Registered online journal

Auth. n.197 by the Court of Milan on 25th June 2015


    The vitality of a coach is witnessed by the twists that his football proposals can spark – it can either happen through a footballing “dialogue” capable of challenging a communication style, notably the Italian one, consisting of superficial reading and empty catchphrases, or sometimes through the “movements” that such proposals make possible, by engaging serious colleagues and by stimulating careful football observers. With Luciano Spalletti, football is just lived in a different way.

    The thought, the pitch, the microphones. Just different.

    From training drills to press conferences. During media meetings, especially, we immediately notice a clear difference which is, no wonder, often badly handled by the most superficial football passionates but also by many journalists, as they struggle to cope with the depth of a language that brings the coach beyond the simple labels to pigeonhole. It costs effort and attention, or at the very least we have to raise our ordinary threshold to another level.

    Because when he talks about football, Spalletti flies high, very high.

    The locution or even the single word is chosen carefully to adapt itself to the description of a team-play situation, to the characteristics of a single player, to the emotional or technical phase of a football match. Spalletti doesn’t remain in the limited Italian football vocabulary (clearly unchanged since the times of the most famous Italian sports journalist ever, Gianni Brera): he creates. His knowledge is based on an underground football world rooted in provincial pitches, where he played and lived the Game for many years. There, between the hills in Tuscany (“the best thing in the world is the silence of these places“, he says), he’s always been ready to hear to other voices, showcasing and improving his ability to listen, as well as interpreting the reality outside him in an tireless openness to criticism and discussion.

    As a midfielder, Spalletti was a king of Tuscany’s lower divisions.

    As amateur he has been compared with German star Bernd Schuster, with a relentless long-paced run, a great jump, a good shoot from outside the box: a player that ruled the game, bringing home sure results and seducing fans of every kind. His jerseys changed from year to year, but in Serie D (Italian fifth-tier at that time), he always made the difference. From Volterrana to Cuoiopelli, halfway from Empoli to Pisa, then at Castel Fiorentino, near his hometown Certaldo. There, Spalletti was the absolute king.

    Wherever Luciano went, he won. Thanks to a charisma proper of a true leader, an ability of understanding the game and reading any possible turn of it. Head and heart, intelligence and passion.

    What is a man like you doing in the amateurs?” one day a man asked him. Currently head of Italian National Team, Gian Piero Ventura, at that time coach of Entella, proposed Spalletti the big leap, at least into the professional world. Small stuff, Serie C, but at that time, the Eighties, it was considered a true football gym, a down-to-earth but passionate kind of game run by people that knew about football because first of all they respected it more than anything else, loving every aspect of it, getting into it, daily, in a natural and pure manner. They were breathing at the rate of football in these days and Spalletti, stimulated by passion, knows what and where he has to learn. A “sponge”, that releases knowledge once Luciano becomes a coach, a mandatory step for one like him.

    But not everything can be taught, not everything can be learnt. Look at Spalletti’s critical eye when he’s training a football player: he has a very classy, almost unique, way of frame him.

    By observing the football players he distills his qualities, he can recognise the ones still unexplored and knows how to promote them, all of which happens through the growth not just of the single player, but the group as a whole. That is the real beneficiary of everyone’s improvement. Spalletti doesn’t just work on a pre-ordered system because he works on the team-play times, on the movements of every part of the team, by developing and stimulating the skills of every player.

    You can’t just start, without being special, from Sovigliana, district of Vinci near Empoli, a land where football is being taught in a great manner in the last years, and then become coach of Zenit (his greatest step at international level, where he grew as man and coach and where he’s still very appreciated), AS Roma (twice, where he gave continuity and rationality to an unstable place) and now Inter.

    There we are, Inter.

    His arrival to Milan represents one of the biggest news in the upcoming Serie A season. The black-and-blueclub, dragging themselves in the post-treble era between a few highs (the Mancini‘s return) and a lot of lows (last but not least the 2016/2017 season, concluded with an anonymous seventh place), and looking for a true identity. That’s the base to rebuild competitiveness.

    To restart from a shared thought, rebuilding a sense of belonging, one of the first aims communicated by Spalletti at Inter Milan training center. His communication form, as we already underlined, is unique in the world. And especially in Milan, it’s now necessary because of its charisma and credibility, in spite of the many empty words arrived in the last years: Spalletti will need to impact in depth to an environment that lived its identity in a superficial way. Inter just stopped being Inter, in fact.

    The impact outside the pitch can’t be undervalued as well, in an environment like this, stuck in a perennial reconstruction.

    The aim is to find a team balance as soon as possible; and that’s probably why the club didn’t want to revolution the roster, just adding a few new signings. That’s also due to the confidence in a few players that disappointed, but especially in the eye of Luciano. With all the difficulties of the new pre-season schedules, full of travels in the Far East, Spalletti continuously tried players in different positions (even João Mário as a false “nine”, in a portion of the match against Chelsea) and in-game situations. At the end, as the new Inter Milan deus ex machinaWalter Sabatini, said, also a simple detail in a training session may bring unexpected consequences (“I might be a romantic person, but I believe in these things“, he added, by highlighting his idea of the world, before than football, expressed in a recent interview on Italian newspaper “Corriere dello Sport”).

    The most important signing of the new Inter Milan era is Luciano Spalletti: if he’s going to be a great strength or a great limit, we’ll find out soon. It’s already August, Serie A is coming.

    Photos ©LaPresse

    Carlo Pizzigoni

    Carlo Pizzigoni

    Nato a Pero, periferia milanese. Di solito è in giro a vedere cose, specie di calcio. Coppa d’Africa e Mondiali giovanili, visitati in serie e vissuti sul posto, sono le esperienze professionali che più lo hanno soddisfatto, al netto di #SkyBuffaRacconta (prima Storie Mondiali - diventato poi un libro Sperling&Kupfer -, poi Storie di Campioni) e fino al Mondiale 2014 in Brasile. Collabora con Sky, ha scritto per La Gazzetta dello Sport, Guerin Sportivo e per il quotidiano svizzero Giornale del Popolo. Con Guido Montana ha fondato, con l’obiettivo di farne il punto di riferimento italiano per il calcio internazionale.

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