Browse all

Italian coaches are conquering Ligue1

The surprise Farioli, the warrior Gattuso and the return of Grosso

Italian coaches are conquering Ligue1 The surprise Farioli, the warrior Gattuso and the return of Grosso

The 2023/24 season in Ligue 1 coincided with a unique tie between France and Italy. Namely, three teams in the French league decided to hire an Italian coach and invest in several personalities of Italian football to revive some of the most storied clubs beyond the Alps. The most surprising story certainly concerns Francesco Farioli and Nice. Farioli is making his first experience in one of Europe's top 5 leagues, but after eight matchdays in the championship, Les Aiglons are unbeaten and in second place in the table. It's an exceptional performance that continues to fuel his reputation as the new phenomenon on the coaching bench that has drawn comparisons to Julian Nagelsmann. Farioli is 34 years old and has been coaching since he was 32, the minimum age required in Coverciano to begin the course for the Uefa Pro Licence needed to coach in Serie A. Legend has it that during a course Farioli wrote an analysis on Foggia, a team then playing in Serie C and coached by the Brighton coach. That analysis reached De Zerbi, who added him to his staff in 2017 when he returned to the Serie A bench at Benevento.

Francesco Farioli at OGC Nice

The rest, as they say, is history: Farioli became head coach in Turkey at Karaguemruek and Alanyaspor, and last summer came his big chance at Nice. The Italian coach did not make the big leap, but honed the same concepts of positional football with which he had first made a name for himself in the football Twitter bubble and then in the press with the label 'new De Zerbi' or 'De Zerbi's disciple'. The highlight of those first few days of the season was experienced by Nice between 15 and 22 September, an incredible week in which Farioli's team first beat PSG 3-2 away and then won the derby on the Côte d'Azur by beating Monaco 1-0 at the Stade Louis II in Monte Carlo. The goal is clear: to qualify for the next Champions League. The way to get there is just as clear, through attacking football that entertains players and fans alike.

Gennaro Gattuso at Marseille 

When Ligue 1 will restart, Nice will face Marseille, a team now coached by the latest Italian coach to have joined the French league: Gennaro Gattuso. In these first weeks, Gattuso has remained true to his genuine, no-nonsense style that has accompanied him throughout his career on the pitch. Even at the presentation press conference, he immediately played on irony and emotion: 'I hope we finish in the top 4, because then my contract will be automatically extended. If you live for 3 or 4 lifetimes, I could have said no to Marseille, but since you only live once, you can't say no to a club like Marseille'. Apart from the sporting side, it is not surprising that Gattuso is unconsciously attracted to problematic situations that can make him a hero. In Greece at Ofi Crete, he decided to pay all his players a month's wages when he resigned because of the club's financial difficulties. At Pisa he managed promotion to Serie B but spoke out publicly against the owners who were not paying salaries. At AC Milan he was catapulted from the Primavera to the first team by the Fassone-Mirabelli duo, the face of controversial owner Yonghong Li. His last experience was at Valencia, where fans have been in open dispute with owner Peter Lim for years. Now Marseille is another explosive situation where the Ultras have threatened former coach Marcelino with death and urged him to resign, as has president Pablo Longoria.

Fabio Grosso at Lyon

The situation Fabio Grosso inherited at Lyon is certainly no easier. Of the three, his appointment is certainly the most surprising, having just stepped down after promotion to Serie A at Frosinone and being just a step away from Sampdoria in Serie B last summer. There were no signs of him moving to Ligue 1, but instead Grosso has returned to the team he played for between 2007 and 2009. In the presentation press conference, he showed a good command of French, which allowed him to explain his ideas without an intermediary, and then deal with a tricky situation. Jean-Michel Aulas, the historic president of Lyon who sold almost all his shares in the club in December 2022, was suing John Textor, Lyon's new owner. A complicated affair related to financial and economic reasons, it also has technical implications as Lyon has been severely restricted in the market by the DNCG, the French football economic regulator, and effectively unable to make large investments as Textor, who wants to break PSG's monopoly in Ligue 1, had hoped. The stark reality is that Lyon are second to last in the table, still without wins and in serious danger of remaining in the lower regions of the table, so the club's glory rests on the shoulders of the women's team, which has won 16 titles in the last 17 seasons of Division 1 Féminine and the Women's Champions League six times in the last eight years.