As noted yesterday, the job of Palermo manager is very difficult to keep. Maurizio Zamparini is very short of patience and rarely willing to give coaches the time they need to succeed. He runs the club his way, and you disagree with him you’re as good as gone.
The Aquile have already gone through four coaches this season, and latest to enter the lion’s den is Devis Mangia. The 37-year-old has Palermo flying: they’re fifth in Serie A and have won all six of their home games this season. One would think this is the work of an experienced campaigner, but not. Mangia is a rookie in his first ever Serie Amanagerial role, and the start he’s made is remarkable.
Born in Cernusco sul Naviglio in 1974, Mangia didn’t have much of a playing career. Hometown side Cernusco Enotria had him on their books briefly, but he never made it as a professional footballer and left the sport to study jurisprudence.
Devis returned to football after graduating, and started learning his trade as a youth coach in 1999. Tiny sides Enotria Goliardo, Voghera and Fiorenzuola put him through his paces early on, and he became involved with organising youth tournaments in and around his local area.
A breakthrough came in 2004. Mangia moved to Serie D side Varese, first as a coach and then as manager. He stayed with the side until 2007, taking Varese out of Serie D and leaving them in a comfortable Serie C2 position.
The following season took him to amateur side Tritium, who he guided to a second-place finish in their division. Mangia moved to Serie D’s Ivrea a year later, but was unsuccessful and fired three days before the end of the 2008-09 season. Valencian took him on in 2009. Struggling financially and on the field, Valencian were in dire straights and competing in Italian football’s sixth tier. It looked like their season would end in disaster, but Mangia managed to stave-off relegation with a tenth-place finish.
Mangia left the club to return to Varese as a youth coach. This is when his career really started to take off. Varese’s youth side were unfancied and unfashionable. They had no notable prospects, but Mangia’s guidance earned them a spot in the Campionata Primavera (a competition made-up of the youth teams of Serie A & B sides) final. Roma’s kids beat them 3-2, but reaching the final remains a big accomplishment for one of Serie B’s smaller sides.
Varese’s Sporting Director Sean Sogliano left for Palermo this summer, and when he discovered the Aquile were looking for a new youth coach he knew exactly who to call. Mangia joined Palermo as the club’s under-19 manager, a job he’d only keep for two months.
Stefano Pioli, who’d only been at Palermo since June, had just overseen the club’s exit from the Europe League qualifying round. Despite not losing a game (Palermo went out on away goals having drawn 1-1 away and 2-2 at home), Pioli was relieved of his duties by Zamparini, who “had a feeling we (Palermo) were going to get relegated.”
Mangia, despite his complete lack of experience at a high level, was appointed caretaker manager for the start of the season. He lacked (and still lacks) the coaching badges that are usually required to manage in Serie A, but was granted an exemption as he’d already been admitted to the 2011-12 UEFA Pro License course.
Thrown straight into the deep end, Mangia could hardly have asked for tougher opposition for his first game in-charge: Internazionale. Mangia devised a gameplan with just 12 days to prepare. His Aquile lined-up in a 4-4-2 formation with the plan of pressing Inter right from kick-off. It worked: Inter’s rigid side couldn’t cope with Mangia’s system, and Palermo left with a 4-3 win.
With that feather in his cap, Mangia has gone on to establish a flawless home record that even Zamparini has spoken highly of. Palermo’s away record, however, remains a cause for concern. They’ve only picked-up one point and are yet to score a single goal on the road this season, but such a run can’t last forever and they’re got a great chance to turn things around at Parma this weekend.
It’s almost unbelievable to think that Mangia was working at non-league level just two years ago. Devis’ rise has been almost meteoric but his ideas are easily transferable between division.
Ball retention is pivotal. Mangia likes the ball played along the ground with quick, dynamic wing play. The initial 4-4-2 somewhat neutralised Palermo’s most talented player, Josip Ilicic, but recent games have seen Mangia switch to a 4-3-1-2 to utilize the Slovenian’s strengths. The Aquile are pragmatic and gritty opposed to fluid and gritty, but they’re far from boring to watch.
Devis Mangia’s story is incredible. Plucked from obscurity having cut his teeth as a youth coach, Mangia is now living the dream as a Serie A manager. Zampa’s track record suggest that he mightn’t get long in the hotseat, but here’s hoping he gets enough time to prove his worth. Personally, I think he’ll be a Serie A manager for a very long time.
- Devis Mangia – Wikipedia.it.
- “Devis Mangia in the Pink World of Obedience,” Mina Rzouki, In Bed With Maradona.