Game, goals, a coach focused on the offensive, a second place in Serie A: Sassuolo is the hit of the fall in Italy with AC Milan. No star but a coach, Roberto De Zerbi, with clear ideas in a financially healthy club where the players have time to grow up: this is undoubtedly why Sassuolo is regularly compared to Atalanta Bergamo, the team which seduced the Europe last season.
« We must succeed in drawing inspiration from the best and Atalanta is an example. They know how to play football, they have a tradition« , confirms to theAFP the sporting director of Sassuolo Giovanni Rossi. While claiming other sources of inspiration in Europe in clubs with similar profiles, such as Hoffenheim or Villarreal. Sassuolo, a city in Emilia-Romagna (north) located between Bologna and Parma, has been part of the Serie A landscape since 2013, the year of a historic accession with coach Eusebio Di Francesco. The final step after a continuous progression of the Blacks and Greens, who were only in fourth division when the Italian entrepreneur Giorgio Squinzi, boss of the industrial group Mapei who died last year, took the lead in 2002.
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The new sporting flagship of Mapei – previously known for its cycling team – has continued to grow, sporting in particular a 6th place synonymous with the Europa League in 2016, as economically: Sassuolo is one of the only Italian clubs to own its stadium, located in Reggio Emilia. The convincing victory in Naples (2-0) and second place after seven days attest: Sassuolo wants to do even better this season.
« It’s been a long-term job for years, with the same coach for the third consecutive season and with the vast majority of players from last year. Continuity pays off« , believes Giovanni Rossi. At the heart of the project, there is Roberto De Zerbi, 41: former technical player who never managed to win in the first division became a coach adept at an attacking and happy game.
« I struggle to adapt to the characteristics of the players and find, for each, the most suitable position. The downside is that I am three times more demanding« , explained this admirer of Marcelo Bielsa to La Repubblica. The players, them, flourish, like the striker Francesco Caputo, the one who had done his best to reassure Italy in March before confinement with his message « Everything will be fine », or the winger Domenico Berardi, scorer in Italy’s last two matches.
Midfielder Manuel Locatelli, who has also become neo-Azzurro this coming back to school thanks to his uppercase performances in Sassuolo, confirms: « the particularity of Sassuolo is that you feel at home« . The constant progress of De Zerbi’s squad – young striker Giacomo Raspadori has also just distinguished himself with a brace on Wednesday with the Italian Under-21s – no longer go unnoticed.
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« We see that the consideration is growing, in Italy and in Europe, it is easier to look for players« , confirms Giovanni Rossi. With an intangible line in the choice of recruits: »Young players with development prospects but, importantly, compatible with the coach’s playing ideas« . This is how the ex-Marseillais Maxime Lopez was able to land on loan at the beginning of October. »It was a last minute opportunity, but it meets those characteristics. He has the possibility of finding more continuity in Sassuolo than in Marseille« , describes the sporting director about the French midfielder of 22 years, scorer against Naples.
Before the international break, Sassuolo missed the opportunity to steal the lead from AC Milan, failing to beat Udinese (0-0). If successful Sunday afternoon at Hellas Verona, the Neroverdi will reach the top this time, at least for a few hours while waiting for the Rossoneri match in Naples. « I have no problem showing my ambitions. Last year, we finished eighth, this season we want to conquer one of the seven European places« , concludes De Zerbi
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