Ciao Signor Lippi


Legendary Italian manager Marcello Lippi has announced that he’s retiring from football.

The sixty-six year old stated…

“I don’t want to coach anymore, I’m too old,”

He quits on a high, which is apt after such an illustrious career, after guiding Guangzhou Evergrande to their third Chinese league title in a row. The great boss also triumphed in the Chinese FA cup in 2012 and managed the Chinese side to their first Asian Champions League trophy last year.

His success in China will have surprised no one who has followed Italian or European football to any decent degree.

After spending a decade playing for Sampdoria, Lippi would spend some time with Pistoiese and Lucchese before retiring in 1982. If his playing career was modest his managerial one would be far from it. It would turn out to be golden!

In 1985 Lippi took over as coach at lowly Pontedera in the mid eighties. He would learn his trade in the lower Italian divisions before getting his chance in Serie A with Cesena in 1989.

Marcello would then spend the next six years riding on the notorious Italian managerial merry-go round, managing four clubs in that time including spells at Atalanta and Napoli.

His time in Naples caught the attention of those running ‘La Vecchia Signora’. He would arrive in Turin and managed to secure Juventus their first Scudetto in five seasons during his debut season.

Lippi’s initial side had so many fantastic stars with the likes of Fabrizio Ravanelli, Gianluca Vialli, Roberto Baggio and a young Alessandro Del Piero playing up top at various stages. Those four were all world-class on their day!

In goals during that era was the consistent Angelo Peruzzi. The ‘Big Bear’ was often unbeatable with his tremendous shot-stopping skills.

That team in 1994-95 also had two terrific leaders, both brought in by Lippi. Defender Ciro Ferrera came with Lippi from Napoli in 1994 and soon established himself in the centre of defence. He was a rock and went on to become a great for Juve. In midfield, another new-boy would come in and help lead the team (mainly in the seasons that followed), that was Champions League winner Didier Deschamps. The Frenchman was great at winning possession back in midfield.

To show you how great that squad was here are just a few other members (all well known); Antonio Conte, Moreno Torricelli, Jurgen Kohler, Alessio Taccinardi, Angelo Di Livio and Paulo Sousa.

Marcello would often want his teams to have two main qualities. He liked creative stars that could help edge games but he also depended on team work. His sides always needed those players that would die for the shirt and run through walls for the cause. The likes of Antonio Conte and Rino Gattuso were huge Lippi men. His teams also had to realise he was the boss and his tactics were the most important thing and not their egos.

Lippi would never rest on his laurels and would often change his roster, even if they had just won the Serie A title. Players like Baggio, Ravanelli and Vialli would depart and stars such as Pippo Inzaghi, Christian Vieri and Zinedine Zidane would come in and help the club to even more league titles.

During his initial four and a half years in charge at Juve, Lippi would guide his side to another two Serie A titles. The pinnacle of his time in Turin actually happened in Rome, when Lippi and his charges won a penalty shoot-out against Ajax in 1996’s Champions League final.

The side that year; Peruzzi, Ferrara, Gianluca Pessotto, Torricelli, Pietro Vierchowod, Sousa, Deschamps, Conte, Vialli, Del Piero, Ravanelli, Vladimir Jugovic, Di Livio, Michele Padavano, Sergio Porrini and Michelangelo Rampulla all cemented their places as bianconeri legends. The win also secured Lippi as a managerial great.

His team that season were, at times, sensational. I witnessed it all first hand when they met Rangers in the group stages and Alessandro Del Piero inspired Juventus to a 4-1 home victory and a 4-0 triumph in Glasgow. They were fast and lethal, I hadn’t seen a team dismantle Rangers in such dramatic fashion before those two European fixtures.

Really that Juve side should have secured more than that solo Champions League trophy. Despite successes since that period, Juventus have yet to secure another European title. They’ve finished runners-up three times under the coach.

Lippi would leave the ‘Old Lady’ in 1999. Later on that year he’d take up the reigns at Inter Milan.

His appointment was seen by Inter’s president Massimo Moratti as a key component in returning Internazionale to their glory days. Unfortunately for Marcello he lasted little over a year at the San Siro as he couldn’t work his magic with the ‘Nerazzurri’. A lot of that was down to the players in Milan failing to trust Lippi and his methods, he never had the team unity and work ethic he always demanded from his players.

Marcello Lippi would then return to La Vecchia Signora in 2001 and he once again secured a league title (their first since he departed in 99′). His second spell in Turin would last three years and he won two scudetto’s in that time, showing his first stint wasn’t a fluke.

Then in 2004, Signor Lippi would become head coach of the Italian national team. Lippi would select his Azzurri squads much like he did during his Juve days. They would have a quality goalkeeper, strong defence, foot-soldiers in midfield that would carry out every managerial instruction and creative maestros that could turn games on their head.

His pool would qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany with relative ease. The team would be tactically drilled and prepared for every eventuality. Fitness and discipline being main priorities.

In the group stages Italy would top the group, only a blip against the US and midfield general Daniele De Rossi’s red card (he  was suspended for the next four matches) worried the Italians.

Against the Australian’s in the second round, luck was on the Azzurri’s side as they squeezed past the Socceroos due to an extremely fortuitous penalty deep into injury time. Francesco Totti held his nerve to score from the spot and send Italy through. As I’ve said lady luck (plus some say dodgy officiating) played a huge part in that win. But every great team and successful world-class manager needs to have an element of luck playing on their side. Its imperative that the teams react and make the most of that luck, Lippi always had his teams ready for the right time.

That luck would return in the semi-finals against hosts Germany with two valuable late goals deep into extra-time. Germany always clinical at shootouts would have fancied their chances against Italy who lost to Brazil in the 1994 final. But Fabio Grosso scored in the 119th minute and that was followed up by a superb strike by Del Piero.

In the final, Italy would atone their penalty defeat in 1994 by beating France on pens. That was after French star man and former Lippi disciple Zidane was sent off for headbutting Marco Materazzi. Italy scored all of their penalties, while David Trezeguet saw his effort hit the bar.

Once again Marcello Lippi showed that with sound tactics, luck, strong minds, hard work and some star quality you could win anything. Even the World Cup!

All though for me, that 2006 campaign will always conjure up images of an emotional Rino Gattuso grabbing and slapping his strict coach after his teams wins! It was so bizarre, so Rino!

Lippi manages to get everything from the players that support his ideas. They would follow him to the end of the earth and trust him with their lives. He always managed his dugout with class and stern discipline. It’s extremely tough to say many negative things when discussing the legendary Lippi, although Christian Panucci could probably write a book about his grievances with his former boss.

That World Cup triumph wasn’t soured by Lippi’s limp second tenure  in charge of the Azzurri when they were humbled in South Africa 2010. But it wasn’t nice to watch.

Marcello Lippi was a superb, wonderful manager. Up there with Sir Alex Ferguson and Fabio Capello as the best managers of their and my generation. He was a born winner and won all the main titles a proud Italian coach could win. I hope he can have a long and happy retirement.

Grazie Signor Lippi! Ciao.

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