Roberto Mancini: The man behind Manchester City’s greatest-ever season charts the progression of Mancini’s career, from his early playing days with Bologna through to the dramatic conclusion of the 2011/12 Premiership season, which saw him lead City to their first league title for 44 years. The book is written by journalist Stuart Brennan, who many will be familiar with from his time covering City for the Manchester Evening News.
Mancini had a fairly idyllic childhood in the small, quiet town of Jesi in the province of Ancona, but his precocious footballing ability was obvious from an early age. His father Aldo lied about his age in order to circumvent age restriction rules, whilst his priest allowed him to sneak out of his first Holy Communion in order to help out his school team.
A successful trial at Bologna saw him leave home at 13 to take up residence at their Casteldebole training complex, and within three years he made his first team debut. To the fury of the Bologna fans, Mancini was transferred a year later to Sampdoria where he would spend the vast majority of his playing career, resisting the overtures of Serie A giants such as Milan and Juve. His propensity to side with the underdog is a recurring theme throughout the book.
As a player he led the Blucerchiati to their only ever Scudetto in 1990/91, along with four Coppa Italias and a European Cup Winners Cup in 1990. Despite enjoying great success at club level, Mancini’s international career floundered. He faced great competition for the prized Azzurri number 10 shirt from the likes of Baggio and Zola, and suffered from his reputation as the enfant terrible of Serie A.
Frequent clashes with managers, opponents and team mates alike (he once memorably went toe-to-toe with colleague Trevor Francis) restricted his international chances, but displayed his fierce will to win, a trait which has characterised both his playing and managerial career. Referees were also frequently the target of his ire, with Mancini believing that big clubs were benefitting from “generous” decisions, a view that was vindicated by the Calciopoli scandal of 2006.
After ending a 15 year stay in Genoa, the Italian teamed up with future City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson at Lazio, first as a player and subsequently as a coach. He also, bizarrely, played five games for Leicester City under Peter Taylor which apparently led him to fall in love with the English game, before cutting his managerial teeth back in Italy with Fiorentina.
Despite the club being plagued with financial problems (resulting in star players such as Francesco Toldo and Rui Costa being sold to balance the books), Mancini won the Coppa Italia in his only full season in charge. He subsequently became known as something of a cup specialist, and continued this trend in England when he won the 2011 FA Cup with City.
A spell at Lazio saw another Coppa Italia success, before he was charged with restoring Internazionale’s battered pride. With echoes of the City job, Inter had only won Serie A title in the preceding 25 years (unthinkable for a club of their stature), whilst cross-town rivals A.C. Milan enjoyed great success, both domestically and on the continent.
Mancini ended the dismal run in his second full season in charge (again echoing hs subsequent achievements in Manchester), although Inter were clearly aided by the Calciopoli scandal that saw Juventus stripped of the title. Inter went on to win the following two Scudettos, completing an impressive hatrick, before Mancini was sacked for his failure to secure European success for the Nerazzurri.
After Mark Hughes was dismissed just before Christmas, 2009, Mancini was appointed as City manager on a three and a half year contract. The subsequent journey is covered neatly in the book, and requires no further telling here. Brennan is thorough in his research, and I was able to finish the book in a couple of evenings which is testament to his writing style (although the book was perhaps a little on the brief side, and would’ve benefitted from more details in parts).
His role covering City on a daily basis for the Evening News puts Brennan in a privileged position, and there are some interesting inisghts into Mancini’s managerial style and personal relationships with Mario Balotelli and Carlos Tevez. The book is recommended reading for Blues of all ages.
Roberto Mancini: The man behind Manchester City’s greatest-ever season is available from Amazon for just £14.44. Please click here to order a copy.