The Bologna Renaissance. The Serie A sensation is managed by the Brazilian Italian, who turns nameless players into stars

The Bologna Renaissance. The Serie A sensation is managed by the Brazilian Italian, who turns nameless players into stars
The Bologna Renaissance. The Serie A sensation is managed by the Brazilian Italian, who turns nameless players into stars

This season’s big sensation is being born under the Marathon tower, a distinctive landmark of the Renata Dall’Ara stadium. The Canadian owner Joey Saputo got his hands on me, he succeeded in hiring coach Thiago Motta and the team, which is nicknamed Rossoblú, is boldly walking into the Champions League. Welcome to Bologna, where a football renaissance is underway in 2024 under the baton of a recent great star.

They celebrated seven titles in the distant past in one of the most beautiful cities in the north of Italy. But the last one dates back to 1964. Sixty years later, although there is no talk of a Scudetta, the club’s fans are cheering. Fabulous results in recent months have moved Bologna to the current fourth place in the Serie A table, and the investments of owner Saputo, who was directed to Italy by former international Marco di Vaio when he was with the Montreal Impact team, are starting to pay off.

Monday’s 3-0 victory over Salernitana looks clear, but demanding coach Thiago Motta still said that he didn’t like the performance of his charges twice. “We have to improve, we have to control the game and the result better,” the former defensive midfielder of Barcelona or PSG let himself be heard. His words indicate that the team, which he started building from September 2022, still has reserves.

Motta’s first year saved Bologna among the Italian elite. After the team took over from Siniš Mihajlovič in September 2022, who succumbed to leukemia not long after, the team finished the year in ninth place. This year, with eight rounds to go, it looks like the current season will be the best result in the last half-century of the club’s history. Bologna is currently fourth, five points ahead of fifth-placed AS Roma and attacking third-placed Juventus, who are only two points behind.

“It’s a beautiful season for everyone, in terms of results and matches. I’m proud and happy with how we’re all experiencing it here.” said Motta, saying that he wanted to dedicate the victory to his daughter Sofia, who was watching the match in the stands.

Although the current coach represented his native Brazil twice on the international stage, he played the next 30 matches in the Squadra Azzurri jersey. “I feel like an Italian who happened to be born in Brazil, and I’m totally fine with that. I never thought of going back to Brazil when I went to Europe at the age of 15,” he tells when he is asked how it is possible that he wore the national jersey of both soccer powers.

The fact that he received the offer to lead Bologna in the summer of 2022 was actually no coincidence. His family has its roots just an hour’s drive from there. “We are an Italian family, that’s why I was able to play for Italy. My father was born in Brazil, but my grandfather was Italian from Rovigo,” he explained.

How to keep stars?

Today, the axis of the Boloni team is only 21-year-old stopper Riccardo Calafiori, in the midfield the stability of the game is maintained by the Swiss midfielders Remo Freuler and Michael Aebischer, and the key man for constructiveness is the Scot Lewis Ferguson, who previously played for Aberdeen. Dutchman Joshua Zirkzee and home forward Riccardo Orsolini take care of the goals. The average age of the squad is 24.6 years – it is therefore the second youngest team in Serie A.

At the same time, this is a bit of a treacherous thing, because there are already people interested in rising stars. Will it be possible to keep Zirkzee? “It costs 40 million euros,” says the club’s sports manager Marco di Vaio and former Boloni player about the biggest star. But he himself suspects that the skilled Dutchman would not resist a transfer to AC Milan.

But there are others on the radar of big clubs, including Motta himself, who has become a similar figure to Xabi Alonso for the Bundesliga. He came as an unheralded player and in a short time changed the established order with his insight as an excellent and intelligent football player.

The numbers on the pitch are deceiving

Mott’s philosophy is also inspiring. On paper, the team formation looks like 4-2-3-1, but the coach does not like to talk about positions. “My idea is that I want to play offensively. I want to have a team that controls the game, puts strong pressure on the opposition and has a lot of movement with and without the ball. I would like the player with the ball to always have three, four solutions and two teammates close to each other,” he described his ideal football referring to the famous tiki-taka style.

He could talk for hours about football in an engaging and original way. “It’s often difficult to keep things simple in it. Personally, I don’t like numbers in the field because they deceive you. You can be super attacking with a 5-3-2 and very defensive with a 4-3-3 system. It’s all about the quality of the players. In recent In the match, for example, my two full-backs ended up playing as nine and ten.”

So the question arises whether he will be able to continue watering the blossoming surprises in Bologna, or whether the lure of richer clubs will be stronger. “We don’t intend to become a supermarket,” club director Claudio Fenucci interrupted the debate. But he knows well that the hard rules of the market will eventually force the club to do business anyway. For now, however, an emotional factor is at play for Bologna – something beautiful and new is being born, and at the same time, participation in the Champions League is an attraction for all players.

Serie A has a new fairy tale after last year’s amazing story of Napoli.

The article is in Czech

Tags: Bologna Renaissance Serie sensation managed Brazilian Italian turns nameless players stars


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