We’re all Luciano Spalletti, his Fiat Panda and his pet duck in the Serie A race

Luciano Spalletti has too often been the bridesmaid of Italian football. please let him win this time.

Who is it then?
Luciano Spalletti is a 63-year-old born in Certaldo in Tuscany and is currently the manager of Napoli, who sit at the top of Serie A unbeaten and came through their Champions League group by giving Liverpool their ass in their game at home at the Diego Armando Maradona Stadium. He drives a Fiat Panda and has a pet duck. He’s damn brilliant.

He was not a professional footballer and played for Serie C clubs such as Entella, Spezia, Viareggio and Empoli, eventually leaving the game to become head coach at Empoli, which was then in the third tier of Italian football. He led them into the top flight after back-to-back promotions in 1995/96 and 1996/97.

For several years he moved from club to club, leading Sampdoria for a year, in two different spells, moving to Venezia for a pretty terrible 18 months and then to Udinese for a dreadful three months. The next step for Spalletti was a six-month spell at Udinese for a 40% win rate before returning to Udinese. That was odd in itself as his first 11-game spell produced just two wins and an 18% win rate.

But he turned things around in the next three seasons, taking them from 14th to sixth, seventh and in 2004/05 fourth in Serie A and a Champions League spot, courtesy of David Di’s 21 goals Michelle.

That performance with a little-known club landed him the gig at Roma, which he managed for 224 games over four years. He used Francesco Totti as a false nine when no one had really heard of the false nine (even though Uruguay probably used it in the 1930s) and others like Pep Guardiola would be mistakenly hailed for it. to have invented.

He got three consecutive second places in Rome, won the Coppa Italia twice and the Supercoppa once. Along the way, he broke the record for consecutive wins, picking up 11 in February 2006. He won back-to-back Serie A Coach of the Year awards in 2006/07 and 2007/08. Totti scored a remarkable 32 goals in 2006/07.

However, after finishing sixth in 2008/09 and a poor start to the season, he quit.

His next concert was at the new Zenit St Petersburg. He stayed there for three and a half years, 184 games and 57% win rate, winning two league titles and two cups. But since he hadn’t won anything for three seasons, he was sacked. He took 20 months away, then returned to Roma for 198 months, made them third and second, managed Edin Džeko to 39 goals and qualified for the Champions League. It was his thankless task to effectively pull off the superhero, Totti – something he did was not unskillful and graceful.

His next job was at Inter Milan in June 2017 for two seasons and two fourth places. But it wasn’t a happy marriage, the club wanted Antonio Conte to come in and look like an angry gnome, so Luciano parted ways in the summer of 2019 and took two years off before taking over Napoli. Last year they finished third.

It wasn’t enough for Napoli’s ultras who wanted him sacked, so much so that when his Fiat Panda was stolen they said they would get it back if he promised to quit. They felt that after leading the league for part of the season, they had fallen to third place and wanted someone to blame. I bet they’re glad he didn’t now because this season they’ve made 11 league appearances, won nine and drawn two.

The fact is, while others were hailed as heroes, he was Italy’s near-coach, never having won Serie A but finishing second and third on several occasions. Will this be his year to win the title? Some wonder if Napoli will be a good bet for the Champions League and their style of ‘sprezzatura’ has yet to suggest that is particularly unlikely.

Why love?
Italian football longhair James Horncastle said of our man: “Luciano Spalletti is one of the influential, innovative and counter-cultural managers that Serie A has produced over the last 15 years, and we get belatedly a certain recognition of what a fine strategist he is.

Presumably, his career in football management has left him with a healthy bank balance which makes his choice to drive a Fiat Panda all the more endearing. Proof that the coolest people are never the ones trying to be cool. He also has a huge collection of football shirts and the aforementioned pet duck. He could easily have been the Chelsea manager, as Roman Abramovich told him about it while he was in Rome, but he didn’t feel ready to do so as he didn’t speak English.

His Napoli side this year are one of the best to watch in Europe playing an expansive and wide kind of game with Georgian Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, who arrived from FC Dinamo Batumi this summer for 10-12 million euros, opening the way with seven goals. and eight assists.

Kim Min-jae, signed from Fenerbahce for 18 million euros to replace Kalidou Koulibaly, has started very well. Giacomo Raspadori has been loaned out by Sassuolo and is playing superbly with five goals so far. The whole team plays according to a well-conceived plan.

Guillem Balague said Napoli are “a team that plays on an idea, everyone thinks the same way, it doesn’t build individual talent, you all have to think in one direction – chasing the ball, counter-attacking, but six stay behind the ball – things that don’t make you personally shine but benefit the team.

And Spalletti himself endears himself to European football fans by playing in front of the camera, doing all sorts of hand gestures and also wearing what appears to be some sort of space-age jumpsuit, which for a man 63-year-old man, is quite a distinctive look that conjures up the thought of the competitive grandpa shouting at his grandkids playing football for school.

three big moments
Some of his enigmatic hand gestures.

His Napoli side beat Ajax

The Rangers moved aside.

Future days?
His current contract ends next summer and it seems likely that he will get some sort of extension if this top form continues. Obviously injuries can take their toll and you wonder if Napoli have the quality depth in their squad to cope if they do. They haven’t won the title since 1990 in the Maradona years and it’s their best chance to do so.

He’s come so close to winning Serie A so many times that most neutrals will be cheering him on to do so this campaign, not least because Napoli are a fantastic team to watch and play with style and panache and that’s thanks to Luciano Spalletti.

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