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A Plea For Prandelli

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Perhaps a little too late, but JonAS had to get this off his chest

ACF Fiorentina v Genoa CFC - Serie A Photo by Giuseppe Bellini/Getty Images

I know this post might come with a little delay, now that the Fonseca rumor mill is in full swing, but I’ll try to give it a shot anyway.

While hunting for a new coach for weeks now, AS Roma has been turned down more than a 16-year-old JonAS with freckles, sweaty hands, weak knees, st-st-st-st stuttering and a heavy acne which made the Rocky Mountains look like a newly bought pool table. Really, it was horrible.

At first, there were the big guns like Conte, Allegri, Sarri and Mourinho. Then later followed the second-tier coaches like Giampaolo, Gasperini and Gattuso. And of course also some WTF?! moments like that Getafe guy (seriously, does anyone remember his name?) or Mihaljovic and his condemned Lazio past.

The guy who could finally say ‘yes’ to the lovely yet crazy bridezilla, AS Roma, seems to be Fonseca. What a brave man. Fonseca still is an unknown in Italy, unlike all the others I mentioned so I won’t immediately put him in any category yet. Yes, his resume in Ukraine is quite outstanding but Italy and Serie A remain a big step up from that league.

But one particular coach, one name stayed in the shadows al this time and will probably not end up on Roma’s bench. That makes me sad and so I desperately need to confess in Church.

After Ranieri made it clear that he won’t stay in Rome this Summer, I had some serious 2004 flashbacks and was feeling quite nostalgic. The reason: Cesare Prandelli. A man who, for me at least, has unfinished business in Rome. Truth be told, perhaps Cesare himself doesn’t feel the same way, but for me it’s one of the saddest tales in recent Roman history (and trust me, we had a lot of them), along with the farewells of Totti, Cassano and De Rossi, the lost Coppa final to Lazio or the Pazzini goals in 2010.

Even though Conte or even Mourinho (hell, why not?) would have been nice for Roma’s prestige and reputation in Europe, they were always impossible and out of reach. So who exactly would cure this Roma? I would opt for an (older) Italian coach with a bag full of experience, who is no stranger to Serie A and has a minimum of tactical knowledge.

Ranieri obviously didn’t see a future in Rome. Gasperini can play in the CL with his Atalanta while Giampaolo thinks Milan is a better choice careerwise. Allegri? Good luck, especially if PSG and big Premier League teams are interested. Sarri is Juve bound, which is logical: guaranteed succes and the possibility to coach Ronaldo, one of the greatest footballers of all time.

Not a lot of options left it seems. But before I continue, let’s go back to 2004...

A certain Italian trainer, Cesare Prandelli, is on the rise. Prandelli guided Hellas Verona to Serie A and secured safety in his second season at the club with an impressive ninth spot in Serie A. Later he would spend two seasons at Parma, which he would turn into an entertaining and attractive side. Reaching two consecutive fifth places between 2002 and 2004, his Parma side was no pushover. Compare it with Gasperini’s Atalanta or Mazzari’s Torino last year if you’d like. He and Luciano Spalletti were the golden boys of Serie A.

Some players might ring a bill, some names struck fear into the heart of Roman defenders and some names you would have welcomed in Rome with open arms back in 2004: Gilardino, Bonera, Frey, Ferrari, Barone, Bresciano, Rosina, Blasi and Marchionni.

Prandelli made it click and after Lecce, Venezia, Verona and Parma, in the Summer of 2004, he was ready for his first big club: AS Roma.

But alas, we never saw Prandelli coach one single official game for AS Roma, as he quit his job that same Summer to be close with his wife, who had breast cancer. A very human thing to do and it only shows what a graceful person he is. Football isn’t everything, there are far bigger problems in the world.

In 2005 Prandelli returned to the world of football. Fiorentina was his first destination after his break and he immediately returned to the crème de la crème of Italian coaching: A fourth place finish in his first season and a fifth place in his second one. Mind you, that’s only because Fiorentina got a 15 point (!) deduction at the start due to the Calciopoli scandal. A UEFA Cup semi-final in 2008. A Serie A Coach Of The Year award in 2009. Surviving the CL group stage in 2009-2010, ending above Lyon and Liverpool. Let’s not forget, this was with a club called Fiorentina, not Milan, Inter or Juve.

The magic slowly but surely faded away and his Viola disappointingly ended on an 11th place in 2010. And so Prandelli left and accepted an offer to train the Italian NT, which he led to the Euro 2012 final against Spain. It was Italy’s best performance in a tournament in six years.

After the NT, in 2014, Prandelli turned into a bit of a nomad: He accepted jobs in Spain, Turkey and Dubai before going back to Italian soil.

Unlike others, I believe Prandelli hasn’t lost his ‘mojo’ (“Oh Austin, behave!”). Ok, so Valencia, Al-Nasr and Genoa haven’t been a succes lately. But Genoa was a hellhole last season, every coach would have had a hard time. And in the end he did guide them to safety and a longer stay in Serie A.

He only got ten games in Valencia before he resigned so we can’t really judge him after such a short Spanish stint. I do agree Al-Nasr was a strange choice careerwise, but that was just a quick cash grab, like a winning lottery ticket.

At Galatasaray he was sacked after ten rounds, although he was only one point from first place in the league. Poor performances in the CL, Turkish media and a lost locker room were the main reasons Prandelli got sacked.

Italy’s World Cup 2014 is seen as a huge disappointment because we only remember the notorious loss to Costa Rica but Prandelli did beat England in the group stage and narrowly lost 1-0 to a strong Uruguay team. And before the tournament began, he comfortably guided them through the qualifiers as well.

What I want to say is, his recent string of results don’t erase all the previous work and achievements of Cesare like the Euro 2012 final and his amazing work both at Parma and Fiorentina.

Now, if go back to June 2019: Prandelli is in trouble and won’t stay at Genoa for long. Apparently Andreazzoli will be his succesor and therefor Cesare should once again be a free man this Summer. Hence the sudden 2004 nostalgia. Hence the reason why I would, until this very day, go all out for Prandelli and leave the path of Fonseca. If there ever was a better moment to set things right...

For the club it’s the perfect timing to rectify the past. To turn back the clock 15 years. To finally give Prandelli a shot. It’s not too late.