Conte, Montella & the nominees for's Serie A Coach of the Season look at the trainers who have gone above and beyond over the course of 2011-12, ranging from the surprising Bianconeri boss to the main man in Sicily
By Renato Maisani

Italy have produced many coaches who have written football history over the years. However, at the moment, for perhaps the first time, a majority of the country's most respected trainers are working abroad. Carlo Ancelotti is in charge of Paris Saint-Germain, Fabio Capello was leading England until just a few months ago, Giovanni Trapattoni is with the Republic of Ireland and Luciano Spalletti is at the helm at Zenit St Petersburg.

However, Serie A still boasts a number of coaches who are true professionals and excel in their role. The outstanding example is ofcourse Antonio Conte, a champion with Juventus in his first season. Meanwhile, Francesco Guidolin performed another minor miracle with Udinese while Vincenzo Montella directed Catania to their best season ever. Giuseppe Sannino (Siena) and Stefano Colantuono (Atalanta) led their sides expertly as well, and Edy Reja, amidst plenty of criticism and controversy, kept Lazio's eagle soaring high under difficult circumstances.


Vittorio Campanile, Goal Italia Editor

Juventus' season was near perfect and that's down to the excellent work of Conte. The coach was able to make his mark and make the Bianconeri become 'his' team. Winning in a debut season is never easy and he did it with plenty of merit.
In his first season at a big club, Conte became the central figure of Juventus' success. Taking control of a side coming off two consecutive seventh-place finishes, he led them to a title that has been missing since 2005-06.

That Scudetto, however, was rescinded after the Calciopoli scandal just like their victory from the previous season, and thus according to the record books, Juventus had not won a title since 2002-03.

The technical merits of the trainer from Puglia in Juventus' unbeaten season are universally accepted: Conte gave the Turin giants a true identity, especially in terms of improving their discipline and communication.

In addition, from a tactical point of view Conte made the right changes, putting aside his favoured 4-2-4 to adapt to the characteristics of the players at his disposal.

A 4-3-3 at first, and then changing to a 3-5-2 when the situation called for it, his system brought out the best in Andrea Pirlo - the midfield playmaker who revolutionised Juventus' play on the pitch. Also to his credit was the way Conte rotated his strikers: Alessandro Matri, Mirko Vucinic, Alessandro Del Piero and Marco Borriello were all utilised in the best way and the explosive displays of Arturo Vidal and Claudio Marchisio, as well as the rebirth of Paolo De Ceglie, should also be included in the coach's achievements.


Vittorio Campanile, Goal Italia Editor

It's no longer a shock to anyone: Guidolin and Udinese are a perfect match. The positive outcome with him in charge are there for everyone to see, but most crucial is his ability to achieve these brilliant results with his side continuing to play beautiful football.
A year ago Udinese successfully claimed fourth place to enter the Champions League play-offs but this time around there were only three spots available in Serie A for Europe's top club competition.

To everyone's amazement, Udinese improved on their standing from last season and they achieved qualification to the Champions League play-off once again.

The brilliance of Udinese still bears the mark of Antonio Di Natale, the captain and leading striker of the team, but the architect behind their productive project is Guidolin.

The 56-year-old from Veneto, 15 years after his 'Vicenza miracle' when he brought them from Serie B up into Europe, is arguably doing an even better job at the Stadio Friuli, earning prestigious victories and launching young talents with Udinese.

For years many have suggested that Guidolin deserves to coach a bigger side, but he seems to be creating his own at the moment.


Vittorio Campanile, Goal Italia Editor

Being able to get the better of Catania has proven a difficult task for everyone this season. Although it's necessary to emphasise that the Sicilians are a club built and organised well in every aspect, much of the credit must go to Montella, who gets the best out of all his players, even those who are less talented.
Already in charge at Roma last season, Montella displayed an uncanny Guardiola-like ability to convey his character and determination to his players.

Now on the bench of Catania, Montella has not only continued to succeed in that regard, but took it one step further. The former Sampdoria striker led the club to their best ever season in Serie A, establishing a new club record for points in a season and winning the acclaim of many pundits and experts.

He had the courage to leave Maxi Lopez on the bench, a team idol who was eventually sold to AC Milan in January. He reinvigorated the careers of players like Mariano Izco, Giovanni Marchese, Juan Pablo Carrizo and Marco Motta and even succeeded where many before him had failed in raising the game of Pablo Barrientos, who for years had been an anonymous figure for the Sicilians.

For Montella, the future looks very bright indeed.


Vittorio Campanile, Goal Italia Editor

It was a strange season for Lazio and their coach. However, Reja can't take much of the blame for the ups and downs. Left to make do without many of his star players, from Miroslav Klose and Hernanes to Federico Marchetti - the suspensions and injuries worked against him at the most important stage of the season.
If Lazio spent a majority of the season dreaming of Champions League football, most of the merit should go to Reja, a coach criticised too often and praised far too little.

During the course of the season he even resigned, and immediately returned, but overall his efforts can only be applauded. Lazio, in fact, had one of their best campaigns in recent history and only the many injuries that plagued the team reduced their potential.

In January, the club decided to sell Djibril Cisse without acquiring another striker to replace him. Despite this, Reja continued to lead the side on a positive path, even though he could not use the same line-up from game to game out of necessity as they faced difficulties due to a small squad size.

Yet, Reja had the results on his side and although their quest to reach the Champions League was not realised, he should be given all the plaudits he deserve. However, the question remains whether he will be back at the Lazio helm next season.