“Marcello Lippi is one impressive man. Looking into his eyes is enough to tell you that you are dealing with somebody who is in command of himself and his professional domain. Those eyes are sometimes burning with seriousness, sometimes twinkling, sometimes warily assessing you – and always they are alive with intelligence. Nobody could make the mistake of taking Lippi lightly.”- lofty praise from a fanboy, Sir Alex Ferguson.
With 5 scudetti, 1 Copa Italia, 4 italian supercups, Champions League, Intercontinental supercup, European supercup, and a FIFA World Cup to his name, it’s fair to say Marcelo Lippi is one of the greatest managers of all-time. Though his managerial career is unrivaled in Italy, Lippi didn’t have the most fruitful of playing careers, and retired without a single International call-up. He spent a fair majority of his career at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris, as a libero for the blucerchiati and after a decade at Sampdoria, Lippi departed to Tuscany based club Pistoiese.
A 13 year playing career came to an end in 1982, as Marcelo Lippi hung up his boots to delve into football coaching and management. His first coaching job was at the club he begun his professional playing career, before a series of coaching jobs in Siena, Pistoiese, Carrarese, Cesena Lucchese, Atalanta and Napoli where his reputation shot up. Lippi guided a declining and financially-unstable Napoli side to European football competition in the 94 season, even after the turmoil going on behind the scene & the departure of star players Zola and Foncesca.His stock and reputation was growing, and in the 94-95 season, he was appointed as the legendary Il Trap, Giovanni Trapattoni’s successor at Juventus.
The Bianconeris dominated Italian and European football under his management winning 3 scudetti, including a first in his first season in Turin which was their first Serie A trophy since the mid-80s. His Juventus side were well drilled tactically and in an attacking sense were a symphony of flair and beauty epitomized by Zidane and Del Piero. There was a synchronicity in the player movements on the pitch. They pressed and disrupted opposition from settling into their rhythm against them. The screenshot of Juve’s pressing and cutting off passing lanes is from Juve’s game with fierce rivals Internazionale in the Derby d’Italia.
The following season he guided Juventus to the Champions League final, where he went head-to-head with one of the greatest managers and teams in modern football history, Louis Van Gaal’s Ajax; comprising of the great Van Der Sar, Kluivert, Marc Overmars, Edgar Davids and many other world class footballers.
Fabrizio Ravanelli put Juventus ahead in the 12th minute after Van Der Sar and Frank De Boar failed to clear a ball into the box. 5 minutes before halftime, Litmanen equalized for de Godenzonen. The game went into extra-time , and then a penalty shootout. Sonny Silooy failed to covert his penalty, turning the game in Juve’s favour. A Vladimir Jukovic penalty squeezed just past Van Der Sar’s at the Stadio Olympico, to secure Juventus their first Champions League trophy in over a decade.
“Juventus were an example for my Manchester United,” Sir Alex Ferguson said. “I had my players watch videos of Lippi’s team and would say: ‘Don’t look at the tactics or technique, we had that too; you need to learn to have that desire to win’.”
This was the first of three consecutive Champions League finals for Lippi’s Juventus. Quickfire Serie A trophies followed in a golden era for Juventus, but after the 98-99 season, Lippi controversially departed to join great rivals Inter Milan, where he had a torrid time. While city rivals AC Milan were blooming on the domestic and European front, Inter Milan under Lippi were struggling. The Nerazzurri ended the the 99-00 season in 4th place in his first season, and after the first game of the following season, Marcello Lippi was sacked as Inter manager, following a loss to Reggina.
He rejoined Juventus after a year out of management in the 01-02 season, bringing the likes of Buffon and Pavel Nedved to the club. He led the Bianconeris to success yet again winning 2 Serie A trophies and leading them to the 02-03 Champions League final at Old Trafford, only to be defeated by compatriot Ancelotti’s AC Milan team after a penalty shoot-out in an all-Italian final.
After a below-par 2004 European Championships, Italian National Team manager Giovanni Trapatoni was replaced by the impressive Marcello Lippi, who led the Azurri to the World Cup Finals after a successful qualifying campaign. In a time when Italian football was embroiled in a scandal – the Calciopoli; Italian football scandal including Juventus, Fiorentina, AC Milan and other Serie A & B clubs accused of corruption and match fixing. This turmoil was uncovered just a month before the World Cup, and with the reputation of Italian football at stake, Marcello Lippi was under pressure to deliver at the World Cup.
A typical Pirlo wonderstrike, and a Vincenzo Iaquinta freekick gave Lippi his first win in the World Cup against the Black Stars of Ghana. A 1-1 draw vs USA followed, a game in which Italy conceded their first and only goal in the run-up to the final vs France. The Azzurri won their final group game convincingly, a 2-0 win vs Czech Republic. On the road to the final, Il Grande Lippi’s men beat Australia,Ukraine and hosts Germany, keeping three clean sheets – A testament to Lippi’s well structured team. Defeats to France in both the 98 World Cup and 2000 Euros were still fresh in the minds of the Italians who had to do battle with Les Bleus once again. In an extremely tense game, it was Zinedine Zidane who opened the scoring with a freekick. Materazzi leveled 12 minutes later through a Pirlo set-piece. Both men went on to have a rather controversial effect on the game. After a mini-goalfest, in the opening 20 minutes, the 69,000 people in the Olympiastadion, Berlin were set to enjoy an enthralling goalfest. Or not. Surprisingly, both teams failed to score and at the end of regulation time, the game was forced to extra time. Extra time produced no goals, leading to a penalty shootout.
The man who had broken Italian hearts in Euro 2000s Trezeguet missed his penalty; firing his shot unto the crossbar, which ultimately won the World Cup for Italy. With about 60 million hopes on him, Fabio Grosso was due to take the crucial spot-kick to win Italy their first World Cup in 24 years. The Rome-born defender didn’t disappointed, as he curled a beautiful left foot strike beyond Jens Lehmann, leading to unbelievable scenes. The fullback run famously across the pitch in jubilation screaming “I don’t believe it!”. The man who had never represented his nation as a player, with a whole country’s hopes on him, had only just gone and won the World Cup.
Lippi instilled togetherness and unity in the team. He pushed them to edge, and was rewarded with success, his “most satisfying moment as a coach“. He gave the players belief and and identity, something they were lacking since the days of the great Arrigo Sacchi.
In an interview with Glen Moore Lippi stressed on how he managed to achieve success.
“To this day I am not convinced of having brought together with me in Germany the technically best players that could have been. But I was firmly convinced I called the ones that could create a team, and they could play with one another to the best of their possibility. In this day and age you win if you become a team. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve got to have the best football players in the country. It’s possible that the best, all together, don’t become a team. It’s like a mosaic, you have to put all the pieces together.”
Tactics: “In this day and age you win if you become a team. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve got to have the best football players in the country. It’s possible that the best, all together, don’t become a team. It’s like a mosaic, you have to put all the pieces together.”
In theory, Lippi is one of the best tacticians of the modern game. He’s a supreme advocate of the saying ‘The whole is greater than the sum of it’s part.” Lippi always believed in the collective and had no time for individualism in his team.
“Technical intelligence is important, but you must be able to communicate on all levels: tactical and psychological. It is about team dynamics,” he said. “You must manage the individual performer, but only because that develops team unity.”
“In my group, I don’t want roosters in the chicken coop. Before you field a team, you need to build it. It is obvious that a club manager has a tougher job. They tell me this when I meet with them. The National team manager can select players that he wants, but in reality, you see the players every 30 to 40 days.
“Players have to hear that there is a message from a guide. The superstar, in my opinion, is the talented player that puts all of his qualities at the disposal of the team. You don’t talk of someone that can dance on a tightrope, but of qualities on and off the pitch. One encounters the typical characteristics of a leader. In every group, everyone has to put forth his own qualities at the disposition of the others. The rooster in the chicken coop, on the other hand, is the talented athlete that only puts the team ahead of himself 4 or 5 times every year.”
Lippi expanded: “You are selecting a side that must work together. You have to send away a talented player who will not merge into a team. You must make everybody feel important. But you must not make anyone feel more important than anyone else.”
His adaptability and flexibility to change a non-working tactic was key to his success. For exapmle during the 2006 World Cup, he played a 5 man midfield eith one man up top to stifle the Czech’s, who also played with 5 men in midfield. He said “Why give them the advantage in such a vital game?
During his time at Juventus and with the Italian National team, he deployed a variety of tactics, whether it be a 4-3-3, 4-4-2, 4-4-1-1 or 4-3-1-2. He emphasizes on finding the best balance and players to fit his formation for maximized output. He doesn’t believe in one player being the star man. This was perfectly illustrated when Baggio was replaced with Del Piero some twenty years ago.
Three days after winning the World Cup, Lippi stepped down as head coach of the Italian team, and was replaced by Roberto Donadoni. Who was dismissed two years later, after poor performances in Euros 2008, which encompassed a 3-0 defeat at the hands of former teammate Marco Van Basten, the Gli Azzurri’s worst defeat in 25 years. Lippi was re-appointed, but failed to deliver this time, as reigning champions Italy finished bottom of a relatively easy group in the 2010 World cup, which resulted in his resignation. After a two year break from the game, Lippi signed with Asian club Guangzhou Evergrande. He won the double in his first season and led them to their first ever Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Champions League final.