Do Juventus or Milan have the next Guardiola?
There is nothing new about putting expensively assembled football teams into the hands of former players with glorious on-field pasts and little coaching experience. But I think it’s fair to say that Pep Guardiola’s remarkable success in his maiden season in the Barcelona dugout contributed to AC Milan and Juventus recently appointing novice managers Leonardo and Ciro Ferrara.
Juve’s Italy defender Nicola Legrottaglie said he sees Ferrara as “the Italian response to Guardiola”. Milan chief executive Adriano Galliani, meanwhile, preferred to compare Leonardo to the precedent they set with Fabio Capello, who like the Brazilian was a club director before his 1991-96 stint in charge that produced four Serie A titles and a Champions League.
Leonardo’s apparent weakness is that he is absolutely new to coaching. Guardiola had been successful with Barcelona B before he got the first-team job at the Camp Nou. Ferrara can count on his experience at the helm of Juve’s youth team and at Marcello Lippi’s side in the Italy coaching staff, as well as the two matches he won in Serie A to clinch automatic Champions League qualification after Claudio Ranieri was sacked.
Ferrara’s challenge may be how to stamp his authority in the locker room. He now finds himself in charge of the team’s so-called senators, such as Alessandro Del Piero, Mauro Camoranesi and David Trezeguet, after playing alongside them before retiring in 2005. This could complicate matters if he wants to drop one of his old team mates. But if he is seen to favour them it could create rifts.
It might be easier for Leonardo to be the tough guy when necessary as, although he is younger than Ferrara, his playing days are further behind him.
Lippi, however, is confident Ferrara has what it takes to overcome these hurdles: “He has the charisma, personality, intelligence, wisdom and charm to establish a relationship with top level professionals and construct something important with them.”
The pair’s ability to match the success of Guardiola and Capello will also depend on the raw materials the clubs give them to work with in the transfer market.
Kaka’s sale to Real Madrid should give Milan the money for much needed squad rejuvenation, while one of Leonardo’s challenges will be to restore Ronaldinho to his best so his playmaker compatriot is not missed. It will also be interesting to see if he is better than his predecessor Carlo Ancelotti at convincing the club to buy the players he wants rather than big names who are easy to land.
Ancelotti wanted someone like Arsenal’s Emmanuel Adebayor or Palermo’s Amauri, who was snapped up by Juve, for his attack last year. Instead he ended up with Ronaldinho and Andriy Shevchenko, both of whom had poor seasons.
Ferrara will be able to base his attack on new signing Diego and Fabio Cannavaro’s return will bolster the backline. But with Pavel Nedved gone, the Turin side still look a couple of good signings short of being able to topple Inter Milan in Serie A and go all the way in Europe.
PHOTO: AC Milan’s Leonardo poses for photographers with club chief executive Adriano Galliani (R) after replacing Carlo Ancelotti as coach, June 1, 2009. REUTERS/Paolo Bona