Enzo Maresca, the Italian Job


Many Italian coaches are performing well beyond borders, including Enzo Maresca, who is currently in England working to lift Leicester out of the Championship purgatory where they were relegated at the end of last season. His career promises many satisfactions.

It was the 2015-16 season when Claudio Ranieri’s Leicester surprised the world by winning the Premier League, progressing from the previous season’s fourteenth place and the Championship promotion the season before that. It was a historic moment where sports collided with reality, proving that the one who spends the most doesn’t always win.

The following year, they had an impressive run reaching the Champions League quarterfinals. However, the team was gradually downsized, leading to relegation last season, definitively shattering that dream.

From there, the project aimed to focus on the future without getting caught up in frenzy but with a well-directed strategy, leveraging excellent players led by the ever-present Vardy, the sole survivor of that historic run. He himself has had an extraordinary journey, from an amateur player to a team leader, even participating in the 2018 World Cup semifinal with the English national team, later lost to Croatia after extra time.

Today, Leicester mostly relies on their manager, Enzo Maresca, who, after his apprenticeship, is also ready for a significant leap. One might say it’s just the English Championship, but looking at the numbers, the topic is of a much higher level. The leaderboard speaks volumes, currently holding the top position with a significant gap from rivals and a frightening goal difference that emphasizes a more critical aspect beyond the context.

For Maresca, the away game environment seems to suit him well. As a player, he shone in Seville, winning two UEFA Cups, a UEFA Super Cup, a Copa del Rey, and a Supercopa de España. He played for several clubs until Verona, where he decided to call it quits in the 2016-17 season.

Continuing in football, he worked as an assistant at Ascoli, a technical collaborator at Sevilla, vice-manager at West Ham, and with the Manchester City under-23 team until 2021, when he had his first coaching experience at Parma, unfortunately not a success.

However, there were those who believed in him, and not just anyone: Pep Guardiola, who wanted him on his staff at Manchester City last year, achieving a treble: Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League. Everything fell into place for Maresca to take on new and greater responsibilities, armed with a better wealth of experience, signing a three-year contract with Leicester, recently relegated but, as mentioned, with ambitious plans for rebuilding.

‘He’s obsessed with football. He insisted that his team stayed overnight at Leicester’s sports center for the entire first week of pre-season training to build a culture and spread his ideas. His playing style, a sort of enlightenment according to Maresca himself, is a mix between Guardiola’s teachings and De Zerbi’s work. A highly risky and resource-intensive game but with high prospects of success. Indeed, Leicester is leading with 9 wins out of 10 games played. Typically, he operates with a 4-3-3 formation. Maresca wants his team to build patiently from the back and react ruthlessly and swiftly in the final third when spaces are exploited.’ This is what The Telegraph wrote last autumn, theory and practice rolled into one.

However, there are many Italian coaches abroad who have grown exponentially recently, perhaps where there’s less media pressure and a suitable working environment that fits well. For instance, Vincenzo Montella, after some negative experiences in Italy, restarted in Turkey at Adana Demirsport, now a beacon for the Turkish national team aiming to perform well in the upcoming European Championship.

Francesco Farioli’s career is incredible, born in 1989, after various technical collaborations, he seized the opportunity to make a career in Turkey. He’s now the coach of Nice in the top French league, where Gattuso also started from, moving on from Olympique Marseille.

Fabio Grosso’s experience at Lyon lasted less than expected, dismissed after seven matches and after experiencing a severe assault while on the team bus.

Roberto De Zerbi is doing extremely well, after gaining experience in Italy, starting from the 2013-14 season in Serie D with Darfo Boario (relegation), then Serie C at Foggia, and the leap to Serie A with Palermo, Benevento, and Sassuolo. His experience in Ukraine ended prematurely due to the war with Shakhtar Donetsk. He is currently at Brighton, achieving historic results for the English club, dispelling the myth of Potter, who in the meantime moved to Chelsea, leading the “Seagulls” to a historic European qualification, and the results seem to continue despite the very fruitful sale of Caicedo (also to Chelsea). For De Zerbi, coaching a top European club is just a matter of time.

Speaking of those abroad, Marco Rosi deserves a mention, the mastermind behind Hungary’s successes, Calzona, Sarri’s assistant during Napoli’s days, has been the Slovakian national team’s coach for a year and a half now.

An interesting situation involves Paolo Negro, who signed with Uganda last September but was replaced a month later, and Francesco Moriero, the coach of the Maldives after a decent career in Italy between Serie C and Serie B.

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Andrea La Rosa

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