Wembley rematch

The Italian coach, Roberto Mancini, during the Eurocup.

Wembley is no longer the same stadium that crowned Barça European champions in 1992. Today’s Sampdoria has nothing to do with that team that lost the final with the Catalans after winning the scudetto in 1991. And the game of the Italy of the European does not resemble that of the team that competed in the World Cup that it organized in 1990. There is, however, a nexus between the Azzurra, Sampdoria and Wembley. Italy’s coaching staff, the team that faces Austria in London this Saturday, is made up of former Samp players, three of whom lined up against Barcelona on May 20, 1992 at Wembley: the coach, Roberto Mancini, the expedition leader, Gianluca Vialli, and the assistant coach, Attilio Lombardo.

The staff It also includes as assistants Fausto Salsano and Giulio Nuciari, goalkeeping coach Massimo Battara and Alberico Evani, Mancini’s right-hand man. All have been blucerchiati and some did not lose their bond with Mancini when he was manager of Manchester City, Galatasaray and Zenit after his stint at Fiorentina, Lazio and Inter. The starting point is always the Sampdoria, to which the oil businessman Paolo Mantovani gave flight until reaching the goal of London.

Mantovani had it stiff with Silvio Berlusconi, Milan’s patron, and also with Massimo Moratti, the owner of Inter, after recruiting Mancini from Bologna and Vialli from Cremonese. Both were known as “the twins” of a Samp that, at different times, signed Pagliuca, Mannini or Vierchowod and foreigners such as Brady, Trevor Francis, Souness, Cerezo or Víctor Muñoz —until Luisito Suárez had his years of glory in the club (1970-1973) -. The successes came in the 1980s and early 1990s, especially when Vujadin Boskov sat on the bench. The loot was extraordinary for a club especially beloved in Italy.

A League championship (1990-1991), four Cups (1985, 1988, 1989 and 1994), a Recopa (1990) and the final of the European Cup (1992), defeated by Barça, as it already happened in the 1989 Recopa, express the importance of the team blucerchiati at a time when calcium was full of good players, foreigners (Caniggia, Fonseca, Rubén Sosa, Völler, Brehme, Matthaus, Klinsmann, Gareca, Riedle) and Italians, concentrated in Baggio’s Juve, Sacchi-Gullit’s Milan , Van Basten and Rijkaard—, or Maradona’s Naples. Vialli’s 19 goals allowed him to conquer the scudetto and then fight for the continental crown at Wembley with Cerezo, Katanec and obviously the Vialli-Mancini-Lombardo trio.

Although Lombardo did not stop striking from the right side while Cruyff ordered a mark on Mancini, Vialli asked for a towel “to avoid seeing Koeman’s goal” after being substituted by Buzo. He had no doubts that the foul that the referee whistled for an Invernizzi tackle on Eusebio would end up in Pagliuca’s net and he covered his face so as not to witness Tintin’s shot. Barça made their debut as European champions and Wembley changed his story while generating an unbreakable friendship between the Samp players gathered around Mancini, the one who has played the most games (424) and scored goals (123) at Luigi Ferraris.

The bond has always been more fraternal than football, if Mancini’s career as a coach is analyzed. “Italy is not like the City that debuted after 44 years as Premier League champions with that goal from Kun Agüero,” Guardiola emphasizes. The Azzurra does not play today like Boskov’s Sampdoria either. There is, however, a chemistry around the team’s working group that was born out of the friendship they formed when they played in Genoa. “There are similarities if we stick to spirit and empathy,” argues Mancini, always praised by Sven-Goran Eriksson. “Mancini is a good friend of his friends and surrounds himself with those who give him confidence,” emphasizes Víctor Muñoz. “More than a model, he has a philosophy and a way of thinking and observing that is expressed in his team: they are technical and also aggressive, balanced.” The players are delighted, “all in their natural habitat,” explains Insigne. Ranieri adds: “Involve everyone from humility.” And concludes the blucerchiati Lanna: “The atmosphere created reminds me of Sampdoria.”

Mancini returns to Wembley 30 years later with Lombardo and Vialli, whom he recruited after suffering from pancreatic cancer, the three willing to make the London Stadium the beginning and not the end of a great adventure for Italy.

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