With just the last week of the French season to go, at club level, at least, conclusions are being drawn and champions are being crowned.
One intriguing nugget of information we can glean is of the success of Italian coaches this year.
Though certain issues remain to be decided, Ligue 1, the Premier League, Serie A, The Russian Premier League the Champions League will all either be won by an Italian coach or almost won. That four of the top seven leagues in Europe as well as the world’s biggest club competition will all be, or almost be, in the hands of Italians is striking.
In Italy it was always likely, admittedly, with Juventus and AC Milan, both coached by Italians, conducting the title charge. The Champions League is perhaps more intriguing, as one suspected a Spaniard or Portuguese would carry it away, as they have for the last three seasons. As it is, it will be an Italian or a German. Roberto di Matteo has performed stunningly well at Chelsea since taking over, showing a particular tactical nous.
Conversely, Paris St Germain have gone slightly backwards since the appointment of Carlo Ancelotti. They have lost the lead in the title race and could see a relatively inexpensively assembled team beat their all stars in France’s Ligue 1 this season. Ancelotti’s tinkering has toyed damagingly with a winning formula.
In England, Roberto Mancini has enjoyed a strange season. A superb start, followed by a mid to late season dip, but then a final surge for the line which saw them clinch the most dramatic of titles. He too, has demonstrated his tactical intelligence this season, deploying his resources well, though ironically if they don’t win the league, he may rue the work of another Italian – Mario Balotelli.
In Russia Luciano Spalletti has been such a success at Zenit, whom he has won two successive titles with, that he is now being touted for the soon to be vacant manager’s post after this summer’s European Championships.
This shows that there is something about Italian managers. Certainly at least, they appear more adaptable to other countries than most. French and Spanish managers have had good success abroad, but none seem to be quite so prominent or achieve as much as Italians. The tactical rigour of the Italian game may explain this. Of all the football powers of Europe, they are perhaps the ones most obsessed by tactics, and the evidence seems to be suggesting that gives them an advantage when going abroad.
And so perhaps this will be the key at the European Championships this summer. Italy will harbour hope that Cesare Prandelli can lead them to glory, whilst the other Italian, Giovanni Trapatonni, seems less likely on the face of it with Ireland. And it may just have England fans pondering whether it is such a good thing that Fabio left.