Vincenzo Italiano proving not only Donkeys can fly

5 min readNov 8, 2020

By Frank Risorto

Vincenzo Italiano during Udinese-Spezia at Dacia Arena on September 30, 2020. (Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images)

Earlier this year it was highly publicised when Juventus manager Andrea Pirlo passed his final exams at the Coverciano Training Centre, the central training ground and technical headquarters of the Italian Football Federation, to earn his UEFA Pro License with his thesis ‘The football I would like’ but Pirlo, wasn’t the only Serie A manager that day to earn his badges as Vincenzo Italiano, manager of newly promoted Spezia Calcio, earned his UEFA Pro License with his aptly titled thesis ‘Why am I a coach?’.

Italiano, who was born in Karlsruhe, Germany, spent his playing career in the lower leagues with the likes of Padova, Perugia and Trapani however had spells in Serie A first with Hellas Verona then making the switch to crosstown rivals Chievo Verona, during the peak of their Luigi Del Neri inspired ‘flying donkey’ years.

After finishing his playing career with FC Lumezzane in 2014–15 Italiano started his managerial journey working first at Vicenza as an assistant coach to current Livorno manager Alessandro Dal Canto before making the move to Serie D side Vigontina San Paolo in 2015–16.

Italiano, spent two seasons with the side from Veneto before making the move to fellow Veneto Serie D side F.C. Arzignano Valchiampo.

His side reached the playoffs but were unable to progress and at seasons end Italiano made the move South to join Sicilian side Trapani Calcio.

Italiano’s spell in Sicily was a successful one as he led ‘I Granata’ to the Serie C play-offs where they won promotion to Serie B yet despite this it wasn’t enough to keep Italiano down south and he made his way North after one season to join the Ligurian club Spezia.

Spezia’s owner Gabriele Volpi known to be trigger happy on the firing and hiring of coaches, appointing some 12 coaches in 15 years, looked to Italiano’s rise through the league and playoff successes as a model to push his club towards Serie A.

Italiano, who didn’t get off to the greatest of starts with Spezia saw his side struggle to implement his attacking 4–3–3 style and despite winning their first game of the season 3–0 to Cittadella Spezia went onto lose the next five out six games including a 4–2 defeat to his former side Trapani.

After a host of personnel changes Italiano settled on his favoured line up and slowly the results came as did the football the manager was seeking with attacking forward Emmanuel Gyasi and midfielder Paolo Bartolomei providing the spark for Spezia’s climb up the ladder.

At one stage Spezia were in the automatic promotion spots however a late season run of defeats saw them fall into the playoff spots.

They defeated Chievo in the opening stage of the playoffs and then finished 1–1 on aggregate with Frosinone in the final playoff however secured promotion due to finishing in a better position on the Serie B standings, finishing in third place whilst Frosinone finished in eighth place.

Securing promotion for Spezia to Italy’s top flight was seen as a miracle by some as the coach himself told the media post-match ‘We did an extraordinary thing here today’.

Linked in the offseason with a move to Genoa, Italiano stayed put as he went scoured the transfer market looking for players willing to adapt to his physical, high tempo and aggressive style and be able to adapt to his attacking 4–3–3 set up declaring himself ‘in harmony with the club’.

Looking for his side to play out from the back and maintain possession, as they did in Serie B, Spezia so far haven’t looked out of their depth in Serie A despite many pre-season predicting them to be one of the worst Serie A sides in recent memory.

The Ligurian side made the perfect start on matchday one as they defeated Udinese 2–0 thanks to a brace by Bulgarian striker Andrey Galabinov.

Galabinov, has proved to be a hit with Italiano who told Tuttosport earlier in the season the Bulgarian ‘has become a completely different player over the last 12 months’ and ‘for his technical qualities could become a leader in any team’.

Justifying his managers faith the Bulgarian has scored three goals this season and is a constant threat looking to use his pace and physical presence up front perhaps following the lead of central defender Julian Chabot, who has been a standout in opening six matches for Spezia.

Averaging 2.2 Aerial duel wins per game and a near 88% pass success rate the German signed on loan from Sampdoria has proved to be a hit for Italiano and even managing to find the back of the net against Parma in his sides 2–2 draw.

Further up the field midfielder Kevin Agudelo, on loan from Fiorentina, has made an impressive start to the season and has become crucial in his side’s midfield with his high tempo game averaging 5.0 recoveries per game and 3.4 tackles per game.

Ironically with the addition of former Lecce sporting director Mauro Meluso Spezia’s recent performances for some have shown characteristics of Fabio Liverani’s relegated Lecce 2019–20 side however Italiano wouldn’t want to finish with Lecce’s defensive record where they went on to concede 85 goals last season.

Italiano will need to find the right balance for Spezia to stay in Serie A and despite defeats to AC Milan and Juventus they’ve managed to pick up points at home against Fiorentina (2–2) and away to Parma (2–2) where they conceded a 91st minute penalty.

Italiano can look to his past for inspiration and prior to the season commencing made his ambitions and expectations for Spezia clear.

‘I’m convinced we can stay in Serie A’. he told Tuttosport.

‘I believe it, but we will need to work hard and suffer and spill blood, as I did when I was a player with Chievo’. said Italiano.

In his published thesis Italiano says he prefers his sides to play with an attacking philosophy.

‘We opt for a manoeuvred football, having patience in finding the solution, invading the field, occupying all spaces of the field in non-possession and in attack’.

For Spezia to secure Serie A survival Italiano will need to use all of said patience, and look to find some of his old coach Luigi Del Neri’s magic proving that not only Donkeys can fly in Italy’s top flight but so can little eagles.