Roberto Donadoni: “Capello wanted to sign me for Real Madrid”

Roberto Donadoni, in May 2018 in Turin as coach of Bologna.

Arrigo Sacchi’s Milan, inherited by Fabio Capello, has bequeathed to world football history a series of great footballers who did not hesitate to become coaches later. Known as the sons of Sacchi, few colleagues can boast of having had two professors of such magnitude. Roberto Donadoni (Cisano Bergamasco, Italy; 57 years old) is one of them. Quality midfielder, good dribbling, vision of the game, he won everything that can be won with his lifelong team, three Champions included, and in the Italian team he was three penalties from glory in the World Cup in the United States 94 where Italy lost the final to Brazil in the final round.

Born in the province of Bergamo, trained at Atalanta (96 games, five goals) and a direct rival of the Spanish clubs and the national team during his great time at Milan, Donadoni presents himself as a good interlocutor on the eve of the match of return of the Champions. He lived the past as the protagonist. The present as a coach-spectator.

Ask. His last coaching experience in China ended in December. Do Donadoni’s teams think how Donadoni played?

Answer. For a coach it is essential to understand what players he has, both in human and technical material. Then you know if you can model the team to your football ideas. As a coach I have changed many times depending on the players I had. It is important to have the ability to adapt. When I have players who can do it, I bet on purposeful football, attacking, having the ball and controlling the game. That’s what I like. I am essentially concerned with my team, with having a philosophy of the game and that the players understand what we want to do. In this way we must worry less about the rival.

P. You were born in the province of Bergamo. Was Atalanta your childhood team or was it one of Italy’s greats?

R. I was always a Milanese, but I do not forget that it is my city, that I played, I grew up there and I have always been closely linked to Atalanta. As a kid my dream was to wear the Milan shirt and when I had the opportunity to sign I accepted without thinking, but I never forget that Atalanta gave me the opportunity to become a level player.

P. Were you very disappointed, or upset, with Atalanta-Real Madrid in the first leg?

R. It was a party conditioned by the expulsion. Atalanta had to play 10 against 11 and those 11 were from Real Madrid. The referee was quick to send off, he was too quick to get the red card, when it was at most a yellow one. That gave the game a totally different point. I am sure that in Madrid it will not be easy, but eleven against eleven Atalanta will be able to play their cards.

P. As a coach, do you think like your colleague Gasperini, who said after the game that decisions like the one made by the referee could mean the suicide of football? Was it a bit exaggerated?

R. Said that way it sounds a bit exaggerated, but they are situations that in important competitions change everything. A referee in this competition must assess his decisions well so that what happened does not happen, that a different match was played than was expected and can directly affect a classification.

P. How does a coach feel who has worked for one or two weeks preparing for a game as momentous as this and after 15 minutes he has to play something totally different?

R. A coach has to be brave to handle these situations that spoil the work you have done. They are particular moments where balance, willpower must prevail, and we must find how to overcome the moment. If these types of problems affect you, you run the risk of creating alibis and not discerning the possibilities that you have left. These events force you to turn the page and put all your knowledge for the next game. It is the only way to overcome a mistake like that.

P. Do you like VAR?

R. Yes, it is a benefit for football, although there are moments that can create difficulties.

P. 10 or 15 years ago, could you imagine an Atalanta playing the Champions League and fighting the big clubs in Europe? It is a miracle?

R. Hard to think about it, really, but I don’t consider it a miracle. When what is happening happens I don’t like to talk about miracles. Miracles happen every so often. When a team has this continuity, you can’t talk about it. Just work. With the current president, Percassi, the club has been taking huge steps forward in every way for years. Programming, ideas, ability to do business … And all this together, with a great coach, makes it possible for a city like Bergamo to compete with Real Madrid or PSG. It is the fruit of the work of some people with optimal capacity.

P. Gasperini, from a distance, looks like a private coach. With a lot of character, fixed football ideas, a clear model …

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