Showing posts with label Sassuolo. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sassuolo. Show all posts

6 June 2023

Roberto De Zerbi - football coach

Left turmoil in Ukraine to achieve success in England

Roberto De Zerbi made his name as coach at Sassuolo in Serie A
Roberto De Zerbi made his name
as coach at Sassuolo in Serie A
The football coach Roberto De Zerbi, who helped the English Premier League club Brighton and Hove Albion qualify for a European competition for the first time in their history, was born on this day in 1979 in Brescia.

De Zerbi, who was unknown to many British football fans before he arrived on the south coast of England in September, 2022, guided his new team to seventh place in the Premier League table, earning the club a place in the UEFA Europa League for the 2023-24 season.

The club had hired him to succeed Graham Potter, who left Brighton to take over at Chelsea. De Zerbi’s first win as the new man in charge was against Potter’s Chelsea.

De Zerbi, who retired as a player in 2013, did not find significant success as a coach until he took over at Sassuolo, a team from a town just outside Modena in Emilia-Romagna which became a Serie A club in 2013, having never previously played in the top division of Italian football in its 103-year history.

His club before he joined Brighton had been Shakhtar Donetsk, one of the two biggest clubs in Ukraine, but his time there ended abruptly because of the war between Ukraine and Russia.

Donetsk, an industrial city in the eastern part of the country, lies at the heart of the disputed Donbas region, to which pro-Russian separatists had already laid claim before the Russian invasion began and witnessed fighting before the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

De Zerbi described how he had enjoyed a normal training session with the Shakhtar players the day before the invasion in February 2022 and 24 hours later was forced to take cover in the basement of his hotel as the Russian army began shelling the city.

De Zerbi made his Serie A debut as a player with Napoli
De Zerbi made his Serie A
debut as a player with Napoli
He was praised for remaining in the city long enough to ensure all the club’s foreign players were given safe passage out of the country and back to their home nations, or to safe areas of Europe.  After five days he returned to Italy himself, although his contract in Ukraine was not formally cancelled until July.

Donetsk were top of the Ukraine Premier League and had qualified for the group stages of the UEFA Champions League when football was suspended, having already beaten arch rivals Dynamo Kiev to win the Ukraine Super Cup.

De Zerbi was a talented attacking midfielder as a player, although he had a relatively modest career. After starting out with a local youth team in the Mompiano district of Brescia, he was spotted by AC Milan in 1995 and spent the next three years in their development squad, known as the primavera.

After turning professional in 1998, he spent the next four years on loan with various clubs in Serie C - the third tier of Italian football - before Milan decided to move him on, never having given him a chance in their first team. 

After the disappointment in Milan, De Zerbi teamed up with Foggia, winning promotion to Serie C1, forming a good relationship with coach Pasquale Marino, with whom he later teamed up at Catania as the Sicilian club won promotion to Serie A in 2006.

His success in Sicily, where his technical skills and goalscoring ability made him a popular player, earned him a move to Napoli, who he also helped win promotion to Serie A. Unfortunately, the opportunity to establish himself as a Serie A player never came

Manuel Locatelli, now with Juventus, won his first Italy caps at Sassuolo
Manuel Locatelli, now with Juventus,
won his first Italy caps at Sassuolo
After another couple of loan moves within Italy, De Zerbi moved to Romania to join CFR Cluj, where he enjoyed his biggest success as a player, winning the Romanian league and cup double and making his debut in the Champions League. Returning to Italy in 2012, he had one more season as a player, with lower league club Trento, before announcing his retirement. 

As a coach, he took his first steps with Darfo Boario, another club close to his home town of Brescia before returning to Foggia and gaining his first experience of Serie A with Palermo and Benevento, although without success.

But his talent came to the fore at Sassuolo, who had been promoted to Serie A in 2013 and where he received plaudits for twice finishing in eighth place, missing out on European qualification only on goal difference in the 2020-21 season. He also established his reputation for improving players through his coaching, helping striker Domenico Berardi and midfielder Manuel Locatelli become international players.

His possession-based, attacking style of play and his meticulous attention to detail in his training programmes were strongly influenced by the all-conquering Manchester City coach, Pep Guardiola, and by one of Guardiola’s own influences, the former Leeds United coach Marcelo Bielsa.

As he was learning his trade, De Zerbi went to the French club Lille to observe Bielsa’s methods and to Bayern Munich in Germany to watch Guardiola at close quarters.

De Zerbi attributes his success as a coach partly to his passion for football, which he says he inherited from his father, Alfredo, although that passion has several times landed him in trouble with referees. During his first season at Brighton, he was red-carded twice for his behaviour on the touchline.

On his appointment, De Zerbi was the 14th Italian to be appointed coach of an English Premier League team, four of whom - Carlo Ancelotti and Antonio Conte (both with Chelsea), Roberto Mancini (Manchester City) and Claudio Ranieri (Leicester City) - have seen their teams crowned champions.

Brescia's beautiful Piazza della Loggia is an elegant square with Venetian influences
Brescia's beautiful Piazza della Loggia is an
elegant square with Venetian influences
Travel tip:

Brescia, where De Zerbi was born and grew up, is a city of artistic and architectural importance. The second biggest city in Lombardia, after Milan, it has Roman remains and well-preserved Renaissance buildings but is not as well-known to tourists as the other historic Italian cities. Brescia became a Roman colony before the birth of Christ and you can still see remains from the forum, theatre and a temple. The town was fought over by different rulers in the Middle Ages but came under the protection of Venice in the 15th century. There is a distinct Venetian influence in the architecture of the Piazza della Loggia, an elegant square in the centre of the town, which has a clock tower remarkably similar to the one in Saint Mark’s square in Venice. Next to the 17th century Duomo is an older cathedral, the unusually shaped Duomo Vecchio, also known as la Rotonda. The Santa Giulia Museo della Citta covers more than 3000 years of Brescia’s history, housed within the Benedictine Nunnery of San Salvatore and Santa Giulia in Via Musei. The nunnery was built over a Roman residential quarter, but some of the houses, with their original mosaics and frescoes, have now been excavated and can be seen.

The facade of the Este family's Ducal Palace in Sassuolo, which is just outside Modena
The facade of the Este family's Ducal Palace in
Sassuolo, which is just outside Modena
Travel tip:

Sassuolo, which stands on the Secchia river some 17km (11 miles) southwest of the city of Modena in Emilia-Romagna, is best known as an industrial centre, the heart of Italy’s tile industry, although its profile within Italy has also been raised by the football club’s success.  The town was run for many years by the Este family, whose legacy can be seen in the Ducal Palace, built on the site of a mediaeval castle. Obtained by Niccolò III d'Este in the 15th century, it was converted into a court residence by Borso d'Este in 1458, while the present building was commissioned in the early 17th century by the Duke Francesco I d'Este and built by Bartolomeo Avanzini. The palace is now owned by the town of Sassuolo and the Gallerie Estensi, a network of galleries established to preserve the historic heritage left by the Este family.

Also on this day:

1513: The Battle of Novara

1772: The birth of Maria Theresa of Naples and Sicily

1861: The death of Camillo Benso Cavour, Italy’s first prime minister

1896: The birth of Fascist commander Italo Balbo

1926: The birth of automobile engineer Giotto Bizzarrini


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14 December 2017

Fabrizio Giovanardi – racing driver

Touring car specialist has won 10 titles


Fabrizio Giovanardi has been racing for more than 30 years
Fabrizio Giovanardi has been racing
for more than 30 years
One of the most successful touring car racers in history, the former Alfa Romeo and Vauxhaul driver Fabrizio Giovanardi, was born in Sassuolo, not far from Modena, on this day in 1966.

Giovanardi has won the European Championship twice, the European Cup twice, the British Championship twice, the Italian Championship three times and the Spanish touring car title once.

His best season in the World Championship came in 2005, when he finished third behind the British driver Andy Priaulx.

At the peak of his success, Giovanardi won a title each season for six consecutive years.

Like many drivers across the motor racing spectrum, Giovanardi had his first experience of competition in karting, winning Italian and World titles in 125cc karts in 1986, before graduating to Formula Three and Formula 3000.

He was hoping from there to step up to Formula One but although he won a number of races the opportunity to drive competitively for an F1 team did not come about.

It was during the 1991 season that he tried his luck in touring cars and met with immediate success, winning five class S2 races in a Peugeot 405, prompting him to focus on touring cars in the 1992 season. He remained at class S2 level and won his first title, the Italian Superturismo Championship, finishing first in 12 races for a commanding lead of 68 points over British driver Gary Ayles.

The Vauxhall Vectra in which Giovanardi won the 2007 British Touring Car Championship
The Vauxhall Vectra in which Giovanardi won the
2007 British Touring Car Championship
He moved into the main class of the championship with Peugeot in 1993, finishing in the top three overall twice before moving to Nordauto Engineering Alfa Romeo in 1995.

In his début season with Alfa, Giovanardi again finished in third. He continued in the Italian series in 1996 while simultaneously contesting the four-race Campeonato de España de Turismo, which would give him his second touring car title in 1997, when he was also runner-up in the Italian series.

It began a run of six titles in as many seasons for the Nordauto team, comprising consecutive Italian titles in 1998 and 1999, the European Super Touring Cup in 2000, the European Super Touring Championship in 2001 and the European title in 2002.

Giovanardi’s career stalled when Alfa Romeo decided to pull out of touring but he put himself back on track when he joined Vauxhall Racing to compete in the British Touring Car Championship.

Giovanardi finished third in the 2005 World Championship in this Honda Accord
Giovanardi finished third in the 2005 World Championship
in this Honda Accord
He finished fifth in the 2006 season in an Astra before finding that the new Vectra suited him very well, winning the 2007 title after a season-long battle with SEAT Sport’s Jason Plato.

Giovanardi successfully defended his title in 2008 and finished third in 2009, but suffered another blow when Vauxhall decided that would be their last season in touring car racing, citing the economic downturn for their withdrawal.

At 44 years old, Giovanardi had one more triumph, winning the European Touring Car Cup for Hartmann Honda Racing, but after moving from one team to another in search of the right car he effectively retired after the 2014 season.

His guest appearance at the Vallelunga round of the Italian championship in September 2017, when he drove a SEAT León for BF Motorsport and finished fourth, was his first competitive drive for three years.

Away from the track, Giovanardi is a keen pilot and has a passion for renovating houses.  He is married with one son, Luca.

The Palazzo Ducale in Sassuolo
The Palazzo Ducale in Sassuolo
Travel tip:

Sassuolo is a town in Emilia-Romagna, some 17km (11 miles) southwest of Modena.  With a population of just over 40,000 Sassuolo is a major centre for the production of ceramics, with more than 300 factories producing 80 per cent of all Italy’s ceramic tiles, making it one of the most important ceramic centres in the world.  At the centre of town, Piazza Garibaldi is a pleasant square and the 17th-century Palazzo Ducale, designed by Bartolomeo Avanzini, is a handsome building. Sassuolo’s football club made history in 2013 when they were promoted to Serie A for the first time in their 93-year existence.

The Vallelunga racing circuit from the air
The Vallelunga racing circuit from the air
Travel tip:

The Vallelunga motor racing circuit – the Autodromo Vallelunga Piero Taruffi – can be found 32km (20 miles) north of Rome, close to the town of Campagnano di Roma. Owned by the Automobile Club d’Italia (ACI), the 4.1km (2.5 miles) track has held the Rome Grand Prix since 1963.  The track is used by the FIA as a test circuit for Formula One teams and has also hosted the Six Hours of Vallelunga endurance event.  In autumn of each year, Vallelunga hosts a vast flea-market specialising mainly in vintage automotive spare parts.




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.