valbona Castle at Lozzo Atestino
Travel tip:

The Colli Euganei, to give the Euganean Hills their Italian name, was the first regional park to be established in the Veneto when it was mapped out in 1989, enclosing 15 towns, including Lozzo Atestino, and the 81 hills - rising to between 300 and 600m - that make up the area, a volcanic outcrop in an otherwise flat terrain. Lozzo Atestino is situated at the foot of Monte Lozzo.  Of particular interest to visitors is the 13th century Valbona Castle, an imposing fort that now houses a restaurant.

Travel tip:

Despite the damage done to its economy by the Parmalat collapse, one of the biggest financial scandals in Italian history, Parma remains an elegant city with the air of prosperity common to much of Emilia-Romagna, famous for Prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and boasting some outstanding architecture, including the 11th century Romanesque cathedral and the octagonal 12th century baptistery that adjoins it.

More reading:

Antonio Conte - former Juventus coach now in charge at Chelsea

The birth of Italy's first football club

The story of Italy's World Cup winning coach Marcello Lippi

Also on this day:

1710: The death of composer Bernardo Pasquini

(Picture of Nevio Scala by Anastasiya Fedorenko; Gianfranco Zola by Hilton1949; Valbona Castle by Milazzi; all via Wikimedia Commons)