On May 19 this year Juventus appointed a new coach, but the chances are you don’t know his name. Sure you recognise the face, the scarf, those trademark glasses, and more than a few may be all too familiar with the shrill whistles he lets fly when patrolling the touch-line.
But his name? Gino Delneri. That’s right, the man we all know is Luigi Del Neri actually isn’t, and doesn’t like to be. So how can we all, including the official websites of every club he has coached, be so wrong?
The blame lies with Paolo Mazza, who in 1966 was a scout for SPAL. Delneri worked for them in a warehouse but was given a trial and played for their first team. Writing a report for the player, Mazza said “Del Neri: A sixteen year old of great promise, perhaps a bit wooden, but plays the ball quickly”
The local press picked up the name, and used it in their match reports. His first matches were good displays, and he earned good marks in the “pagelle”, the tough Italian ratings system, which players care about even today.
Seeing the high marks, the young Delneri thought the mis-spelling of his name a source of good luck and remained silent, alerting nobody to the mistake. The name stuck, following him throughout his career, although referee’s and the Lega Calcio use the correct spelling in all official reports.
When asked if it is Del Neri or Delneri, the man himself replied “my friends call me Gino”. So a man who has coached in Serie A for ten years, at some of Italy’s biggest clubs has managed to last 44 years with few people knowing his real name. Quite an achievement, but one that won’t matter as the full glare of the spotlight falls upon him now he sits on Italy’s most famous bench.
Delneri will undoubtedly implement his trademark 4-4-2 at Juve, the system he has used at every club he has taken charge of. It is far from rigid on the field however, more often looking like a 5-4-1 when defending & a 4-2-4 when in possession.
He will be an interesting appointment at Juventus, and is certainly far more welcome in Turin than supposed long-term target Rafael Benitez. Perhaps he is most famous for his time in charge of Chievo’s “Flying Donkeys” who thrilled watchers of Italian football as they played an attacking brand of football, relying heavily on wingers Christian Manfredini and Eriberto (or is it Luciano?) to provide crosses for their strikers.
Prior to his arrival at Sampdoria, the club employed a 3-5-2 formation, immediately scrapped by the new coach, who adapted his tactics once more, this time ensuring a previously porous defence quickly became tough to beat, conceding only 41 times this past season.
How he adapts to Juventus, how he fits certain players into his system will be key, but with Beppe Marotta to provide the changes, Delneri is the ideal man to make them into a real team, something Juventus has missed greatly last season. He is also a firm believer in playing players in their natural position in order to gain maximum impact, again a trait not seen during the reigns of Ferrara and Zaccheroni.
That the coach is not just a “big name” shows that there finally appears to be a plan in place at Juventus, that the quick-fix approach has been consigned to history by new President Andrea Agnelli.
Buon fortuna Gino.