“He’s a volcano, someone who knows very little about our world. He needs to learn a lot. He doesn’t really know what goes on in the dressing room.”
Roberto Donadoni was talking about Aurelio De Laurentiis, the 60-year-old movie mogul and Napoli owner who, just hours previously, had sacked him as coach, replacing him with the former Reggina and Sampdoria boss Walter Mazzarri.
If Donadoni’s words inevitably sound like sour grapes, then he is perhaps entitled to feel a little miffed.
Three years ago, the former Milan and Italy player featured in one of the most incomprehensible sackings of the time. After being rudely criticised by his team owner, Aldo Spinelli, on TV, he was left with little option but to offer his resignation as Livorno coach, despite having guided the modest club to a lofty sixth place in the table.
Donadoni did not remain unemployed for long, however. When Italy’s World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi opted for a well-earned sabbatical in the wake of his labours in Germany, Donadoni was the surprise choice to replace him.
In a negative climate weighed down by the Calciopoli match-fixing scandal, Donadoni’s task in qualifying for Euro 2008 was not as straightforward as might have been expected. On the eve of the tournament, the Italian football federation arranged for Donadoni to present former England World Cup winner and ex-Ireland manager Jack Charlton with a memorial watch in Rome in recognition of Charlton’s great career.
As the two men chatted that day, Donadoni asked Charlton if he would be travelling to Austria and Switzerland to watch the football. “No way. I’ll be off fishing next month,” said Charlton.
“Yeah, well if things don’t work out well for me next month in Austria and Switzerland, I might come and join you,” quipped Donadoni.
“Things”, of course, did not work out well at Euro 2008. The Italians went out at the quarter-final stage, beaten on penalties by eventual European champions Spain. For the previous three months, Donadoni’s position had been made difficult by consistent media speculation that, barring an Italian success at Euro 2008, he would be replaced by his illustrious predecessor, Lippi.
Lippi did indeed replace him in July 2008. Then there was the question of Donadoni’s severance package. Reports had suggested that he would receive €460,000 as compensation if his contract was not renewed after Euro 2008. In the end, though, Donadoni missed out on that too since on the evening prior to the quarter-final clash with Spain, he agreed to forgo the severance pay in return for the renewal of his contract if Italy beat Spain. Unfortunately for him, that gamble did not pay off.
Yet again, though, Donadoni did not remain unemployed for long. He was back in full-time football by March this year, taking over from Edoardo Reja at Napoli. Despite a promising initial impact, things have not worked out for Donadoni in Naples this season with the club in 15th position on just seven points from seven games when he was relieved of his duties.
Not one to scream and shout, Donadoni does not fit the media bill in today’s histrionic, self-promotional world of football management. However, when it comes to getting players to play for him, he is another product of the Lippi-Capello-Ancelotti school of management.
Don’t be surprised if, come next season – in the Italian top flight a sacked coach cannot join another club in the same season – Donadoni is back on a Serie A bench.