It seems fitting that Roberto Mancini’s Italian team is facing England at Wembley for the Henri Delaunay trophy.
James Bond and football were keen interests of Mancini’s as he grew up in the Italian town of Jesi. Mancini was so obsessed with 007 that much of his attire is based on the fictional film spy. Mancini even admitted it was his dream to one day play the English spy in a film. Standing on the side-line, it’s not hard to imagine, the well-dressed Italian as a potential James Bond actor. Acting’s loss is football’s gain.
English football has been a constant companion during his football career. From a young age Mancini has always had an interest in English football, watching as many matches as possible when they began broadcasting the Premier League in Italy. As his career unfolded, Mancini played with many top stars from the English league. At different times at Sampdoria, Mancini was teammates with Trevor Francis, Liam Brady and Graeme Souness, all once great players in the English league who subsequently left the league to test their skills in Italy. Francis, the first British one-million-pound transfer, and Souness helped Mancini and Sampdoria to their first ever Coppa Italia in 1984.
In 1993, the English man David Platt arrived from Juventus to become Mancini’s teammate at Sampdoria. The pair quickly became close friends, helping Sampdoria to another Coppa Italia triumph in 1994. Platt only stayed 2 seasons before joining Arsenal but his friendship and influence with Mancini remained strong. It was Platt who encouraged Mancini towards the end of his career to play in England with Leicester City. Although he only played four matches with Leicester City, he left to manage Fiorentina; it gave him a great insight into the English game.
Mancini experienced a lot of success as manager too. His most high-profile club management position in Italy was at Inter Milan. During his four years he guided Inter Milan to 3 successive league titles (2007-2009). In doing so he became their most successful manager since Helenio Herrera. Nevertheless, failure in the champions league and an acrimonious departure led to Mancini taking over at Manchester City in 2009, 18 months after his sacking.
Mancini’s arrival at Manchester city was not welcome by all fans after the sacking of Mark Hughes. His close friend Platt soon joined him at Manchester City as his assistant manager. His time at Manchester was troublesome. During his tenure, he displayed his man management skills in dealing with and getting the best out of the troublesome trio of Mario Balotelli, Carlos Tevez and Craig Bellamy. Meanwhile, his tactical nous guided Manchester city to an FA Cup win and their first Premier League title in 2011.
The Chiesas and Mancini share a long history in football and are probably most qualified to discuss Mancini’s career as a player and manager. Federico, an energetic winger, is flourishing under the tutelage of Mancini at Euro 2020, he scored a wonderful solo goal against Spain in the semi-final. His father Enrico, once a star striker in Serie A experienced Mancini as a teammate and as his manager. Enrico explained in Luca Caoili’s biography of Mancini that his biggest strength as a manager is his flexibility. Mancini is not wedded to one formation or a certain football philosophy. He will adapt his tactics and formation to the players at his disposal and the opposition.
This tactical shrewdness has been on show at Euro 2020. Mancini has showcased elements of the English game team in his team section and tactics. Italy play with a high tempo and aggressively press opposition teams. His midfielders are box to box players who are both able to defend and attack. This is mixed with an astute Italian back-line who are experts in the dark arts of defending.
Despite his glittering club career, Mancini never hit the same heights with the Azurrri. 36 caps and four goals were a poor return for player of his talent. He will be hoping his international management career is more fruitful. On Sunday night, he has chance to use his insight of the English game to overcome this familiar opponent for what would be a famous triumph.