The Napoli coach offers the synthesis of the best of football with a modern vision. But prune away dialectical excesses and folklore
Luciano Spalletti comes from afar, from the depths of the nineties. In Empoli in 1993 he ended his career as a player, a running and insertion midfielder, and in Empoli in 1993 he began his career as a coach. Empoli has always been the right place to work in football, with any skill, because at Empoli they apply the format of education in technique and the game.
A continuously updated laboratory, a club where you learn and grow. It is no coincidence that coaches such as Guidolin, Giampaolo and Sarri have passed through Empoli. It took Spalletti a while to find his way around him. The beginnings were complicated. To Sampdoria in ’99 relegated. At Venice he ended up in Zamparini’s clutches, for the usual round: exonerated, recalled, re-exonerated. He experienced as it should be in a period of transition at the end of the millennium: the long wave of “sacchismo” had run out and Guardiola had not yet appeared on the horizon. The turning point at Ancona and in the second move to Udinese. Between the Marches and Friuli, Spalletti has found his way as a coach who never stands still, restless in a good way, always striving for exploration.
In his first experience at Roma he graduated as a top level coach, with the intuition of Totti false nine. He brought the Giallorossi captain closer to goal and multiplied his goals. Around Totti a swarm of raiders, above all Simone Perrotta, later world champion in Germany. After leaving Rome, Spalletti made a breakthrough choice. The experience abroad – by now obligatory for every coach who aspires to the top tier – he did it in Russia, at Zenit St. Petersburg, in the context of a not exactly top-level championship. Spalletti won it twice and it wasn’t wasted time, but it wasn’t excellent either. In England or Germany he might have gotten richer. When he returned to Rome, he hardened himself to a thousand in the “management” of Totti’s sunset, a sort of “one against all”. Spalletti’s solitude in front of an entire fan base, in adoration of “his” captain. Good material for a TV series, which has actually been produced.
Then Inter, with a similar grain, the implosion of Mauro Icardi, another captain. Spalletti brought Inter back to the Champions League, a non-trivial goal, and bequeathed the transformation of Marcelo Brozovic to Conte. Until around 2018, the Croatian was a fairly unresolved midfielder. With Spalletti he became the director that not even he, Brozovic, imagined he was. The ability to go beyond appearances, to grasp the hidden potential in the players, is one of the Tuscan coach’s best qualities. The other is “evolutionism”. He was one of the first to get rid of tiqui-taca for its own sake. He worked extensively on the construction from below, paid a few penalties, then streamlined it.
Napoli leaders with nine points ahead of Milan is the result of a year and a half of work, adjustments and improvements. It’s difficult to classify the Spapiece’s Napoli, compare it to this or that other cult team. Is there something about Guardiola? Yes. Is there anything by Klopp? Yes. Spalletti has become a great synthesizer of the best trends. He keeps his antennae straight, intercepts the news, assimilates them and reworks them in his own way. For example, there’s a Spacchiotti approach to playing on the outsides, he was one of the first, many years ago, to use them with his foot reversed. And then he has the great gift of not being a fundamentalist of this or that other philosophy. There is no doubt that he deserves his first Italian Scudetto. He must only beware of himself, from entanglements in communication and from certain sketches not up to his skill, such as the repeated blatant attempt to shake Allegri’s hand at the end of the 5-1 win against Juve. It’s a harmful folklore, for fans’ use. He doesn’t need to: his work speaks for him, it represents him at his best.
January 20 – 08:31
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