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The Fickle Nature Of Italian Management

Why are Italian clubs so willing to bring in and toss aside managers at the drop of a hat? What possible benefit can it bring?

"What's this number? It can't be the number of managers I've fired, it's much too low."
"What's this number? It can't be the number of managers I've fired, it's much too low."
Tullio M. Puglia

A trend that's been too long predictable and too long disturbing has been the way that Italian teams toss aside managers left, right, and center. Several clubs, perhaps most notably Palermo, have developed an unfortunate reputation in that regard.

"In Italy there are teams who change their Coach so often, I don’t think it’s the right way.

"If after every match there is a judgement it’s difficult to reach objectives. If you want to reach a certain level, you shouldn't keep changing your ideas. You should keep working on one idea, make your judgement at the end and then decide what to do."

-Rafa Benitez. Souce: Football Italia

As Napoli's erstwhile Spanish manager points out, it's extremely difficult to establish any kind of stability in the circumstances that business model generates. The players get two or three or four completely different messages on how to play and what to do every season, making it hard to settle in tactically. Plus, different managers will evaluate personnel differently, so one summer's massive purchase for a player seen as central to one manager's efforts may be barely scraping in to the matchday squad a few months later under that manager's successor.

In a nation strapped with financial issues, having to toss aside big purchases on a regular basis isn't sustainable, nor is constantly having to pay managerial buyout clauses. On top of that, the nation-wide instability in the job drives away premier candidates for the job; time was, when Massimiliano Allegri or Claudio Ranieri lost their jobs in Milan, they would have been replaced with top-tier managers. Instead, Ranieri was succeeded by Andrea Strammacioni, who barely lasted a year, and Allegri was replaced by first-time manager Clarence Seedorf, who may not get six months at this rate.

It's reached the point that the likes of Carlo Ancelotti, Cesare Prandelli, Luciano Spalletti, and Roberto Mancini are unlikely to manage in Italy again any time soon. They're some of the best names in Italian management right now, but the politics and instability tied to the job in their home country make for immensely unattractive options. Only a bare handful of owners offer any kind of realistic long-term option right now, and those jobs seem well tied-down right now.

Fortunately for Napoli fans, Aurelio De Laurentiis seems to be one of those owners. He gave Walter Mazzarri the time and support he needed to establish something good in Naples, and that turned out well. He stood by Crazy Uncle Walter through some shaky times in the first season of his tenure, and that faith was rewarded with several excellent seasons, and laid the groundwork that Rafa Benitez is now laying his ten-year plan down upon.

Another area hurt by the constant managerial churn in Italy that's rarely looked at is the youth development system. There's been little focus on developing and improving academy systems in recent years, and it's starting to show. While there have been a few notable names popping up lately, the flow of young Italian talent has trickled to a tiny stream. Part of that has been an emphasis on veteran players with grinta and moxie, but with academies getting so many conflicting messages on what to do and what to focus on, if they even get such messages at all, it's hard to create a concise development and recruitment plan.

This incessant turnover of managerial jobs in Italy doesn't just hurt the clubs in the short term. The shortsightedness of it on the scale we're seeing has massively negative long-term effects. Italy's clubs need owners who are willing to make a plan and at least try to follow it through a little bit before freaking out and changing course. It's bad business, and it's bad management.