x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Italy's Gennaro Gattuso on a short lease at Serie A club Palermo

The player-turned-coach has limited time to establish his credentials at a club with a trigger-happy president, writes Ian Hawkey.

Gennaro Gattuso, centre, is in his second coaching job in less than a year. Tullio Puglia / Getty Images
Gennaro Gattuso, centre, is in his second coaching job in less than a year. Tullio Puglia / Getty Images

As a player with AC Milan, Gennaro Gattuso always styled himself as the against-all-odds warrior.

He admitted that in the Milan teams who reached three Uefa Champions League finals between 2003 and 2007, winning two of them, he was not among the most technically gifted.

Gattuso, 35, back in Italy after an eventful year in Switzerland, has now taken on a challenge as taxing as anything he confronted during a distinguished, storied career on the pitch.

Italy is pleased to see him back, fascinated by how the charismatic, often-controversial figure shapes up as a coach, and intrigued by the professional marriage he has entered alongside Maurizio Zamparini, the impulsive, impatient president of Palermo.

Palermo were relegated to Serie B last May, after a campaign in which Zamparini had changed his head coach five times.

He was so indecisive that those hiring and firings included two reappointments: Giuseppe Sannino started and finished the season, Gian Piero Gasperini was installed and pushed out twice either side of Alberto Malesani's brief tenure.

One of the jokes told about Zamparini is that he only re-employs people he has previously dismissed because he has previously fired everybody.

Gattuso is the 26th coach used by Zamparini in his 11 years running the Sicily club.

He is a new, young face on the Italian coaching scene, albeit an instantly recognisable one, with what Gattuso himself calls his "look of a mastiff."

Gattuso, part of Italy's World Cup winning side in 2006, only left Milan just over a year ago, recognising age and injury had eroded his capacity for huge midfield industry, his trademark.

He moved to Sion, a volatile club with their own Zamparini – president Christian Constantin gets through an average of three different coaches a year.

After six months, he was asked to be player-manager there, a stint which lasted until his removal at the end of the season.

He jumped at Palermo's offer in the summer. Gattuso is from the south of Italy and proud of it, and calls the challenge of reviving Palermo his equivalent of "getting Milan into the Champions League."

He earned his first victory – in his third Serie B match in charge - last weekend at Padova. Ahead of it, heavy speculation had Zamparini already reconsidering Gattuso's future.

"People were wrongly suggesting he'd go if we didn't win," roared Zamparini after Palermo's 3-0 victory, as if he was surprised he might be thought of as a trigger-happy boss.

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