Eyebrows were raised when Gennaro Gattuso replaced Carlo Ancelotti as Napoli coach in December 2019. The outgoing – and legendary – boss barely spent 18 months in the dugout and his tenure was littered with public spats and player mutinies.
In his defence, Ancelotti got on very well with his players, but clashed with owner Aurelio De Laurentiis, who is notorious for causing controversy. The movie mogul dismissed Carletto despite Ancelotti guiding Napoli to the Champions League knockout stages, and his decision was further ridiculed by his choice of successor. Gattuso won the European Cup twice under Ancelotti but his coaching record paled in comparison to that of his predecessor, and few believed, even if he had been harshly treated at San Siro, that the fiery ex-midfielder was capable of bettering the veteran tactician’s time in Naples.
Gattuso had previously had a spell in the Milan hot-seat and can consider himself extremely unfortunate to be sacked at the end of the previous campaign. Gattuso led a dysfunctional squad to fifth, and, if anything, over-performed with what he had at his disposal. One glance at Milan’s current plight confirms Gattuso was harshly treated and the Rossoneri’s loss is proving to be Napoli’s gain.
Some seven months in to the job, Rino, as he is affectionately known, has worked tirelessly to galvanise his troops and it was Napoli who lifted the first domestic trophy of the season. The Partenopei ran out deserved winners in the Coppa Italia, firstly beating Inter 2-1 on aggregate in the semi-final, before comprehensively outplaying Juventus in the showpiece.
Gattuso is known for his heart and passion, but his ability on the touchline should not be undervalued. The 2006 World Cup winner got the better of Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri, two hugely respected figures in Italian football, and after walking in to a dressing room full of unhappy professionals, should be proud of his achievements in his first term in charge. With the new Serie A season just around the corner, what can we expect from Gattuso in his first full season in charge?