Fiorentina play West Ham on Wednesday night to decide who’ll come the second ever UEFA Conference League winner. La Viola’s head coach, Vincenzo Italiano, has come a long way, going from managing an amateur side to taking Fiorentina to a European final.
The quotes used in this article come from an interview Italiano gave to the official channels of Fiorentina when he joined La Viola.
Vincenzo Italiano was born in Karlsruhe, Germany, in 1977, but his football career started in Sicily. He grew up in a small town named Ribera on the island, and moved away age 15 to pursue his career. That decision paid off, because Italiano played in both Serie A and B for multiple seasons. Most notably, he represented both Chievo and Helles Verona, and Genoa. During his career as a player, the idea of being a coach already struck his mind.
“Throughout my career I did feel the urge to go into coaching, partly because I was inspired by so many coaches along the way.”
Italiano begun his coaching career at amateur side Vigontina San Paolo, located in the province of Padua. He then moved up the ladder to coach Arzignano, who were in Serie D at the time, one tier below the professional tiers. Italian joined Trapani next and managed to finish second with them in Serie C, thus gaining promotion to Serie B. It gained Italiano himself a promotion too, to Spezia to be exact.
The Ligurians finished third in the second tier of Italian football, but secured a Serie A spot in the play-offs. Miraculously, Spezia managed to survive their first season in Serie A, finishing in 15th place.
“Everyone had us down as relegation favourites last season. And what did we do? We did something extraordinary. But you can’t rest on your laurels in this job. I’m not able to enjoy many things – I find it hard to sleep at night. Perhaps that’s my secret to success; maybe that is what makes the difference – that and belief in yourself.”
Fiorentina were convinced of Italiano’s qualities and paid Spezia his release clause to make him the manager of La Viola for the 2021/22 season. Italiano stormed the league with his attacking football, capitalizing on the talent in his front line, especially that of Dušan Vlahović. The Serbian striker was so impressive under Italiano, that it earned him a €80 million move to Juventus in the winter transfer window.
However, Italiano didn’t let the departure of his marksman stop Fiorentina’s charge of Italy. La Viola finished in 7th place in Serie A, meaning that the team from Florence would play in the UEFA Conference League qualifiers. Italiano is obsessed with football and says his watches loads of matches to try and learn from everyone.
“Working on the small details is crucial. Football is changing all the time and you learn something from every match – but you also have to come up with something new in every match. There are always new strategies, situations or ways of building play. Football moves at great pace so you need to be constantly on the lookout and never stop learning.”
In August 2022, Fiorentina beat Dutch side FC Twente 2-1 over two legs to secure Conference League football. On a domestic level, La Viola had a little bit of an underwhelming season. They finished 8th, which seems like a fine performance, but Fiorentina had a slow start and could’ve have capitalized more on the Juventus point deduction. On a European level however, Italiano’ side impressed. Fiorentina finished second in their group and then went on to beat Braga (2-7), Sivasspor (5-1) and Lech Poznan (4-6). Now, their biggest challenge awaits, with West Ham United in the final.
Winning a European prize would not only be special for an iconic club like Fiorentina, it would also be the crown on Italiano’s journey from coaching an amateur side to bringing European glory to Italy’s former capital.
Jurre van Wanrooij | GIFN