When Roberto Mancini got the reins of the Azzurri in 2018, his utmost goal was to make the Italian public fall back in love with their national football team.
Thirty-eight months after that appointment, the former Lazio forward led his country to triumph at the 2020 Euro championships, which was moved forward by a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
How did he do it?
Form and experience edge out calendar age
The Azzurri were imperious in the group stage, which started with the centre-back pairing of Leonardo Bonucci  and Giorgio Chiellini , who have a combined age of 70. When Chiellini got injured against Switzerland, Mancini replaced him by 33-year-old Francesco Acerbi, who until Euro 2020 had only ever won 15 caps.
According to the Analyst, Italy has a history of national team center-back pairings, parachuted into the Azzurri from clubs winning major tournaments. The 1982 FIFA World Cup-winning side has Gaetano Scirea  and Claudio Gentile , who both played together at Juventus and in 2006 Fabio Cannavaro  and Marco Materazzi  had spent two of the four years directly prior to the 2006 World Cup together at Inter Milan.
Even though Bonucci and Chiellini did not have a great season with Juventus-they started only nine Serie A games together, Mancini stuck with his grizzled campaigners to prove that old does not necessarily mean bad or out-of-date.
Build a team around stalwarts, and not stars
The spine of the team was Chiellini/Bonucci in defence; Jorginho in midfield, and the erratic Ciro Immobile. On the surface, there is no gloss or shine to these four players but they continually performed for the Azzurri. Jorginho played 705 minutes out of the 720 Italy completed at the Euros [three extra times] and he completed 93% of the 518 passes he attempted.
According to Squawka, “Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini both completed the entire #EURO2020 tournament without being successfully dribbled past by an opposition player or making an error leading to a shot.”
Immobile despite all the criticisms scored two goals and assisted for two as Italy scored 13.
Build a group of 26 instead of 15
Many managers do not take the time needed to build a squad of players that have symmetrical synergy-especially for tournaments. Mancini had a group of players he trusted so much that only one-the third goalkeeper, Alex Meret, got no minutes.
He lost his first choice right-back or right wing-back, Alessandro Florenzi in the first match against Turkey, and Giovanni Di Lorenzo slotted in seamlessly. When one of his attacking threats down the left flank, Leonardo Spinazzola got injured, Emerson, who played just two EPL games for Chelsea, was called on and he did not disappoint.
Get players who crave success
There is no greater element in the process of success than a person who craves it with every living breath. Mancini got his collection right.
He did not just take players from the top-six sides in Italy, or across Europe’s top five leagues; he found players that, despite where they played or their stature, were actively looking for the next conquest.
Matteo Politano had the better season but Federico Bernardeschi, who did not score a league goal for Juventus was chosen as he needed the tournament more than Politano does while AC Milan’s Davide Calabria was also left out, even though the right-back consistently scored higher than Florenzi and Di Lorenzo in both defensive and offensive contributions.
Create a group of trusted assistants
A look at Mancini’s back-room staff reveals friendships that run into decades. FootballItalia reveals that “Three of Italy’s Euro 2020 backroom staff were teammates at Sampdoria 30 years ago as the Blucerchiati topped Serie A.”
Mancini had the support of Gianluca Vialli and Atilio Lombardo. World Cup winner Daniele De Rossi joined in March while Gabriele Oriali, Alberigo Evani, Angelo Adamo Gregucci, Giulio Nuciari, and Fausto Salsano have been with Mancini since he started his managerial career at Fiorentina in 2001.
From start to finish, the Azzurri were many people’s pick to pick up the Henri Delaunay trophy, and they did not disappoint.
On their way, they had to beat the No.1 ranked team, Belgium; home favourites England, and set a new record of winning two matches through penalty kicks at a Euro Championship. But above all, they showed they were a team built in the nature and aesthetics of their manager.
Congratulations, Italy. You made the right choice with Mancini.
Support PREMIUM TIMES' journalism of integrity and credibility
Good journalism costs a lot of money. Yet only good journalism can ensure the possibility of a good society, an accountable democracy, and a transparent government.
For continued free access to the best investigative journalism in the country we ask you to consider making a modest support to this noble endeavour.
By contributing to PREMIUM TIMES, you are helping to sustain a journalism of relevance and ensuring it remains free and available to all.
TEXT AD: Call Willie - +2348098788999