It all started way back in 2009 when, approaching 50, Carlo Ancelotti decided to curtail his wanderings with AC Milan, a journey that ended with his arrival in England, the country where the Italian coach was summoned to head Abramovich’s Chelsea.
Ancelotti did not hesitate to take up the challenge of making Chelsea the top club again after four consecutive wins by Manchester United. And so on August 9, 2009, he decided to make things clear right from the start, beating United itself to win the Community Shield, an introduction which could only lead the way to May 9, 2010, when a year on from leaving Italy and a month away from his 50th birthday, Ancelotti was crowned Champion of England together with his Chelsea team, also becoming the “first foreigner” to succeed in this feat in the first year of Premier League.
Then it was the turn of Roberto Mancini. He too had come to England in 2009 to replace Mark Hughes at Manchester City, just a few months after Ancelotti, but he arrived with less fanfare, almost clandestinely. He hadn’t been asked to perform miracles, but only to find the right way forward for the club, which had not won the championship or even just a cup since the 1960s.
And so Mancini took City first to qualification for the Champions League in his first season, then to FA Cup victory in his second season. Then, only at that point, two years after joining the most competitive championship, he won the Premiership with a team that, after more than 40 years and despite a number of big signings, was not really believed in by its own city anymore.
Three seasons have passed since that victory, in which Ferguson’s United, Pellegrini’s City and Mourinho’s Chelsea have taken part in the “Relay of the Premier Champions”, thus triggering a void for Italian coaches in the Premier League which has lasted two interminable years.
However, as often happens, when great loves cool it is not always to fade away completely, but to secretly seek the right moment to return to the fray even stronger than before. And it is in this spirit that, at the start of 2015, Claudio Ranieri arrived in the Premier League, a coach who had not had much luck in previous years and who was only asked, and without any great expectations, to ensure that Leicester City managed to stay in the Premier League.
But King Claudio was clearly more ambitious than that, and above all it had never even occurred to him, over a whole season, that the team he was coaching could not aspire to anything more than staying up. And so, he took hold of his Leicester and told them: “You know what, let’s win the Premiership and get into the Champions League. How are we any different from the others?”. And so it came about that, to general astonishment, in May 2016 Leicester were crowned the Champions of England, making one of the most beautiful fairy tales in the history of modern football real.
And it is with three Italian victories behind us in the last eight years that we have now come to the end of a new Premier League season, in which some Italian coaches have made their debut and others have had to say goodbye. What is certain is that at the moment the spotlight of English football is focussed on another Italian, Antonio Conte, who after Ancelotti, Ranieri and Pellegrini – the Chilean coach who led City to win the title in the 2013/2014 season – showed dogged determination in wanting to become the fourth “foreigner” to win in the Premier League in their first season, but also to become the fourth Italian to win the title in the last eight seasons of the English championship.