By Frank Risorto
If you were asked to name all current Serie A managers with experience winning the European Cup as a player many could easily point to the likes of Andrea Pirlo, Antonio Conte, Gennaro Gattuso and Siniša Mihajlović.
Some could even add both Fiorentina boss Cesare Prandelli and AC Milan’s Stefano Pioli who won the European Cup with Juventus in 1984–85 to the list.
Another manager to add to that list, perhaps forgotten or less well-known, is Crotone manager Giovanni Stroppa, who won ‘big ears’ with AC Milan in 1989–90 and in fact Stroppa seemed to win everything but the Scudetto with AC Milan during his two spells in Milan winning three UEFA Super cups, an Intercontinental Cup and Supercoppa Italiana.
Now eager to emulate that success further south in Crotone the 52-year-old Stroppa is hoping to pass some of that success onto Crotone as the southern club looks to solidify their position in Serie A.
F.C. Crotone, known more for their wonderful nickname ‘I Pitagorici’ (The Pythagoreans) — a nod towards the city’s Greek origins — were picked by many to be fighting relegation and so far haven’t found themselves far from the bottom of ‘la classifica’ despite at times outshining their opposition.
And if you were looking for an ideal coach to take the reins of a newly promoted club why not look to a manager who spent time as player working under a who’s who of Italian football management.
Arrigo Saachi, Fabio Capello, Zdenejk Zeman as well as Dino Zoff to name a few.
Stroppa, began his coaching career with AC Milan’s Primavera side in 2010–11 however only lasted one season in the role before moving down the often-confusing Italian football pyramid to Serie C Girone B side Sudtirol.
After one season in charge with the lower league side Stroppa made his move up the pyramid joining newly promoted Serie A side Pescara.
Winning three of his first 13 matches Stroppa showed he had the potential to work in Italy’s top flight with wins against Palermo, Cagliari and Parma however off the back of a heavy 6–1 home defeat to Juventus, and then a 1–0 defeat to Siena, he was sacked in November of 2012.
2013–14 saw Stroppa appointed manager with Spezia Calcio in Serie B where he was dismissed in December 2013 lasting just 18 matches in the role.
Taking almost two years out of the game Stroppa found himself in familiar territory leading Südtirol in 2015–16 and spent two seasons with the club from Bolzano before joining his old side Foggia in 2016–17.
As a player with Foggia, Stroppa had perhaps his best spell, under the tutelage of Zeman with his form earning him a call up to the national team under former AC Milan mentor Arrigo Sacchi.
Hoping to replicate the same success Foggia went on to win the Serie C Lega Pro Championship and promotion to Serie B.
Stroppa’s second season in charge proved to be just as successful as Foggia finished in 9th position in the 2017–18 campaign.
Constantly rotating between an attacking 5–3–2, 4–3–3 and a flat 3–5–2 Stroppa showed tactical versatility not present in his first few jobs where he consistently put out a 4–2–3–1 in charge of Pescara and Spezia.
Stroppa’s fairy-tale with Foggia didn’t prove to have a happy ending as the manager was said to have resigned and left the club without notice however he sees it differently.
“There was something magical, behind the players there was an engine that pushed them. When I left, different plans were expressed to me, such as selling the most important players and building a team based on young people.” Stroppa told Mitico Channel’s ‘Kickoff’ programme.
“The team was set up differently from what I was told and one of the downsides was that of the facilities. A sports center has always been lacking, unfortunately in a higher category it would have been very useful”. said Stroppa.
“I passed as a traitor but I think I reached the peak of what I could give for this team and for this city. I kept the choice within me but in a serene way,”
“Foggia was an extraordinary and amazing journey.” Stroppa said.
Former Foggia Sporting Director Giusppe Di Bari looks proudly back on Stroppa’s time with ‘Satanelli’ (The Little Satans).
“I had followed him for some time, since the Milan youth academy. I never lost sight of him,” said Di Bari.
“He did great things and led us to victory in the Serie C championship.
“He has come a long way, it is a pity that he was unable to give continuity together with Foggia.”
Stroppa was officially appointed F.C. Crotone manager a short time later.
Appointed to replace Walter Zenga, Stroppa lasted eleven games in charge before being sacked in October 2018.
He was then reinstated after a short spell in December 2018 where he’s been since following the resignation of Massimo Oddo.
Finishing the 2018–19 season in twelfth position, with his old side Foggia relegated, Stroppa did enough to stay in the job proving a smart decision on behalf of Crotone President Gianni Vrenna.
Stroppa went on to lead Crotone the following season to 2nd place securing promotion to Serie A finishing behind Filippo Inzaghi’s runaway leaders Benevento.
“I expect a far more difficult campaign, because inevitably it is a step up to Serie A. It’s basically a different sport,” Stroppa told Sky Sport Italia prior to the 2020–21 season opener.
“It’s going to be an anomalous campaign for everyone.” Stroppa said.
Picking up their first win of the season this weekend against his old side Spezia will now see Crotone face Udinese, Sampdoria and Parma to see out the 2020 calendar year and if Stroppa’s side are looking to move up the table and take points from the sides around them now’s the time.
January 2021 sees them return with a tough schedule against the likes of Inter, Roma and Hellas Verona.
If Crotone and Stroppa are to survive the current Serie A season, he’ll need to take inspiration from the Calabrian sides other nickname ‘Lo Squalo Calabrese’(The Shark of Calabria) proving that Crotone can live up to its namesake displaying aggression, speed and intelligence to survive the often-turbulent and dangerous waters of Serie A football.