Goodbye 2023


Thanks to our readers for contributing, once again this year, to Sport One’s growth with numbers that speak for themselves: over 18,000 visitors and 180,000 pages read. ‘Goodbye 2023’ is the concluding article of the year, written by Gianluca Puzzo and Andrea La Rosa, to review the sports events and more. All the best to everyone.

Apologies to everyone else, but reflecting on the sports of 2023 leaves me with three names in mind. Three men who didn’t emerge this year but, in these past twelve months, have significantly impacted both the Italian and global scenes: Pep Guardiola, Luciano Spalletti, and Jannick Sinner. The legendary Catalan coach, truly legendary, wrote the final chapter of his career in 2023, placing him at the summit of any hypothetical all-time ranking of football coaches. With Manchester City, he secured his second treble, winning the Premier League, FA Cup, and Champions League, adding the UEFA Super Cup and Club World Cup this season, silencing those who had always argued that he could only win with Barcelona’s Messi and Iniesta. In reality, Pep has proven victorious everywhere he’s been, in Spain, Germany, and now in England, coaching great champions (but that’s expected at those levels) while altering the style of play based on the available talent (from tiki-taka to more direct play with Haaland), and adeptly handling potentially explosive dressing rooms that, in other hands, might have exploded. With the recent Club World Cup, Guardiola’s personal trophy count rises to 37, never once sacked; is that enough to silence all his detractors? Behind him, another coach, certainly less triumphant but who, in 2023, accomplished a Masterpiece with a capital M by bringing the Serie A title back to Naples after 33 years: we’re, of course, talking about Luciano Spalletti from Certaldo. Spalletti’s football masterpiece culminated in a league title won with a staggering 16-point lead, with a Champions League campaign that, with a bit more conviction, could have delivered even greater satisfaction to the Neapolitans. To grasp the weight of the Tuscan coach’s influence on that masterpiece, one only needs to look at what Napoli is today. Yes, there were a couple of significant departures, but this was already the second coach after the disastrous Garcia period and with a caretaker like Mazzarri miles away from the football those same players were capable of producing just a few months prior under Spalletti. You’ll all remember the events from June onwards: Spalletti resigning for a sabbatical, De Laurentiis entrusting the team to Garcia, then the sudden departure of Roberto Mancini from the Italian national team bench and the “irreplaceable” call from the FIGC to Spalletti, who thus became the Coach and successfully completed the qualification for the upcoming Euros (far from guaranteed, given recent World Cup failures): it feels like a century has passed, yet it’s only been six months, unbelievable. As an old Giallorossi heart, I share a special bond with Spalletti: I owe him for the most beautiful Roma I’ve ever seen in my life, at times the best team in Europe during its early stages in Rome. I owe him for a tactical innovation that allowed me and all other Romanisti to fully appreciate the skills of our greatest champion, Francesco Totti. However, on the flip side of the coin, I reproach him for having won almost nothing with such a strong team, with Totti and De Rossi at the peak of their careers; I criticize his management of Totti’s final career phase, treating him as a burden rather than a resource in the dying moments of games, and his arrogance, in manner and words, eventually became intolerable. A matter of personal opinions, for sure, but limiting ourselves to the present, one cannot deny the incredible work done by Spalletti at Napoli. Finally, we cannot overlook Yannick Sinner and, I would like to emphasize, the other Italians who brought the Davis Cup back to Italy after almost fifty years. Before discussing Sinner, I want to highlight the decisive contributions of Lorenzo Sonego, first as a singles player against Chile when Sinner was absent, and then as a doubles player in the Finals, despite his approximate physical condition. Nor should we forget Matteo Arnaldi’s crucial victory in the final against Popyrin, which spared us from having to play the decisive doubles against the strong Australian pair. Now to Sinner, the champion we had been eagerly waiting for, who blossomed in the summer, capturing his first Slam semifinal at Wimbledon and his first Masters 1000 title in Toronto in just a few weeks. From there until the magnificent season finale, it was an almost unstoppable ride, which saw the Red Baron break the Medvedev taboo, previously unbeaten, and then beat him three times in a row. At the Torino Finals, he also defeated the world number one, Djokovic, in the round-robin, although Djokovic eventually bested him in the final (a final he reached also thanks to Sinner’s sportsmanship, let’s not forget). Then there were the Davis Cup Finals, where Sinner consistently proved to be on another level, both in singles and, believe it or not, in doubles. The only moment of difficulty, needless to say, was in the semifinals against Djokovic, tamed at the end of a legendary match after Sinner saved three consecutive match points. A battle that seemed to many as the start of something bigger, a question that 2024 will answer. Speaking of 2024, just so you know, it’s an Olympic year. What else? Best wishes to everyone from Sport One.

(Gianluca Puzzo)

If I were to choose a cover character, I’d vote for Jannik Sinner because he thrilled us, keeping even casual sports fans glued to the screen. Despite knowing or hearing his name, many hoped to experience what our fathers had passed down. Certainly, a tennis player mainly evaluates their path based on personal financial gains according to tournament participation. But the Davis Cup is something different; there, individualism is discarded a priori; what matters is the team, the glory of a nation. It’s a historic achievement, considering the competition and the team’s young age, including the hope of finding a Berrettini even at three-quarters service, making them protagonists in future editions.
It was Napoli’s year, winning the league after many years thanks to a cosmic alignment. Unfortunately, they’re now dealing with a different reality. However, 2023 remains unforgettable, just like Manchester City’s victory across the board, from the Premier League to the Club World Cup via the Champions League against Inter, a match where Inter deserved more. Still, in football, what counts is scoring more goals than the opponents at the final whistle.
Speaking of which, it was also the year of Italian football’s revival, with three finalists in all European club competitions. Unfortunately, they were defeated, but who cares? After dark years, our Serie A has become competitive again, despite not having economic resources comparable to those in the Premier League, La Liga, and Bundesliga. Just look at the progressive leap in the UEFA ranking for an idea.
Our national team suffered greatly; we barely made it to the Euros, something to defend on paper, but with the awareness of performing well (considering the group draw) and starting from scratch without too many illusions. These cycles are part of the game.
Sure, the issue of the Super League remains thorny. But, similarly, it would be nice if those responsible also paid attention to the Arab football’s exploits and the related market rules to balance uncontrollable dynamics. And why not change our format for the Coppa Italia, including third, fourth, and maybe even fifth-tier clubs (the Eccellenza, to clarify) as many other national cups in Europe do? We shouldn’t think that football belongs to everyone only intermittently.
It was a hot summer for Italian basketball, among the top eight nations globally, a feat not achieved in decades. Considering how the NBA is increasingly global and the EuroLeague’s higher level, especially the women’s national volleyball team, which must regain the serenity of its better times, starting with those big players who should make a difference on the field.
A red wave overwhelmed the MotoGP with Ducati’s Bagnaia winning twice. He had already won his most important title in the terrible Montmeló accident, kissed by luck in a dynamic that could have had very different consequences.
The Ferrari, on the other hand, experienced a weak backwash, facing corporate restructuring and results in the second part of the championship (dominated by Verstappen-Red Bull) that bring hope.
We have no more words for women’s skiing, with Federica Brignone and Sofia Goggia continuing to update the stats of the most successful Italian skiers, just like in athletics, with Gianmarco Tamberi becoming world champion in Budapest in high jump and the successes in swimming, a field in which Italy has been a school of talent and success for many years.
So much sport in 2024, with the Indoor World Athletics Championships scheduled for March, a football binge from January to July with the Asia Cup, African Cup, Copa America, and our Euros. But above all, the main event represented by the XXIII Olympiad and subsequently the XVII Paralympic Games.
We wish the best of luck to the teams participating in the Pre-Olympics tournaments, often challenging but with basketball and volleyball having every chance to win to qualify for Paris. Also, for Marcell Jacobs to regain his top form and return to being that sprinter we all know.
Just a few hours left until the new year. Usually, there are two schools of thought approaching the midnight countdown. The first is to anticipate the next year as the future, ensuring that something good will happen regardless (but don’t say it to those who had the same mindset at the beginning of 2020). The second is more nostalgic or happy, considering the goals achieved or shelved in the calendar year.
Personally, I say live in the present, as we often remind on SportOne, without taking oneself too seriously, maybe without being too much of a “Big Circus.” You get the idea. Happy New Year to our readers, from SportOne. Alè.

(Andrea La Rosa)

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Gianluca Puzzo

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