Legend Of Calcio: Marcello Lippi
Marcello Lippi has become a well known figure around the football world since making his coaching debut in 1982. Muhammad Alif looks back over his illustrious career.
Italy is famed for its fine food and fashion as well as rich history and music, but it is also a country which has produced some of the best footballing coaches in the world, and none more so than Marcello Lippi.
This Paul Newman doppelgänger was born in Viareggio, in northern Tuscany and began his journey into calcio in 1969 plying his trade as a defender with Sampdoria.
Lippi spent most of his playing career with the Blucerchiati from 1969-1978, except for a year loan at Savona. After making 240 appearances, he left the Stadio Luigi Ferraris to join Pistoiese in 1979.
Pistoiese achieved promotion to Serie A with Lippi in their team. He finally ended his playing career with Tuscany based club Lucchese in 1982.
Following retirement, Lippi pursued coaching and found himself back at Sampdoria as a youth team coach. After several spells coaching in Italy’s lower divisions with the likes of Siena and Carrarese, he would finally become a head coach in Serie A with Cesena in 1989.
The club from Romagna duly avoided relegation with Lippi at the helm but it was only his move to Napoli before the 1993-94 season that he began to exhibit himself as a coaching force.
While the Partenopei were still hung-over from the immense success that Diego Maradona had brought to the club – the Azzurri’s financial health was also in disarray which further exacerbated their situation.
Despite the never-ending problems, Lippi proved his worth as a coach instructing his players to focus on matters on the pitch and to value teamwork above all else. His methods worked wonders as he managed to guide the Naples side, which contained a certain Fabio Cannavaro, to a place in the UEFA Cup.
Little did he know, the experience he had in Naples would prove vital in the later part of his coaching career with Italy. His exploits with Napoli had now garnered him attention which resulted in Juventus securing his services in July 1994.
The Bianconeri started a new chapter of dominance under Signor Lippi, sweeping all before them. In his first season in Turin, Lippi clinched the Scudetto and ended an agonising nine-year drought without a league title, which was quickly followed up with a Coppa Italia win over rivals Parma.
Success was made easier especially when Lippi had a squad which had a potent attacking force in the form of Gianluca Vialli and Fabrizio Ravanelli, but was as equally adept in defending with Ciro Ferrara and Pietro Vierchowod marshalling the defence.
Lippi’s second season in the dugout saw Juve channel their domestic dominance into the Champions League which culminated in the defeat of Louis Van Gaal’s Ajax on penalties in Rome to lift Europe’s biggest club prize.
The Juventus juggernaut would pick up two more Serie A titles though further Champions League success eluded them as they lost two finals to Borussia Dortmund in 1997 and Real Madrid in 1998.
1999 saw Lippi make a controversial move to Inter but was unable to replicate the form he had displayed with the Bianconeri.
Poor results, a highly publicised feud with Roberto Baggio and injuries to star strikers Ronaldo and Christian Vieri, caused the Milanese giants to miss out on Champions League qualification in the summer which ended in club owner Massimo Moratti pulling the plug on Lippi.
A chance at redemption soon beckoned with Juventus once again securing his signature in 2001. His appointment immediately saw Juve crowned champions of Italy despite the sale of Zinedine Zidane to Real Madrid and Filippo Inzaghi to AC Milan.
Lippi would add another league title to his trophy cabinet the next season and oversaw the Bianconeri’s passage all the way to the final of the Champions league where they faced rivals AC Milan in a landmark all-Italian final in Manchester which they ultimately lost on penalties.
On July 16 2004, Lippi was named head coach of Italy, in a role that would come to define his coaching career.
He helped the Azzurri breeze through qualification for the 2006 World Cup but in May 2006 Italian football would be rocked by a major scandal termed ‘Calciopoli’ which would forever change the landscape of calcio.
Juventus’ major implication in the scandal meant that Lippi was under intense scrutiny due to his strong relationship with the Bianconeri, however it proved to have little effect on him.
Similar to his time at Napoli, he told his players to focus on winning and inculcated in them his philosophy of teamwork and togetherness.
With a rock solid defence led by captain Cannavro, Italy topped their group after beating Czech Republic. Subsequent wins over Australia and Ukraine saw them face hosts Germany in the semi-finals which saw Fabio Grosso and Alessandro Del Piero strike in extra-time to consign Die Mannschaft to defeat.
Standing in their way of a fourth World Cup was France. In what was an ill-tempered final characterised by Zinedine Zidane’s infamous head butt on Marco Materazzi, Italy nonetheless kept their cool all the way to the penalty shoot-out where they emerged victorious.
Lippi was the architect for their victory in the 2006 World Cup but was largely the reason for their downfall at the 2010 World Cup where he was reinstated as coach after Euro 2008.*****Niall
Persistence in sticking with the 2006 veterans and failure to include fresh talents such as Mario Balotelli and Giuseppe Rossi saw the world champions crash ignominiously out of the competition in the group stages.
Resignation ensued after the embarrassment of the 2010 World Cup but in 2012 he would set new records after agreeing to coach Chinese Super League side Guangzhou Evergrande.
His time in China only served to enhance his reputation as he won three consecutive Chinese Super League titles, one Chinese FA Cup and led the club to a historic win in the 2013 AFC Champions League.
In doing all that, he became the first coach to win both the UEFA Champions League and AFC Champions League.
A legendary figure in the world of football, Lippi may have announced his retirement from coaching on 2 November 2014, but there is no doubt his unrivalled success will continue to inspire generations of hopeful coaches.