Mancini, from glory to dust: when the CT becomes the target

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Forward with target practice, in the wake of the Italian tradition for which, in football and in society, today you are number one and tomorrow an absolute zero, without redemption and without the possibility of playing the wild card. From hero of a beautiful and winning national team to mummy made fun of on social networks, leader of misfortune of a ramshackle and very fragile Italy: so the coach Roberto Mancini, in the short space of only four months. 11 July 2021, Wembley: Italy in triumph, we are the European champions, Mancini is the star to show. November 15, 2021, Belfast: Italy on its knees, we have just missed the direct qualification for the Qatar 2022 World Cup, Mancini is, in the eyes of many, a coach who made a mistake in his choices, training and management. It lasts a moment, the glory.

And it is not the first time. Football is a centrifuge that consumes everything quickly, what was worth yesterday today is past, archived and forgotten. The mockery, after the triumph, was given by lot to many Italian Technical Commissioners. Marcello Lippi in 2006 climbed to the top of the world by smoking a cigar, imperturbable and fascinating: Italy World Champion in the long summer of Calciopoli, Lippi the magician, Lippi the wise man, Lippi the father of the football country who had been able to keep the group together and exalt it in the difficulties. He left immediately, the reflection of the winning Cup still shone. Everyone applauded, because the grown-ups know how to choose the time to leave. But Lippi could not resist. He succumbed to vanity and two years later returned to the saddle, just in time for a world fool, the one in South Africa in 2010: Italy eliminated in the first round. And Lippi? The nicest compliment was: it’s boiled. The cigar had gone out, this man sells smoke. So the glory Lippi.

Yet we should know: that’s how we are. Ready to get on the winners’ wagon, and then run down when the wagon runs aground at the first hole. Or vice versa: abandon the wagon to its fate, only to get on it when a cup has to be raised. Emblematic what happened in Spain, at the 1982 Mundial. The coach Enzo Bearzot was targeted before and during the tournament, so much so that the team, out of spite, adopted a press blackout first in history. Bearzot was said at the time that he was old (he was 55!), little updated on the tactical news of that period. He was challenged for the exclusion of a couple of players (Beccalossi and Pruzzo) e above all the indefinite defense of his protégé, Paolo Rossi. It came to be compared to a monkey. We all know how it turned out. After three mediocre games, Italy found lightness and awareness and defeated Argentina, Brazil, Poland and Germany in the final. It was a triumph. It was also an example of the most sensational turnaround of Italian public opinion.

More recently also Gian Piero Ventura, the blue coach before Mancini, first collected the non-repayable praise (he had arrived on the bench of the National team after the failure of the World Cup in Brazil 2014) and then the more poisonous criticisms, following the failure qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. It’s a dirty job, that of the CT. But someone has to do it. Mancini knows it well. Yesterday exalted, today criticized. Yesterday appreciated, today questioned. Yesterday at the helm of an Italy that made people dream, today in the wake of an Italy that did not manage to qualify immediately for the Qatar 2022 World Cup. There is still time to make up for it. Mancini himself says that «we will go to the World Cup. And maybe we’ll win it too ». In March Italy will play the playoffs, the last hope to qualify. Whatever will be, will be. The glory, the dust. And then the carousel will start again. With Mancini in his place, or with some other colleague in the saddle.

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