Is Napoli’s Gennaro Gattuso On Course To Take Italy Top Job?

Gennaro Gattuso has so far proved a success with Napoli, and with the Azzurri taking a slightly different approach to appointing managers, could it mean that the ex-Milan hero could be one of the next-in-line for the top management job in Italy?

The Naples team are on course to secure a spot in next season’s Europa League. They currently sit in 6th-place of the Serie A table after a poor start to the season saw Carlo Ancelotti lose his job, but Gattuso has since come in and steadied the ship.

If Napoli do go on to finish 6th, it’ll be their worst league position in 10 years. They’ve grown accustomed to Champions League football in recent times, having finished as Serie A’s 2nd-placed team in three of the last four seasons.

With the sustained dominance of Juventus, and now Inter’s surge under Antonio Conte, it’s hard to see Napoli reaching the heights of the previous decade. But Gattuso is still doing a fine job and is still very much in the early stages of his management career.

His Milan appointment and reign was contested. Pisa was the previous team he managed, but his legendary reputation at Milan no doubt helped him return to the San Siro. The club and Gattuso parted ways in May 2019 after 83 games at the helm – he won 40 of those but lost a further 20.

Six months later he landed the Napoli job. It was a move that surprised a few people given his Milan reign, but the hardy midfielder is so far proving a hit in Naples. Gattuso has won 11 of his 19 games in charge and looks set for a bigger, more sustained season next time around.

Achieving a top-four finish will no doubt be the aim for Napoli. This summer though looks to be the summer where they finally lose Kalidou Koulibaly, with the center-back nearing a move to Manchester City. A huge loss it would be, but given the current climate, Napoli might well be thankful for the money.

If Gattuso can spend that money wisely, then the top-four might not be out of sight. Nevertheless, it’d be a fine achievement for Gattuso and Napoli, and one that could set him on his way to the heights of football management in Italy.

The Italian national team is currently managed by Roberto Mancini. Although he too has done a good job, it wasn’t an appointment that necessarily blew fans away. After leaving City, Mancini then had spells with Galatasaray, Inter, and Zenit, before landing the Azzurri job in 2018.

Mancini followed caretaker boss Luigi Di Biagio, with Gian Piero Ventura, Antonio Conte, and Cesare Prandelli all before him.

It was those five who saw out the last decade for Italy (as well as Marcello Lippi who left his role in June 2010), and it marked a distinct change in the way that Italy appointed their national coaches.

Prandelli had made his name at Fiorentina, Conte had three years at Juve, Ventura at Torino – the Italy job was his career 19th – and Mancini made his name at Inter, but rose to stardom at City.

The top job in Italy has historically gone to those who do or have managed and been a success with Juventus, but the Azzurri are no strangers to a shock appointment. This trend has been evident throughout the past 20 years or so but has certainly accelerated in the past ten.

Mancini will likely have one or two major tournaments with Italy, depending on how he fares in them. That leaves a possible three or four-year gap to the next Azzurri opening, and should Gattuso sustain Champions League football at Napoli, would he become the next-in-line for the Italy job?

Maurizio Sarri would likely be everyone’s first choice, but given the recent history of Italy managers, those who manage at Juve aren’t always deemed the “best,” and it’ll be especially true of Sarri given the fact that he has Cristiano Ronaldo, amongst several other world-class players.

Simone Inzaghi and Gian Piero Gasperini could also be in the fold, but Gattuso’s more prestigious playing career which saw him capped 73 times by Italy would no doubt heighten his chance of one day landing the Italy job.

It’ll be interesting to see how Mancini fares at the Euros whenever they’re held, and interesting to see in the coming seasons how both Gattuso does with Napoli, and how the Serie A’s top-six continues to change.

His management career has so far seen him climb the Italian leagues, and if that trajectory continued then he could yet find himself as the national team boss sooner than predicted.