It’s a summer tradition for Serie A clubs to chop and change their coach but this year has been unusually busy. Stephen Kasiewicz takes a deep breath and explains them all…
In the tumultuous world of Serie A one thing is certain: a revolving door of coaching arrivals and departures. Except this summer it was as if the usually brisk merry-go-round was cranked up to warp speed.
A raft of top class players exited Italy – including Euro 2020 hero Gianluigi Donnarumma, Inter standouts Achraf Hakimi and Romelu Lukaku and Udinese midfielder Rodrigo De Paul – yet the movement in the dugout went into overdrive.
Resembling a cabinet reshuffle of epic proportions, 12 of the 20 clubs made coaching changes, mostly involving familiar faces in the Italian top flight.
Arguably the highest profile appointment was the return of the Controversial One to Serie A. While many no longer consider Jose Mourinho special after a dismal trophyless period in the Premier League at Tottenham Hotspur, the Portuguese coach was embraced by thousands of enthusiastic Giallorossi tifosi upon his arrival in Rome.
Mourinho enjoyed phenomenal success at Inter but his chances of winning a third Scudetti after back-to-back successes at the San Siro between 2008 and 2010 seem slim to non-existent. Keeping pace with city rivals Lazio will be a minimum requirement for Mourinho, who replaced compatriot Paulo Fonseca after Roma laboured to a disappointing seventh last term.
The Biancocelesti will be guided by Maurizio Sarri this season after Simone Inzaghi replaced Antonio Conte at reigning champions Inter.
The no-nonsense former Chelsea coach, known for his tactical wizardry dubbed ‘Sarri-ball’, set down a marker when he chastised Lazio fans for screaming abuse at Kosovan striker Vedat Muriqi during an open training session. It’s never boring with Sarri around and the chain-smoking allenatore has already dismissed any notion of a rivalry with Mourinho, while targeting a top four finish.
Inzaghi has the colossal responsibility of defending the title at Inter without talisman and top scorer Lukaku, as well as the rapid wing back Hakimi. The Nerazzurri’s financial difficulties are common knowledge yet the loss of two integral players was a demoralizing development for Inter and Serie A as a whole.
The 45-year-old is unlikely to protest the high-profile sales in the same manner as outspoken predecessor Antonio Conte but can’t have been thrilled at losing the irreplaceable Belgian striker in particular.
At Juventus, the Andrea Pirlo experiment backfired as the maestro was unceremoniously sacked after just one season. The Bianconeri scraped into the Champions League at Napoli’s expense and despite winning the Coppa Italia, the midfield legend was relieved of his duties.
Massimiliano Allegri returns in Pirlo’s place following a two-year hiatus with an impeccable record of five consecutive Serie A titles when first in charge between 2014 and 2019.
Allegri has already labelled Inter title favourites while demanding more responsibility from lynchpin Cristiano Ronaldo. His at times fractious relationship with the Portuguese superstar will be a key factor if Juve are to improve on last campaign’s underwhelming fourth placed finish.
Luciano Spalletti is tasked with taking Napoli back to the Champions League after Gennaro Gattuso’s failure in 2020-2021. The veteran coach has not always enjoyed the most productive of relationships with his captains and persuading Euro 2020 winner Lorenzo Insigne to sign a new contract will be one of his first objectives. Keeping striker Victor Osimhen healthy will also be a top priority if Napoli are to make it back into the top four.
Gattuso is never far away from controversy and lasted just 23 chaotic days in charge at Fiorentina following a row about transfer targets. Vincenzo Italiano was quickly drafted in from Spezia to steady the ship after a brilliant season in which he kept the Ligurian minnows in the top flight.
It’s a considerable step up for Italiano, however the addition of Argentinian international winger Nicolás González from Stuttgart was a positive sign of intent as Fiorentina aim for the top half of the table.
Former Inter and Italy midfielder Thiago Motta was handed the reins at Spezia despite a distinct lack of managerial experience. In charge for a paltry 10 games at Genoa two years ago, the former Paris Saint-Germain youth coach will be targeting survival.
Sassuolo must regroup under Alessio Dionisi as the Neroverdi adapt to life after Roberto De Zerbi. In three spectacular years De Zerbi masterminded the provincial club’s rise to challenge and often upset the established players in Serie A. His sudden departure to Ukraine’s Shakhtar Donetsk left a gaping void but his ultra-attacking, risk taking style will be fondly remembered.
Dionisi navigated Empoli to the Serie B title last term and has the invidious job of emulating De Zerbi’s consecutive eighth place finishes in the last two seasons.
Empoli opted for veteran Aurelio Andreazzoli who returned to the dugout at the Tuscan club for the third time. The 67-year-old has a wealth of coaching nous but will also need a considerable amount of luck to prevent an immediate return to the second tier.
Former Sampdoria midfielder Roberto D’Aversa replaced Claudio Ranieri at the Blucerchiati. Samp President Massimo Ferrero claimed staying in Serie A is the main objective, but the Genoa based club possesses enough international quality in their squad to equal, if not better, ninth in the division. Evergreen striker Fabio Quagliarella, 38, can also be relied upon for at least one goal of the season contender next term.
Verona’s goal will be to build on last season’s 10th place under new coach Eusebio Di Francesco. An abject failure at Sampdoria and sacked by Cagliari in February, it represents another fantastic opportunity for the 51-year-old to rebuild his coaching reputation. He replaced Ivan Juric – the Croatian being just one of three foreign coaches in Serie A, along with Sinisa Mihajlovic at Bologna and Mourinho at Roma – who in turn moved on to Torino.
The only way is up for Toro after a dismal slump to the bottom of the table in 2020-2021 in which they won a meagre seven games and conceded a whopping 69 goals.
Bolstering a porous defence is Juric’s first aim, and after two impressive years with little to spend at Verona, the former Genoa coach will be expected to keep Torino away from the relegation positions this term.
After a pre-season of significant coaching change, how many of the new faces will still be in position this time next year remains to be seen.
Check back from September 1 for Football Italia’s full club-by-club season preview.