“Italy appointed the right man and the result could be seen at Wembley last night – a venue where Mancini and Sampdoria lost against Barcelona in 1992 – as the Azzurri lifted their second Euro title by beating England on penalties. The days of doom and gloom are over and finally, Italy are back on the stage where they belong – one of the powerhouses of world football”
A deflected Jakob Johansson strike was enough to earn Sweden a first-leg advantage and leave Italy on the brink of missing out on a first World Cup in Russia since 1958. Giampiero Ventura’s side was listless throughout and, unless they overturn the deficit at San Siro and at San Siro a few days later, Italy failed to pentameter the stubborn Swedish defence and the match ended 0-0. Italy along with Holland – two of the most notable sides in world football would not feature in the greatest show on earth.
Italy had 75% of possession and 23 shots to their rivals’ four but there was no way past the visitors’ determined rearguard and inflicted a national tragedy to their European neighbours. It was hard to believe that Italy would not participate in the World Cup – but football can be so cruel at times and at the same time, failures pave the way for a new beginning.
Few can forget the image of former Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon in tears, or midfielder Daniele de Rossi asking the coaching team “why the hell should I go on” when asked to warm up, calling teammate Lorenzo Insigne a better choice.
On May 14 2018, it was announced that Mancini signed as manager of the Italy national team after taking over from caretaker manager, Luigi Di Biagio.
Mancini signed an incentive-based contract, which would run until 2020, however, would be given an automatic extension if Italy were to qualify for Euro 2020.
On 12 October 2019, Italy qualified for Euro 2020 with three matches to spare after a 2–0 home win over Greece. After qualification for Euro 2020, the clause in his contract was triggered, extending his contract to 2022.
But the Mancini impact has not been all about just qualifying in the Euro 2020, but it has been more than that!
Mancini began his career at Bologna in Italy, where he earned the accolades as one of the dynamic forwards who would drop off and link the midfield with his strike partner.
He completed a £2.2m move to Sampdoria just a season into his career, where he would link up with Gianluca Vialli upfront – he pair earned the nickname, The Goal Twins (“I Gemelli del Gol”, in Italian).
At Sampdoria, Mancini was the superstar alongside Gianluca Vialli, winning four Coppa Italia titles and the Scudetto in 1991.
In Europe, I Blucerchiati won a Cup Winners’ Cup in 1990 before reaching the European Cup final in 1992, only to be beaten by Barcelona at Wembley.
Mancini’s influence at Sampdoria was huge; he attended board meetings and even helped the club with transfer business. When he was 27, the striker sat on the interview panel that selected Sven-Goran Eriksson as manager, while it was often Mancini that delivered the team talks, with some claiming he was “almost a son” to the president, Paolo Mantovani.
In 1997, Mancini eventually left La Samp, moving to Lazio after 168 goals in 566 appearances.
Mancini spent three years in Rome, winning a second Serie A title, two more Coppa Italias and another Cup Winners’ Cup.
During the final season of his Lazio contract, Mancini got his first taste of the Premier League, moving on loan to Leicester City in 2001.
There, he only made four league appearances before retiring.
Mancini began his coaching career at cash-strapped Fiorentina, where he lasted a season, before moving onto Lazio and Inter Milan.
In 2009, Manchester City appointed him as their manager.
The Italian won City’s first Premier League title and stayed four years before moving on to Galatasaray, back to Inter Milan and then to Zenit Saint Petersburg.
I am talking about someone, who is not an ordinary person – rather someone, who tasted success as a player and adviser at a young age and as a manager after retirement.
Above all, his leadership qualities, sharp football brain, innovative idea, risk-taking abilities and mentorship make him the complete package as a manager.
Italy appointed the right man and the result could be seen at Wembley last night – a venue where Mancini and Sampdoria lost against Barcelona in 1992 – as the Azzurri lifted their second Euro title by beating England on penalties. The days of doom and gloom are over and finally, Italy are back on the stage where they belong – one of the powerhouses of world football.
But the journey to glory was long and hard.
As soon as Mancini took over, he immediately started to rebuild, and a group of kids became a family.
Mancini also invested considerably in young players, such as 23-year-olds Federico Chiesa and Manuel Locatelli, and 24-year-old Nicolo Barella.
All of them scored important goals on the path to the final, with Chiesa the one to break the deadlock against Spain before Alvaro Morata’s equalizer.
“I always believed that Italy had talented players,” Mancini said when they secured a spot at the Euro 2020.
The family feeling within the Italian team has been widely praised and it was once again present when players held Leonardo Spinazzola’s jersey and sang his name during celebrations – such has been the impact of Mancini!
Mancini started the Italian renaissance by discarding their traditional but conservative counterattacking style.
Mancini changed the team’s mentality, instructing his side to go after the opposition and force them onto the back foot.
With the experienced and unflappable duo of Leonardo Bonucci and Giorgio Chiellini at the heart of defence, he allowed the flair players to bring back some Italian style.
Attack-minded players such as Ciro Immobile, Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Chiesa have flourished under the new regime as Italy unleashed a new chapter where they are still unbeaten in the international arena.
Mancini found a tactical system that drew out the best of it, a 4-3-3 that allowed Jorginho and Marco Verratti to dictate play from the middle, while the likes of Insigne, Federico Chiesa and Berardi could attack from the same wide positions they excel in for their club sides.
At Wembley, Mancini found, this tactic might not be fruitful.
England’s early goal, coupled with Gareth Southgate’s switch to a back three, initially posed a question Italy could not solve.
They could have all the ball they wanted in the middle of the pitch but in the final third, England’s wing-backs denied them their usual width by dropping to form a back five.
Mancini had faith in his bench to change the game.
He has insisted all through this tournament that he has 26 starters in his squad, and his decision to throw Bryan Cristante and Federico Bernardeschi into this final after scarce prior involvement was further evidence that he believed in these words.
The first of those players made a crucial flick for Italy’s goal and the rest is history.
“This transformation really came down to a tricky time we encountered with the national team. We had this generational change with a number of young players and we wanted to achieve even more,” Mancini told BBC Sport Wales.
“But lest we forget, we’ve won the World Cup four times with the way we play football so, of course, defending is always a key tenet of our play. You need to have the right balance – you need to defend well and attack well.”
“We have tried to change our mindset, particularly with regards to the way we attack. We try to play a lot more on the front foot.”
“There’s a good mix. The players have done a very good job. They deserve the credit for having really bought into this style of play very quickly.”
“He is meticulous, he knows exactly what he wants to get from the players and, and obviously, the memories that I have is that he always, from a tactical point of view, always gives a real advantage to his players,” told the manager of Belgium, Roberto Martinez
“I must admit I think what Roberto Mancini has done with Italy is an example. Whoever plays, they know exactly what they need to do.”
“The team has a real identity a little bit different to what you would expect in the past of the Italians. I can’t speak highly enough of the work that Roberto Mancini has done with Italy.”
“This Italy group is very confident in what they’re doing, they’re possessed with this sense of togetherness, a sense of collective goals and work which goes right the way back through all of Mancini’s time with Italy,” Italian football journalist Nicky Bandini told BBC Radio Wales.
“The strength of this Italy team is there’s a mindset that there are no stars here and, if someone goes down – as Marco Verratti did on the eve of the tournament, one of the highest-profile players – you can lose a player like that and in comes Manuel Locatelli, who they believe can be just as functional in what they’re trying to do.”
Italy have achieved the glory and the impact of Mancini is huge.
Mancini promised Italy a new era and a change – he kept his promise as the Azzurri are the best in Europe right now.