In the second part of Goal.com's serialisation of Roberto Mancini - A Footballing Life, Luca Caioli looks at the Manchester City manager's first Serie A steps as a 16-year-oldOn 13 September 1981, the 80th Italian championship begins. The usual suspects are deemed to be the main contenders: Juventus, pursuing their second star (which they will add to their badge upon achieving their 20th Scudetto); Rome, wanting to make up for the wrongs suffered during the previous season; Beccalossi and Altobelli's Inter, Franco Baresi and Joe 'The Shark' Jordan's AC Milan, and Giancarlo Antonioni's Fiorentina. At the Communal Stadium, Bologna are playing Cagliari.
Tarcisio Burgnich, manager of the Red and Blues, tells Roberto Mancini to warm up. There are 17 minutes remaining, and the score is 1-1. The boy, 16 years, nine months and 16 days old, warms up and enters the ﬁeld of play, replacing Giuliano Fiorini. Roberto's entrance is a positive move by Burgnich, an attempt to ﬁnd a winning goal, but the scoreline does not change. Mancini does not see much of the ball but his father, Aldo, in the stands, is over the moon. He almost missed his son's debut. Roberto hadn't told him - not even a phone call home. So Aldo was placidly setting off to watch the Allievi match against Rimini. Luckily, Soncini phoned him and said, "go to the Communal Stadium, Robertino is on the bench and maybe it will be his day."
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From now on, he will be playing all the games. Burgnich gives him the No.7 shirt, then the No.13, and later the No.9 as the boy becomes a central player for Bologna. The coach pairs him with Chiodi, Chiorri or Fiorini. He plays him carefully, that's for sure. Twelve minutes in Turin against the Granatas on the second match day of the season; 28 minutes the following Sunday against Catanzaro. Then, on October 4, San Petronio's (the patron saint of Bologna) Day, the Red and Blues are playing Como in an away game.
After three league matches, the situation is critical with two points on the board in total. Against Como, Bologna are playing for safety. It begins badly when Nicoletti scores straight away for Como. The score is still 1-0 to the home side when Mancini replaces Chiorri after 57 minutes. Como then double their lead with a penalty and it looks like the match is over. But Pileggi reduces the deﬁcit in the 74th minute and, four minutes later, Mancini scores the equaliser after a defensive mistake. "I happened to be on a ball passed to me by Neumann. The keeper was out, and I lobbed him," Mancini would say at the end of the season, in front of the cameras, as he reﬂected on his ﬁrst goal in the highest division.
By the time he turns 17 on 27 November, he is already in the line-up on a regular basis and has scored his ﬁrst two goals. The second was against Roma, in their eighth league game of the season. Bologna got a good hiding, 3-1 after a goal by Bruno Conti and a double by Pruzzo, but the boy got one back for his team. Around the dressing room, Liedholm, The Baron, pays him compliments, and Burgnich starts naming him in the starting XI rather than on the bench.
Extracted from Roberto Mancini - A Footballing Life: The Full Story by Luca Caioli (Corinthian Books, £16.99 HBK, £7.99 ebook). Available to buy at Amazon.co.uk.
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