Manuel Veth –
Roberto Mancini is set to become the new Italy bench boss – at least when one gets to believe various media reports that broke on Tuesday morning. It would be a conclusion to a rumour that has been surrounding Zenit’s Italian head coach for quite some time and would be a somewhat fitting conclusion to his time in Russia.
After all, the marriage between Mancini and Zenit was supposed to be full of promise. Zenit fuelled by Gazprom offered the Italian the sort of budget that was supposed to catapult the club back to the top of Russian football and finally make them a competitive force in European football.
Money, power, and Mancini. It was the sort of marriage that we had seen so many times in the past when it came to the Italian head coach. His three stops before Zenit included Manchester City, Galatasaray and Inter Milan.
Mancini – The glitz factor
Manchester City, of course, has been compared many times in the past with Zenit. Like City Zenit after all are a club fuelled by a state agency that had generated plenty of wealth in the oil and gas sector. The clubs also share the history of being noisy neighbour up starters. Both clubs have a long history and a wealthy past but before the arrival of oil and gas money were mediocre clubs at best.
In some ways, even Inter Milan fits that bill. Like City and Zenit Inter are now owned by a wealthy investor in the form of the powerful Suning Holding Group. At the time of Mancini’s hiring, however, the club was owned by the Indonesian oligarch Erick Thohir, who with new money wanted to ressurect the club to its former glory.
Clubs build on state directives seem to all follow the same pattern. They invest plenty of money and they want to attract glitz and power to make their club a beacon that gets attention around the world.
For those clubs, Mancini is an attractive proposition. Back in 2016, the Futbolgrad Network attended Inter Milan’s International Champions Cup game against Paris Saint-Germain in the United States. Coached by Mancini Internazionale were one of those fascinating projects to watch and Mancini as the perfect Italian gentleman seemed to be the perfect name to give the club the extra glitz.
The same was true at Manchester City where Mancini quickly assembled a side of international superstars. It was in some ways a successful project at City bought their way to the title in 2011/12 in spectacular fashion. Two years later Mancini was gone as City’s ambitions were no longer met by the Italian. What followed was the stint at Galatasaray and then Inter where he was fired just a few weeks after that fateful ICC game in the United States – following a falling out with the new Chinese regime.
Gazprom investments were not enough
Then last summer he ended up taking the Zenit job. The Gazprom club quickly invested €94 million in new players and early results suggested that the St. Petersburg side would walk the league and easily collect a title.
Mancini, in the meantime, looked like the man that could easily collect another championship. But Russian football has its very own twists and turns. Divided into essentially two seasons and with travel spanning thousands of kilometres buying an army of Argentines, who – we quote Mancini – “are perfectly suited for Russian football” was simply not enough to create the sort of squad needed to win the title in Russia.
As a result, Zenit struggled after a strong start and ultimately missed out on winning the Russian championship. Even worse, Zenit for the third year in a row could miss out on a UEFA Champions League spot, which could seriously jeopardise the club’s investments this summer as UEFA without a doubt will be asking some tough Financial Fair Play questions.
With all this in mind, it is perhaps somewhat surprising that Mancini could be offered the Italy job. But Italy have just missed out on the World Cup for the first time since 1958. Mancini is deemed the sort of modern and glamorous option – sounds familiar? – who could guide the country out of the shadow?
For Zenit, in the meantime, Mancini leaving has one positive. The club will be spared having to fire the Italian at the end of the season, which will at least save the club some much-needed cash.
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth. Or contact him via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.