Vassilis Samprakos writes about the remarkable comeback he made with Napoli at the age of 63, a coach who may have wronged himself and was “forced” off the bench for two years.
We are beginning to “forget” Luciano Spalletti, with the result that his recruitment by Napoli in the summer of 2021 will create surprise and maintain the impression that Napoli is “giving up” in terms of the championship. Something that was out of work for two years after Inter, something that Napoli failed at or at least was not “successful” with the coaches they chose after 2018, when Maurizio Sarri left, they all created the feeling that Napoli would not look higher than the last step of the fourth step and would live on. With the vision of getting, at best, a ticket to the Champions League.
I was among those who “didn’t like” Spalletti for his role and especially the way he chose to play the “Terminator” for Francesco Totti of Roma in 2017 to impress him with his football boot behaviour. It was Totti’s pain in his farewell match on May 17 that really affected me, and then came the “Speravo de morì prima” series based on Totti’s version of the reality of his last season, which made him look “heartless”.
All of the above have been literally squashed in my head thanks to what I see him achieve this season with Napoli. From his mind, his idea of how to play and his leadership, a team was created that was really eye catching during this season in both Serie A and the Champions League.
Not only did Napoli take the first step towards qualifying for the ‘8’ Champions League on Tuesday night. She has continued to do so with style and performance that has maintained the momentum she developed in the group stage. Today it remains the team with the most goals and the highest xGoals index, with the most shots made, with the most key assists.
He is obviously fortunate to have such a high quality group of footballers at his disposal, but he clearly has a lot more to contribute to shaping and directing the group. So this is not only the one who was lucky, but the one who caused and made – makes his own luck.
About 14 years ago, when after Roma he decided to continue in the Russian League and Zenit, I “put up with him” because I thought he was not fair to his coaching value with this choice. That is, I was thinking he had become another person who would put financial standards above sports as his priority and deny himself the opportunity to do something better for the many of us. After that, the role of “kamikaze” he played in Rome seemed to reinforce the ceiling he had set for himself by choosing to go to Russia and stay for 5 years.
It was during his time at Inter that he began to remind us how good his ideas were and how effective his methodology was. And then, when he was isolated on his farm west of Florence, he seems to have set to work returning with new ideas and improvements so much so that today he offers a team that has a lot of versatility in attacking development.
At the age of 63, Luciano Spalletti is preparing to experience his greatness in Italy, given that he has never won a tournament. He laid the foundation so that in the summer he can look back and see the best Italian team he has ever built. And that history would probably lead to the conclusion that, as a coach, he’s been left out for bigger things than he’s done over the past 14 years or so. That is, it is possible with what he does to return himself to the list from which elite clubs choose a coach. No matter what his future is, he sets a very nice new example for coaching. At a time when football tends to give the job to the younger generations because they own the technological sophistication, the man who still writes with a pen in notebooks comes as a reminder that a coach’s ability is not determined by age, nor just by technology, and that a coach can take advantage of a ‘second chance’. And show things better than last time.
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