Don't believe the hype about Mancini's feats

Italy's match-fixing scandal helped hand City's new manager his first two Serie A titles. Ian Herbert examines the gilded path of the man called 'Mancio'
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The Independent Football

One thing is for sure in the uncertain weeks ahead for Manchester City: there won't be many more scorelines like Saturday's. The Italian coaches like Roberto Mancini, who earn their coaching badges at the Coverciano in Florence, are taught to understand that you build a team around a solid defence. A 4-3 result is considered a disaster.

But there are few other certainties for the 45-year-old supposedly better equipped than Mark Hughes to take City to a fourth-placed finish. The word Italy has for Mancini is predestinato – always destined to do well – and it carries the slight aspersion that Mancini has been gifted his coaching chances by virtue of his reputation as one of Italy's most naturally gifted players.

He had barely finished his playing days – at Peter Taylor's Leicester City, after his great friend Gianluca Vialli said he must try out the English game – when he took the Fiorentina job, without coaching badges, which caused a brief controversy in Italy. He won an Italian Cup both there and at Lazio, his next assignment, but the insignificance of that cup cannot be over-exaggerated. The Italians field reserve sides and play in semi-deserted stadiums until the final of a tournament which makes the English League Cup look hotly contested.

Yet this was still deemed enough to take Mancini to Internazionale at the start of the 2004-05 season and though three Serie A titles followed, there was something decidedly predestinato about the first of them as Mancini became the prime beneficiary of the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal which meant that Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio were in Serie B and Juventus Serie C1. The second title next season was a similar procession with Juventus in Serie B and Milan starting with an eight-point handicap. Only the third consecutive title was down to Inter alone.

This is the context in which Mancini's reputation as the most successful Inter club manager of 30 years must be judged and though the Italian press was full of self-congratulatory editorials yesterday, concluding that Mancini following Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti to these shores proves that England is adopting the talent of a footballing nation it once reviled, the new City manager is not considered to be anywhere near the Capello/Marcello Lippi bracket. He has never succeeded in Europe.

"Mancio" mirrors Hughes in some ways: reserved, softly spoken and a manager who has no desire to cultivate a relationship with the press. But he differs in his relationship with players and is seen as a manager who wants to be close to his players. It was part of Hughes's tough culture that he was not willing to mollycoddle his multimillionaire stars.

Neither are there signs from Mancini's eight-year coaching career that he is as keen on developing youth players as Hughes. Only when Jose Mourinho succeeded him did youngsters like Mario Balotelli and Davide Santon flourish. The future looks a very different place for City.

Road to Manchester: Mancini's CV

*Born 27 November 1964, Jesi, Italy

*Club career: 1981-82 Bologna, 1982-97 Sampdoria, 1997-2000, Lazio, 2001 Leicester City. Four goals in 36 games for Italy

Trophies: two Serie A titles, six Coppa Italias, two Cup Winners' Cups.

*Managerial career: 2001-02......... Fiorentina, 2002-04 Lazio, 2004-08......... Internazionale, 2009+ Man City.

Trophies: three Serie A titles, four Coppa Italias.