Franco Tancredi not only followed Fabio Capello as a goalkeeping coach wherever Capello went as a manager (including Roma, Real Madrid, and the England team), but Tancredi’s playing career saw him win the Scudetto and several cups when he was wearing the number one jersey for those glorious Roma sides of the 1980s.
That was improbable at the very start of Tancredi’s career; one where he was written off in Milan as a good-but-not-good-enough talent before he “redeemed” himself in Rome. To this day, he still holds the second-highest record for most consecutive Serie A starts (258) behind only Dino Zoff.
As OptaPaolo would say: Longevity.
PlusNews.It published an interview with Tancredi, last week, catching up on all things Roma—both in the 1980s and today. You could skip the opening pleasantries of the first two questions, and even overlook how much Tancredi qualifies things as “exceptional” because the rest of the interview is good value.
A career almost entirely dedicated to Roma, both as player and goalkeeping coach. What does that mean for you and what does the club mean for you?
“Between playing and coaching, I’ve spent 31 years at Roma. That’s practically half my life. Roma discovered me, they helped me to put together an exceptional career. I was also lucky. They found me at the right time and right place. The Roma shirt is like a second skin for me.”
Do you follow Roma [today]?
“Yes, I experience them as a fan and I very much like Fonseca as a person, but above all as coach. Roma is a team playing beautiful, entertaining and lovely football. The kind you want to see. They’re putting together an exceptional season and can qualify for the Champions League. It’s just a shame about the Coppa Italia exit.”
What do you think of the club’s new board?
“They seem like people who want to do things in a serious way, in silence and with discretion. That’s a very positive aspect. They need time because they walked into a very complicated situation.”
It’s often said that in today’s Roma, the club is missing people who know Roma well and know Roma’s history. How important is it to you for a club to have figures like that?
“Yes, for me it’s important to have those kind of people. We need to remember that you build a great future by observing the past. But it’s not enough to have simply played for Roma to deserve working at Trigoria. You have to have knowledge and be competent.”
Let’s take a walk down memory lane: Vierchowod, Ago, Nela, Maldera. How important is it for a goalkeeper to be protected by a defence the likes of that?
“That was a great backline and four great players. The Scudetto-winning year, we had Pietro Vierchowod who would mark three opponents per game. Then there was Ago, who immediately let us move so many of our players up beyond the halfway line, with the ease of which he played the ball. We practically played three-at-the-back, because there was Sebino [Nela] and Aldo, who were truly wingers. They were good at attacking but also defending. That was an exceptional squad, with the greatest strength being the midfield.”
Then let’s talk about one of those midfielders. What did Paulo Roberto Falcao bring to that side?
“I adore Paulo. He brought enthusiasm. As soon as he came to Roma, he was talking about [winning] the Scudetto. We’d only just finished sixth in the league the previous season. He brought awareness to our team. He knew how to do everything on the pitch, an atypical Brazilian. He seemed more like a European player. It was him, alongside Liedholm and Viola, that really built that Roma side.”
You were a great goalkeeper and one of the best in Italy, but [Giovanni] Galli and [Ivano] Bordon were preferred ahead of you as second and third-choice keeper for Italy in 1982. Were you upset?
“I think about more than just 1982, where I could have been third-choice keeper, but what really upset me was what happened in 1986. In the period leading up to the World Cup I started so many friendlies for Italy, since we didn’t have to play any qualification matches as the World Cup-holders. Then I never played in Mexico. I don’t know what happened. Unfortunately a choice was made that I never understood.”
In your coaching career after, you eventually chose to follow Fabio Capello from Rome to Turin. The Roma fans couldn’t forgive you for that...
“I understood the bitterness of Roma fans in that moment and I even shared some of it, myself. But we’re professionals and this is a job. I worked with Capello and he proposed that I follow him. Then I returned to Roma under with Luis Enrique and everything [with the fans] went back to normal.”
You’ve worked with many head coaches. We’ll give you three names: Carlo Mazzone...
“A legend, a true Roman. He was often underrated, dismissed as overly-defensive tactician, but really his teams often went for a technical style of football.”
“I created a beautiful friendship with Fabio. I worked with him for 14 years and he was the peak of my career for me. He taught me so many things. We were fully synched. Wherever he went, he gave me a call. That gave me a lot of satisfication, because he never gives you anything for free.”
“A great one. Especially as a man. A fantastic and outgoing person. And what’s more is I love Spanish people, I have many friends in Spain. Unfortunately at Roma, Luis didn’t have the resources to play the kind of football he wanted Roma to play.”
In recent years, there’s been one figure at Roma who’s been divisive and the subject of a lot of criticism: Franco Baldini.
“Franco has a great understanding of football. He won the Scudetto at Roma with Capello. That team was built by them both, together. I believe Baldini gave the best of himself when he worked alongside Capello. That was a winning mix.”
Who’s the best goalkeeper you’ve ever trained?
“I’ll say two names. Gigi Buffon was the greatest of them all, and Iker Casillas. I love talking about Iker above all. A fantastic kid who I still talk with a lot. When I came to Real Madrid, they told me he wouldn’t have a lot of desire to train. On the contrary: He was exceptional and humble. We put together a great season. He would say the same, years later, in an Italian newspaper where he mentioned me. He’d say he worked very well with me. There’s one thing I want to emphasise: Goalkeepers like Buffon and Casillas don’t give you problems. With keepers like that, the only thing you have to do is not damage them. It doesn’t take much work. The real measure of a goalkeeping coach is improving those keepers who are only so-so.”
So who’s one of those goalkeepers you managed to improve?
“Ivan Pelizzoli. When I came back to Roma in 2003, Pelizzoli was on the outskirts of competition. We worked a lot of him that year and he relaunched his career. He even played a few games with the national team.”
Who’s the best goalkeeper in the world right now?
“I have a weakness for Alisson, I like Szczesny a lot and Gigi Donnarumma is always growing. The latter is certainly good for our national team.”
Are there any young keepers you especially like right now?
“I think Alex Meret is the keeper with the best potential.”
Do you think there’s a goalkeeping problem at Roma right now?
“Yes, that seems evident to me. Pau Lopez doesn’t seem reliable to me. I hope he grows and improves himself, but I think Roma will definitely have to sign a goalkeeper for next season.”
Many names have been mentioned for the future Roma number 1: Silvestri, Musso, Cragno. Who do you prefer of those three?
“Cragno is my favourite. He’s improving a lot when it comes to coming out of goal, a weakness that so many goalkeepers of today have and I don’t understand why. Very few keepers come out of their goal.”
Cragno plays a little bit like you...
“That’s true, you’re right. He plays a little bit like me.”
What does a goalkeeper need to play for Roma?
“Character above all else. They have to win you 12 or 13 points per season. And I’d add one more thing in general: Let’s stop with this story that goalkeepers have to play well with their feet. Then maybe you end up with a keeper who’s good with their feet but does every other things disgracefully. I often happen to see keepers who don’t know how to come out of goal, that don’t know how to sidestep, that don’t know what to do in a one-on-one, that doesn’t know how to cover their post. So, yeah, you do have to know how to use your feet, but a goalkeeper has to know how to save the ball.”