In an extract from his book 'Roberto Mancini - A Footballing Life: The Full Story', Luca Caioli looks at his 2006-07 Serie A-winning season in charge of Nerazzurri
And at the beginning of the 2006-07 season, in an interview with La Repubblica, he describes what he thinks about football.
"I am drawn to those elements that can make the team unpredictable," Mancini said. "Something that corresponds to the leaps of imagination of a world beater, who comes up with a surprising shot, catching his opponent off guard, putting on a real exciting show."
"I believe this to be the essence of football, although nowadays it is more and more difﬁcult to talk about these things. We have lost the pleasure of fun, fantasy and technical skills. Results are the only thing that matter: you win, therefore you are good – it doesn’t matter how you got there. But I want to win and to amaze. Maybe it will be hard, but I have to try, especially with a team like Inter."
Mancini tries, and succeeds. He starts by winning the Italian Super Cup, on August 26, 2006, against Roma, and ends with the league title, Inter’s 15th. The numbers are impressive: 97 points, 30 wins, seven draws and only one defeat out of 38 matches. A sequence of 17 straight victories, 15 wins away from home, a record 22-point lead over the runners-up, the title conﬁrmed with ﬁve games still to play (just like Valentino Mazzola’s great Torino team of 1947-48, and Fulvio Bernardini’s Fiorentina in 1955-56).
Numbers and records matter, of course, but they don’t tell the full story of an unforgettable season and a Scudetto that had remained elusive - apart from the one handed to them in disappointing circumstances and after the event the year before - for the last 18 years.
The years of bitterness and disappointment had seen Inter labelled as the eternal losers, but all that is wiped away on April 22, 2007, at the Artemio Franchi Stadium. On a hot Sunday, Inter defeat Siena 2-1 with two goals by Marco Materazzi. Everyone wears a shirt with the number 15 on it, and 'Champions' written above that.
While the party goes on in the changing rooms, and everyone is cheering and chanting 'we won without stealing' and 'Giacinto, one of us' (in memory of president Facchetti, who passed away, aged 64, in September 2006), Mancini sits to one side, reasoning over the meaning of this ﬁrst league title he has won as a manager. With this title, he goes down in Inter’s history, side by side with Helenio Herrera, 'The Magician' (the Argentinian also won the championship in his third year with the club).
"It is a well-deserved victory, and an enormous excitement," says the manager. "The team played extraordinarily during the whole championship. We suffered at times, but we showed our character. Palermo and Roma were as good as us, for a long time but we pulled away from them in November and December. The turning point? Our ﬁrst derby: we dominated and won."
He is asked for a dedication, and responds: "Our success goes out to Giacinto, ﬁrst of all, who is the symbol of our triumph. I really regret him not being with us today. And, of course, this Scudetto is dedicated to all our supporters."
In this moment, my thought also goes back to all those managers and players who were at Inter and did not win, out of 'bad luck', to use a euphemism."
Mancini is proud of what he has achieved, at a club where the expectation is always so great: "My victories with Samp and Lazio are something that make me stick in the fans' memory. But Inter... well, this was a real challenge."
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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