Premier League Clubs Managed: Manchester City (2009-2013)
Roberto Mancini will always go down in folklore as the man who ended Manchester City’s long quest without silverware. The Italian was a fiery figure as a player and even more so as a manager. It worked though at City and he was the man on the touchline when Sergio Aguero scored that injury-time goal in May 2012 which saw City snatch the Premier League title away from their rivals across the city, Manchester United.
Mancini is still in management in 2018 and is set to become the new boss of the Italian national team. His most recent club spell was with Russian side Zenit Saint Petersburg.
A Sampdoria legend
Mancini made his playing debut in 1981, featuring for Bologna in Serie A. Sampdoria bought him a year later for £2.2 million and he would remain there for the next 16 years, becoming a legend with the club’s supporters.
During his time with them, he helped Sampdoria win the Italian league title in 1991 which is the only time they’ve managed to break the regular dominance of Juventus and the two Milan clubs. There was success on the European stage too with Sampdoria winning the 1990 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, beating Anderlecht 2-0 in the final after extra-time. The two goals came from Gianluca Vialli and Vialli and Mancini struck a super understanding leading the attack for them. In fact, their knowledge and cohesion of each other’s game meant they earned the nickname “I Gemelli del Gol” (The Goal Twins).
Two years later, Sampdoria reached the European Cup final but were beaten in extra-time by Barcelona at Wembley Stadium. By now, Mancini was one of the most influential figures in the dressing room at Sampdoria. He was part of the interview panel when Sven-Goran Eriksson was appointed the club’s manager and was often used to help promote the club to new players, including Englishman David Platt.
He wasn’t the easiest person to get on with and if his authority was questioned, he didn’t like it. Mancini had falling outs with the likes of Trevor Francis, Liam Brady and Juan Sebastian Veron during his time in Italian football.
When Eriksson took the Lazio job, he took Mancini with him and Roberto won his second Serie A and Cup Winners’ Cup prizes as a player. He retired from playing in 2000 to become the Swede’s assistant manager but when Eriksson left shortly afterwards to take the England international job, Mancini decided to come out of retirement for one final brief spell with Leicester City in England. He made five appearances for the Foxes before a return to Italy beckoned – this time as manager of Fiorentina.
Coaching success in Italy
When he took the Fiorentina job, he required special dispensation from Italian authorities as he hadn’t yet completed his coaching badges. The club were in serious financial trouble and star assets had to be sold, like Francesco Toldo and Rui Costa. Mancini still managed to win the Coppa Italia before resigning in January 2002 with the club in the Serie A relegation zone.
Five months later, he took over at Lazio and like in Florence; he had to deal with big financial constraints. Yet again, star players had to go. Alessandro Nesta joined AC Milan and Hernan Crespo was sold to Inter Milan but Mancini managed to galvanise the Rome giants to two top-six finishes and another Coppa Italia triumph in 2004.
Next stop was Inter Milan who appointed him in the summer of 2004 after Lazio agreed to release him from his contract. The Coppa Italia was fast becoming Mancini’s specialist competition. He achieved a third victory as a manager in his first Inter season, beating AS Roma 3-0 in the final and he guided them to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals where they lost to bitter rivals, AC Milan.
Inter were to become the dominant force in Italian football after Juventus were stripped of their domestic title and relegated in 2006 because of the Calciopoli scandal. He won three successive Serie A titles, two Super Cups and broke numerous records domestically; including a historic run of 17 successive top-flight victories in 2005-2006 which is one of the best runs ever seen in European football.
However, Inter owner Massimo Moratti was unimpressed by the lack of impact being made by the club in the UEFA Champions League and this would ultimately lead to a separation between the club and Mancini. Back-to-back defeats in the round-of-16 to Valencia (2007) and Liverpool FC (2008) along with disciplinary problems in these losses would seal his fate. He was sacked by the club in May 2008 and replaced by Jose Mourinho. He wouldn’t manage again for nearly 18 months.
Checking in at City
Six days before Christmas in 2009, Mancini checked into the Premier League as the new boss of Manchester City, replacing Mark Hughes. He immediately made it clear that his target was for the oil-rich Citizens to finish in the top four and qualify for the following season’s UEFA Champions League.
Four straight wins followed but there was a late semi-final defeat in the League Cup to Manchester United and they were pipped to fourth spot by Tottenham Hotspur. Spurs defeated City 1-0 in early May at The Etihad Stadium to leave the most expensive squad in the club’s history in fifth and with the meek consolation prize of playing in the UEFA Europa League.
The first signs of success came in the Italian’s first full season at Eastlands. He spent heavily in the summer transfer window, bringing in the likes of David Silva, Yaya Toure, Mario Balotelli and Aleksandar Kolarov. City moved into fourth position in mid-September after a victory away at Wigan Athletic and never surrendered a spot in the top four from that point onwards.
There were moments where things didn’t go to plan. Mancini had a bust-up with Carlos Tevez just before Christmas as the skipper submitted a transfer request citing personal reasons for a desire to move back to Argentina. Those differences were eventually resolved and the manager came in criticism for negative tactics on home soil in successive goalless draws with Manchester United and Birmingham City.
However, not many teams finished the 2010-2011 season in better form than Manchester City. They secured UEFA Champions League qualification for the first time when they beat Tottenham Hotspur in early May and two further victories on the final week of the campaign ensured a top-three finish above Arsenal. There was further success with victory in the FA Cup final over Stoke City, with Toure scoring the only goal. It was the club’s first major honour since the League Cup in 1976.
Taking the main prize
In the 2011 close season, Sergio Aguero and Samir Nasri were added to the squad, along with Gael Clichy. The target this time was to take the main prize and land the Premier League title.
Manchester City made an outstanding start to the season, staying unbeaten until mid-December when they lost 2-1 at Stamford Bridge to Chelsea. During this run, Mancini’s side won 6-1 at Old Trafford and also dished out heavy defeats to Swansea City, Tottenham Hotspur and Norwich City. There were still issues. He had another public row with Tevez, claiming he refused to come off the bench during a UEFA Champions League match with Bayern Munich. In the post-match press conference, he told journalists that Tevez would never play for the club again. Never say never though and the temperamental forward would return to the fold in March 2012.
The Champions League campaign ended in a disappointing group stage exit and Manchester United ended their FA Cup defence at the first hurdle but this season, it was all about the Premier League. The two Manchester giants were locked together for much of the season. It was a new experience for the club and there was a major wobble in March. Defeat at Swansea and a home draw with Sunderland gave the Red Devils the advantage in the title race. When City lost 1-0 at Arsenal and had Balotelli sent off, an eight-point gap had been opened up. Mancini insisted in public the title dream was over but an extraordinary turnaround was about to follow.
City would win their next five matches, including a second victory over United in the season. Sir Alex Ferguson’s side were stumbling to defeat at Wigan and threw away a two-goal lead to draw 4-4 with Everton. Now, it was the Citizens who had the advantage on goal difference going into the final day of the season. They had a home fixture against relegation-threatened Queens Park Rangers whilst Manchester United travelled to Sunderland.
United won 1-0 so as long as City matched that result, they would become champions. In true fashion, they made incredibly heavy weather of this routine scenario. Despite QPR being reduced to 10 men, they took a 2-1 lead midway through the second half. However, injury-time produced the most dramatic finale to a Premier League match. First, Edin Dzeko’s header levelled the scores before Balotelli poked the ball through for Aguero to score the title-winning goal with seconds remaining. Cue pandemonium around The Etihad Stadium. Mancini had just become the second Italian manager to win the Premier League title.
No happy conclusion
There would be no happy conclusion though for the relationship between the manager and club. A quiet summer transfer window, coupled with another timid showing in the UEFA Champions League put Mancini back under pressure. City went into 2013 seven points off top spot and further poor showings away at Southampton and Everton allowed Manchester United to romp into a sizeable advantage in the table which they were never going to throw away this time around. In his final season as a manager, Sir Alex Ferguson regained the Red Devils’ superiority and the title was back at Old Trafford by the end of April.
Two days after being beaten by Wigan Athletic in the FA Cup final, Mancini was sacked as Manchester City manager with relations with the board and players reported to be at its lowest ebb. With Manchester City, Mancini achieved the fourth-best win percentage in Premier League history.
Since then, he has had spells as manager of Galatasaray, a second stint at Inter Milan and Zenit Saint Petersburg, where he was trying to guide them to become the dominant force in Russia again before moving into international management in May 2018.
Despite having been a support striker during his playing career, Mancini places great emphasis on building from the back and his approach, whilst not always popular, ensured he will always go down as one of Manchester City’s greatest managers.