Will modern man Motta do an Alonso and stay with Bologna over Juventus?

<span>Thiago Motta’s tactical innovations have transformed the careers of his players and <een klasse= veroverdBologna to the heady heights of fourth place in Serie A.Photo: Massimo Paolone/LaPresse/Shutterstock” src=”https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/BP0c8TGZNc5pU6F5ttyh5w–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/eae3c7b0b394efab886f0d5 da3dce7b7″ data-src= “https://s.yimg.com/ny/api/res/1.2/BP0c8TGZNc5pU6F5ttyh5w–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTU3Ng–/https://media.zenfs.com/en/theguardian_763/eae3c7b0b394efab886f0d5da3dce 7b7″/>

The calendar showed April 1, but there was nothing suspicious about a ranking in which Bologna was in fourth place. Thiago Motta’s side have held that spot for more than a month, although it was striking to see that they moved to within two points of Juventus in third place after Monday’s 3-0 win over Salernitana. At the beginning of February the gap was 20.

April Fools’ Day in Italy is known as Pesce d’Aprile – April fish. It is tradition for children to glue paper pesci on people’s backs and see how long they go unnoticed, but journalists have been known to mark the occasion with made-up stories, as happens in other countries. Bologna supporters must hope that the headlines now linking their manager to Juventus turn out to be fake news.

A report from SportItalia’s Michele Criscitello claimed as much Bianconeri had already agreed with Motta on contract terms, including salary and duration, as well as a shared vision for the team’s development. The manager had said a day earlier that he was not thinking about his future after the next match.

Both statements may be true. Such negotiations would not be conducted by Motta, but by his agent, and agreements in principle could be reached without firm commitments being made. What we can say is that it wouldn’t be a surprise for Juventus to look in his direction.

No team in Serie A has performed as well as Motta’s Bologna this season. They have won eight of their last nine matches, with the only interruption being a 1-0 defeat to league leaders Inter. Their 38 points from 16 home games are second only to the same Nerazzurri.

Motta’s coaching has had a transformative impact on the careers of several players. Riccardo Orsolini, who opened the scoring against Salernitana with an Arjen Robben-esque move in from the right flank to finish with his left boot in front of goal, has reached double figures in successive seasons.

Now 27 years old, he had won just two caps for Italy before 2023, but looks increasingly likely to earn a place in Luciano Spalletti’s squad for this summer’s European Championship. Introduced from the bench during the last 15 minutes of the Azzurris During the recent friendly against Ecuador, he served Nicolò Barella with a delightful through ball for the goal that sealed a 2-0 win.

Then there is the other Riccardo, Calafiori, who provided the assist for Orsolini on Monday. A Roma academy graduate identified by the Guardian’s NextGen Series in 2019 as one of the top prospects to watch in his year group, he failed to break into the starting XI under José Mourinho but emerged last to Bologna in the summer for four million euros after a positive result. season at Basel in Switzerland.

Motta, previously a left back, moved Calafiori to central defense. He flourished there, encouraged by his manager to play on the front foot and use his speed to break up attacks and get the ball out of defence. Calafiori has three assists this season and is tied for fourth in Serie A in terms of passes intercepted.

Lewis Ferguson was another player who did well under Motta, taking the captaincy and linking the play behind the attack brilliantly. At first glance, Joshua Zirkzee’s elusive and explosive playing style has caught the attention of Europe’s biggest clubs. He signed for €8.5 million from Bayern Munich in 2022 and recent headlines have pegged his price at more than eight times that amount. Bologna sporting director Marco Di Vaio said last week: “The figures you read are too low.”

Yet the stars on Monday were different. Bologna’s second goal was scored by Alexis Saelemaekers, who was on loan from Milan after three disappointing seasons at the club. Rossoneri. The third came courtesy of a furious run from journeyman defender Charalampos Lykogiannis. And there were important saves at the other end from Federico Ravaglia, who has spent much of this season as Lukasz Skorupski’s backup.

These stories reflect Motta’s commitment to meritocracy, offering starting opportunities to players who earn them on the training ground. They also speak of the fluidity of its formations.

Motta was mocked for years in Italy for a throwaway comment during a 2018 interview about playing with a 2-7-2 formation (he described the goalkeeper as part of the back two), but Motta was really just articulating a then-developing trend in football coaching. : view players as having more roles and duties on the field than as rigid positions. His modern approach is one of the reasons why clubs like Juventus are looking in his direction.

Would that be the right move for Motta, though? While Bologna’s arrow clearly points upwards, Juventus is in a downward spiral. Their 1-0 defeat to Lazio on Friday was sealed late, but they deserved nothing more from a match in which they were clearly in second place behind opponents playing their first match under new manager Igor Tudor.

Massimiliano Allegri returned to Juventus in 2021 as a safe pair of hands to put the club back on track after their run of nine consecutive league titles ended with a fourth-place finish under Andrea Pirlo. Nobody expected sparkling football from a man who was rarely associated with that, but better results.

Despite periods of optimism, these have not been achieved consistently. Juventus finished fourth again in 2021/22 and would have been joint third last season without their points deduction. They kept pace with Inter for the first half of this season and topped the table in January, but a dismal run of just one win in their last nine games has threatened even Champions League qualification.

Bologna supporters remain hopeful that, if their team can finish strongly this season, the prospect of leading them into Europe’s top club competition could convince Motta to stay put for another year. Although he did not speak directly about his future on Monday, he was asked about Xabi Alonso’s choice to stay at Bayer Leverkusen after leading them to a likely Bundesliga title.

Motta kept a poker face as he responded, “I think this is a fair and respectful decision. I wish him the best because he really is a great manager.”

Is it too early to think Motta deserves the same label? Bologna cannot match Leverkusen this season when it comes to lifting a trophy. But a team that has not played in any European competition since being defeated by Fulham in the 2002 Intertoto Cup would celebrate a return to the Champions League almost as enthusiastically.

“We are living a good moment, good both because of the results and because of the way we are playing,” Motta said on Monday. Stronger opponents than the last-placed Salernitana are lurking. But Bologna have already shown in the past 28 matches that they are not intimidated by swimming with the biggest fish in Serie A.

Inter 2-0 Empoli, Lecce 0-0 Roma, Cagliari 1-1 Verona, Sassuolo 1-1 Udinese, Bologna 3-0 Salernitana, Fiorentina 1-2 Milan, Lazio 1-0 Juventus, Genoa 1-1 Frosinone, Torino 1 -0 Monza, Napoli 0-3 Atalanta.







Inter Milan


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