x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Vincenzo Montella's stock is soaring in Serie A at Catania

The "Little Aeroplane" is making his mark and attracting attention from Italy's bigger clubs.

Vincezo Montella has helped Catania stay in the hunt for a Europa League spot this season. Stefano Rellandini / Reuters
Vincezo Montella has helped Catania stay in the hunt for a Europa League spot this season. Stefano Rellandini / Reuters

For a man who, as a player, became known for his eye-catching goal celebrations, Vincenzo Montella's unruffled, measured demeanour as a coach still seems incongruous.

The step between footballer and manager is a vast one, but when you move as swiftly as Montella has done from active service on the fields of Serie A - his last match for Roma was less than three years ago - to the dugout of a club in the top half of the Italy's highest division, you would expect to spot some recognisable traits.

As a striker, quick, ruthless in the penalty area and good enough to win 20 Italy caps, Montella used to be nicknamed The Little Aeroplane, because he was short in stature and, on scoring, would stretch out his arms as if he was flying.

Catania, where Montella will shortly complete his first full season as a senior head coach, have been soaring lately, but the pilot is as phlegmatic about success as he is about setbacks.

Tuesday night's 3-0 loss to Cagliari was certainly of the latter category and Montella immediately took responsibility for a defeat featuring some sluggish defending and a bad evening for the club's reserve goalkeeper, Pietro Terracciano, who played because of suspension.

"I didn't have the players alert enough," said Montella, whose trademark in a campaign that will be remembered as Catania's best ever in Serie A has been to share credit generously after wins and take blame on the few occasions when Catania have been outplayed.

Almost as soon as he had issued his apologies, Montella was taking questions about his suitors.

The 37 year old has made such a good impression in having Catania, who have one of the lowest budgets in Italy's top-flight, still in with a chance, at eighth in the table, for a Europa League spot, that he finds himself linked with a future at the likes of Napoli - he is a Neapolitan - and even at AC Milan.

The probable departure of Catania's shrewd director of football, Pietro Lo Monaco, in the summer also invites the question of whether they might move somewhere as a pair.

"I will make my own future choices," Montella said.

He will certainly be encouraged by Catania to choose another year in Sicily. This time last year, Roma, where he had spent his peak years as a player, could have installed him as head coach.

Instead, they thanked him for acting a caretaker coach for the last 16 matches of the 2010/11 season and preferred to appoint the Spaniard Luis Enrique.

Some at Roma wonder whether The Little Aeroplane was allowed to take off a little too easily.

sports@thenational.ae