Welcome to my first blog post since my appointment to be the Italian National Team Manager. I will be running separate blog posts on The Azzurri to keep them separate from my posts about ACF Fiorentina. If you have read my last blog post you will already know that I turned down the England job to become manager of Italy and become the first foreign manager to manage the Italian National Team.
My save is currently in its seventh season 2024-2025 and by my calculations based on my timings to complete a season I should complete ten seasons before the next version of FM is released based on previous release dates. With that in mind if I manage to keep the job of National team manager for the remaining duration of the save I should get a shot at the Nations League, World Cup and a European Championship campaign.
My first day at Coverciano, the technical department of the FIGC based conveniently for me in Florence was all about me looking at the staff that I want to work with. You may also have guessed that I will be introducing the Velvet Revolution system from my club ACF Fiorentina, like Rinus Michels I want to take my club system and apply it to the International game and see where it takes us. I will pick a core of players who I think can take the Velvet Revolution to the top of the World, yes I am aiming to win the 2026 World Cup with the style born out of Florence and inspired by Amsterdam.
Squad Selection (Switzerland)
I think the whole of Italy was waiting for my first squad announcement in anticipation to see who as been cut and who is included, so without further ado let’s have a look who makes my first 23 man squad:
Federico Chiesa pulled out of the squad after picking up an injury, so I turned to Sampdoria’s uncapped Winger Salvatore Russo to replace Chiesa. Probably the biggest talking point was the omission of Paris Saint Germain midfielder Marco Verratti who I feel needs to be playing for his club before I can consider him.
To add to the media hype over Verratti I decided to call up uncapped Nicolo Zaniolo the Roma midfielder who is currently on loan at Cagliari. I did not want to introduce myself to the job by making sweeping changes from day one so what I will be doing is introducing a few players over time to create the squad that I think can make a challenge at the next World Cup.
6th September 2024 European Nations Cup Division A Group 3
Italy v Switzerland
So my first game in charge I decided on the following Xl to start the game:
- GK Alex Meret : Napoli : 51 App 0 Goals
- RB Davide Calabria : Napoli : 49 App 1 Goals
- LB Antonio Barreca : AS Monaco : 17 App 0 Goals
- CD Daniele Rugani : Manchester City : 53 App 4 Goals
- CD Marco Varnier : Liverpool 29 App 1 Goals
- CM Jorginho : Chelsea : 72 App 13 Goals
- CM Sandro Tonali : ACF Fiorentina : 16 App 2 Goals
- CM Roberto Gagliardini : Internazionale : 19 App 6 Goals
- RW Daniele Moriconi : Manchester City : 7 App 3 Goals
- LW Moise Kean : Bayern Munich : 26 App 12 Goals
- CF Gianluca Motta : Sampdoria : 1 App 0 Goals
I decided to start Sampdoria’s Gianluca Motta up front with both Moise Kean and Daniele Moriconi supporting. We got underway and it looked like the boys were having problems getting used to the system but as the half went on they seemed to settle down and on the 40th minute mark Gianluca Motta repaid my faith in him by scoring his first International goal to give us a 1-0 lead at the break.
It did not take long after the restart for us to double our lead courtesy of the impressive Manchester City winger Daniele Moriconi with a volley in the 51st minute. The young Winger was running the show and it was his endeavour that produced a third goal in the 58th minute when Central Defender Marco Vernier scored with a powerful shot to seal the game and give us a well deserved 3-0 win.
I brought on Nicolo Zaniolo on for a a twenty minute run out with the game in the bag to give him a bit of game time after his inclusion in the squad. Overall I am pleased with my first game in charge and look forward to our next challenge in Germany next month. i really enjoyed picking a squad and managing them in my first outing on the international stage. Gianluca Motta looks a beast of a player and I dont think it will be long before Sampdoria are receiving some hefty bids from the games top brass. Bayern Munich’s Moise Kean was instrumental in creating two of our three goals from the left wing a position that I see him playing long term in my system. We are blessed with some excellent options in the midfield strata so it will be really interesting who steps up to the plate and nails down a starting slot.
I know a lot of people will be expecting me to bring in a large number of La Viola players but that will not be the case because I expect each player to be chosen on merit so i will be getting a little analytical over the months to come making sure we have the form players in the squad that fit my requiirements. Looking at the Italian Youth squads which I have given full control to the managers of each squad to pick their own players ACF Fiorentina are well represented through the squads which is a credit to our development process in Florence. All the Youth squads will use The Velvet Revolution system whilst I am National Team manager.
Squad Selection (Germany and Switzerland)
11th October 2024 European Nations Cup Division A Group 3
Germany v Italy
Never an easy place to get a result so I went this time for our V4 system changing from the V3 system with the difference being the full backs starting deeper. De Sciglio comes in to the starting line up at the back and both Mandragora and Zaniolo come in to the midfield.
We got off to the best possible start when Moriconi scored a low drive that went in off the post in the 19th minute. A 1-0 lead that we managed to hold on to until the break sacking up a bit of pressure from our hosts. The German 4411 was very effective and when the Germans forced an equaliser in the 66th minute I feared the worst but I needn’t had worried because just one minute later substitute Andrea Belotti restored our lead with a close range volley with his first touch of the game.
Nicolo Zaniolo rounded things off for us in the 90th minute with a cracking strike that bulged the German netting sealing a very good 3-1 win that puts us firmly in control of the group. Zaniolo picked up the man of the match award that hopefully will stick two fingers up at the media who questioned my faith in him.
14th October 2024 European Nations Cup Division A Group 3
Switzerland v Italy
Just three days after the Germany game, Matchday 3 took us to Switzerland for the return tie knowing that a win would just about be enough put us through to the Semi Final stage. I made a good few changes 10 in total to the side that beat Germany including debuts for one of my warriors from La Viola Gianluca Mancini, full back Francesco Alfonsi who is on loan at SPAL from Cagliari and last but not least exciting winger Salvatore Russo from Sampdoria.
Andrea Belotti got the nod up front and Alessandro Cortinovis another Viola player, Jorginho and Gagliardini make up the midfield three and Romagnoli and Pellegrini make up the remainder of the back line in front of Donnarumma between the sticks.
The game itself was entertaining with our hosts looking to revenge their defeat in Italy but it was the Azzurri that looked more likely to open the scoring and we did just that when defender Alessio Romagnoli put us 1-0 up with a confident finish in the 38th minute a lead that we took in to the break.
The Swiss started strong after the break spurred on by their number 10 Bracelli who himself equalised in the 51st minute. We sempt to recover well from this set back and it was one of my own players Alessandro Cortinovis from Fiorentina who won us the game in the 78th minute thanks to a deflected shot that gives us another 3 points and a 6 point advantage at the top.
Squad Selection (Germany and Japan)
I called up two players for our final two games of the year including Palermo midfielder Santo Anastasi and a familiar face in Federico Chiesa. I also had to bring in an other after Rolando Mandragora dropped out with an injury, his replacement was 32 year old Marco Verratti.
Mandragora Injured – Replacement Verratti
16th November 2024 European Nations Cup Division A Group 3
Italy v Germany
We came out 1-0 winners after an hard fought game against a resilient German side thanks to a second half goal from Andrea Belotti but it was defender Marco Varnier who got the man of the match award for his after a fine display. The win takes us in to the Nations League Semi Final next year and rounds off a thorough campaign.
19th November 2024 Friendly
Italy v Japan
We rounded the International year off with a 4-0 win against Japan with goals from Gianluca Motta, Marco Varnier, Daniele Moriconi and Marco Verratti after a dominant performance against our Asian visitors. Four of my Fiorentina players started the game with Mancini and Pellegrini starting in the back four and both Alessandro Cortinovis and Sandro Tonali starting in our midfield.
Well that rounds off my first Azzurri post and I have to say I have enjoyed all 5 games that we have played and won. It is nice to have a look around Italy and further a field when selecting players from the National pool and of course it doubles up as another scouting tool for La Viola. You will have noticed a few Newgens making their mark non less so than Sampdoria’s Gianluca Motta and Salvatore Russo who both look the business. Daniele Moriconi of Manchester City is another who looks quality. I am especially pleased how my Velvet Revolution system as evolved with me now playing with Version 4 of the system. I know the International management on FM gets a bit of stick and yes it could be a lot better but it what it is and I have enjoyed picking the squads and introducing a style of play that I believe in.
My next blog post will be looking at how Fiorentina are getting on in our 7th season together which involves us chasing 5 trophies in what I hope will be a successful campaign.