Roberto Mancini doesn’t always get the due recognition his managerial career deserves. In what is a ruthless industry, the Italian has survived close to twenty years and has achieved plenty of success along the way.
When Mancini began his career with Fiorentina in 2001, it was a time when the Viola were in huge financial trouble and had to sell some of their best players. Yet, the Italian managed to win the Coppa Italia during his ten months in charge, before joining Lazio in 2002.
Once again, coming into a club that was cash-strapped and had gotten rid of key players, Mancini guided them to the UEFA Cup semi-final in his first season and Coppa Italia the following year.
And then, Inter Milan came calling ahead of the 2004/05 season. Under Mancini, the Nerazzurri would grow into the most dominant side in Italy, winning back-to-back Serie A titles in 2005/06, 06/07 and 07/08, to add to the Coppa Italia he had won in his debut season, as well as two Italian Super Cups.
However, the partnership came to an end in 2008 due to a lack of any significant achievement in the Champions League.
After over a year out, Mancini returned to management, taking over the Manchester City project in 2009.
The 55-year-old helped kickstart the era of domestic domination at the club, leading them to the FA Cup in 2010/11, before championing their first-ever Premier League title the next season. He was sacked the following season though after City failed to win a trophy.
Mancini spent a year at Galatasaray, winning a Turkish Cup before returning to Inter in 2014 for a relatively uneventful two-year stint. The 55-year-old then spent a year with Zenit Saint Petersburg before taking over the reins of the Italian national team and helping the Azzurri qualify for the upcoming Euros.
In a career spanning such a long period, Mancini has had the chance to work with a lot of great players of the time — Francesco Toldo, Jaap Stam, Diego Simeone, Marco Materazzi, Zlatan Ibrahimović, Didier Drogba, Wesley Sneijder, to name a few.
But who makes the cut for the Best XI among players coached by Roberto Mancini? Read on to find out.
GK: Joe Hart (Manchester City)
Toldo, Julio Cesar are greats in their own right and played key roles under Mancini during his stint in Italy. However, it is Joe Hart who gets the nod for the goalkeeping spot.
The Englishman grew into one of the best goalkeepers in England during his time with Mancini, helping Manchester City usher in an era of dominance. The shot-stopper played 149 of 191 matches Mancini managed at the Etihad, keeping 66 clean sheets in the process.
RB: Javier Zanetti (Inter Milan)
One of the leaders of Mancini’s successful Inter Milan outfit, Javier Zanetti edges out fellow Argentine Pablo Zabaleta, who played a similar role at Manchester City under the Italian tactician.
Zanetti was the second-most frequently used player by Mancini, having turned 191 times out of 226 matches managed by the 55-year-old, captaining a fair share of those games as well.
CB: Ivan Cordoba (Inter Milan)
The third-most frequently used player by Mancini, Ivan Cordoba was a constant presence in the Inter Milan defence under the manager. The former Colombian international featured 162 times for Mancini at the club, helping form a solid rearguard on which the Nerazzurri’s success was built upon while scoring 11 goals along the way.
Cordoba would go on to miss a large chunk of the 2007/08 season, but there is no denying his importance to Inter’s success under Mancini.
CB: Vincent Kompany (Manchester City)
The captain of the Manchester City team that went on to make history under Roberto Mancini, Vincent Kompany’s selection in this side was a given, pipping the likes of Materazzi, Sinisa Mihajlovic and Walter Samuel. The Belgian centre-half led the City side with great grit and determination, making 153 appearances under Mancini during the Italian’s stint at the club.
Kompany scored six goals during the pair’s time at the club, none more important than the one he scored against Manchester City at the Etihad that turned the title race on its head in the 2011/12 campaign.
LB: Giuseppe Favalli (Lazio/Inter Milan)
May not be the biggest name on the list, but Giuseppe Favalli was a regular member of Mancini’s side at Lazio, playing 77 of the 100 matches that the Italian took charge of. Then, the left-back followed Mancini to Inter Milan on a free transfer and was an important player for the first two seasons, before leaving for AC Milan in 2006.
In total, Favalli appeared 145 times under Mancini, scoring one and assisting seven, winning a Scudetto and three Coppa Italia trophies. Just about edges out Aleksandar Kolarov from the XI.
CM: Esteban Cambiasso (Inter Milan)
One of the greatest defensive midfielders during his prime, Esteban Cambiasso was an integral part of Roberto Mancini’s dominant Inter Milan side, after having joined the club on a free transfer from Real Madrid in the same summer as the Italian took over the reins. The Argentine midfielder racked up 164 appearances for the Nerazzurri during Mancini’s tenure, bagging 21 goals and setting up 13 more.
Effective in breaking up play in the middle, Cambiasso often gets overlooked in conversations about the best defensive midfielders, with the likes of Claude Makelele and Sergio Busquets getting all the plaudits. But the former Inter Milan man was equally good, if not better and proved critical to the Nerazzurri during and after Mancini’s reign.
CM: Dejan Stankovic (Lazio/Inter Milan)
The most frequently used player by Mancini during his managerial career, Dejan Stankovic enjoyed some of the finest years of his career under the Italian, first at Lazio and then at Inter Milan. The former Serbian international played 63 matches under Mancini at Lazio, scoring ten goals and setting up two more, before leaving for Inter Milan in January 2004.
Months later, he would be reunited with Mancini in Milan and the pair would go on to achieve great glory at San Siro. Stankovic featured in over 80 per cent of the matches Mancini took charge of at Inter Milan and won a lot during this period.
In total, the midfielder amassed 224 appearances under the Italian tactician, scoring 29 goals and assisting 34 more.
RW: Luis Figo (Inter Milan)
One of the finest wingers of the generation, Luis Figo showed up at Inter Milan after having already conquered Spain with Barcelona and Real Madrid.
The Portuguese would go on to do the same in Italy as well, becoming a key member of Mancini’s team, helping the side to three back-to-back Serie A titles. Figo won the club’s Player of the Year award for his exploits in his debut season itself. In all, under Mancini, the Portuguese managed 115 appearances for the Nerazzurri, bagging 10 goals and assisting 26 more.
Figo played for another season at Inter after Mancini left, before retiring.
CAM: Yaya Toure (Manchester City)
One of the cornerstones on which the success of the Manchester City side was built over the last decade, Yaya Toure was among the earliest signings Mancini made in England. Arriving from Barcelona in 2010, the Ivorian midfield powerhouse took the Premier League by storm, helping Mancini’s side scale the heights of success.
Toure was key to the Cityzens’ FA Cup success in his debut season, assisting a goal each in the semi-final and the final, and was one of their best players in the subsequent season as they lifted the Premier League title for the first time ever.
In total, the former Ivory Coast international played 132 times under Mancini, bagging 28 goals and assisting 24 more.
LW: David Silva (Manchester City)
Another player who arrived at Manchester City in the same window as Yaya Toure was David Silva. He became a pivotal part of the team that has dominated domestic football in England for the better part of the last decade, and the creator-in-chief for the Mancunians under Mancini for years after the Italian left.
The Spanish playmaker notched up 141 appearances for City during Mancini’s tenure, scoring 19 goals and assisting 47 more. For his role in the title-winning season in 2011/12, Silva was named Manchester City Players’ Player of the Year.
ST: Sergio Aguero (Manchester City)
Two Argentines are in contention for this slot, both centre-forwards who played important roles in Manchester City’s rise to the top – Carlos Tevez and Sergio Aguero.
The former has scored the most goals among any anyone who played under Mancini, with 64 strikes from 126 matches.
The latter may have scored fewer goals — 46 in 86 games — but he scored arguably the most important goal in the history of Manchester City and Mancini’s managerial career. The last-minute goal against QPR on the final day of the 2011/12 season that clinched the Premier League title for Manchester City will be cherished for ages by the supporters while haunting the United fans for aeons.
Tevez’s role cannot be questioned in City’s rise, but his relationship with Mancini did go sour soon after. But, that goal, that moment of magic and madness at the same time clinch it in favour of Agueroooooooooooo.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Andrew Yates