Nereo Rocco, the old paròn of the Italians

Our football owes its successes and its identity to him.

Saba, Swevo, Boris Pahor. But also James Joyce and Margherita Hack. There are many personalities who are related Trieste, a city that produced or welcomed the brightest minds of the 20th century and beyond. But there is another Trieste that has been talked about in Italy and around the world; not for literature or science, but for the art of football. Nereus Rocco was born on May 20, 1912 and will leave this country right here on February 20, 1979 after various forays along the boot. Few – almost nobody – will remember him in uniform and boots, despite his career as a footballer.

After all, this was modest but not negligible, and had developed in the fields of Trieste, Padua and Naples if we consider the most important places. However, the name Rocco is certainly engraved indelibly on the minds of enthusiasts one of the most influential coaches in Italian history. With his boots on the nail, coach Rocco’s adventure begins Liberta’s Triestesecond team of his city, playing in the Serie C championship of the time. From his first training sessions, the coach begins to work with the style of play that will become his trademark and asset, ie The Lightning.

Born in Switzerland – or more generally Northern Europe – in the thirties, the Defense strength seasoned with a lot of running and operational readiness He was brought to Italy by Rocco, who was already beginning to measure him as a player when he was transferred to the vacant role in the final years of his career. Thanks to the suffocating marks and deadly restarts, the humble Libertas managed to defeat Trieste, the city’s first team, in a mid-season friendly. This style of play deeply impressed the Hellebard management, who decided to sign Rocco for the following season: thus officially beginning the career of the legendary Italian coach. The first year was undoubtedly exceptional.

Nereo Rocco
The good “master”.

In the 1947/48 season, his Triestina, fresh from difficult years and after a hopeful run after a last place in the 46/47 season, even made it to second place in the table behind the unbeatable Grande Torino. Basically a historic achievement. Rocco was also given the nickname during these years Paroni.e. master. Dialect term that best summarizes the character of the technician: grumpy, sometimes severe, In fact, he always demanded the best from his players. However, none of this has ever overshadowed a personality shaped by great humanity, sympathy and benevolence what he is still remembered for today.

After an exceptional first year, the following seasons were anything but downhill. Relations between Rocco and Triestina began to cool and after two eighth places, the coach was fired for reasons that are still unclear. Three years later the Paròn was recalled to the halberd bench after spending as many seasons in Treviso without particular success. However, after a resounding 6-0 home defeat to Milan, which was poorly digested by those around him, Rocco was sacked in the 1953/54 season. The Rossoneri will still be in his destiny: in this case they took away from him; later, as we shall see, they rewarded him handsomely. In the same 53-54 season, Rocco didn’t sit around too long. He actually came called from Paduateam of B series in apparent difficulties in classification, despite a squad built for very different stages. The now unexpected rescue brought the Trieste coach confirmation on the bench for the following season.

“Tactically, I recommend,” he writes to ben, “xe la storia de tuti i alenadori.” From Monday to Friday the Dutch xe. On Saturday the Ghe thinks. On Sundays I swear by my beauty, everyone indrìo and save who can “.

Nereus Rocco

1954-55 Nereos Padova makes the leap into Serie A. The relationship between team and manager is beginning to solidify and Rocco surrounds himself in the summer transfer market with players who can guarantee performance security but also (and perhaps above all) behaviour. So here are the arrivals of Blason, a very faithful historian of the coach in Trieste, of Moro and Azzini, players who will very soon enter the ropes of the Paron. The basis of his reasoning was confirmed: Create a solid dressing room made up of men rather than footballersto build something important. So here is that Padova even finished third in the 1957/58 season and always managed to stay in the league in the following seasons medium ranking.

This brings us to the decisive leap in quality in Rocco’s career. After a very brief experience coaching the Olympic team at the 1960 Rome Games (finishing fourth), for the Paron came the call from Milan. Thanks to the new environment, which is radically different from the usual, Rocco made a lot of effort at first. The criticism was very strong against him. Everyone except Gianni Brera, his private friend and the only journalist who recognizes his excellent professional qualities, attacked him fiercely, accusing him of not being able to propose a nice, fluid and winning game. Relations with the fans did not start well either.

As he said himself, the motto of the training at the Arena Civica in Milan was “Go back to old Padua, catenacciaro!”.

The situation became so untenable that during an interview with the Rossoneri’s top management, represented by president Andrea Rizzoli and technical director Giuseppe Viani, Rocco asked for his resignation, suggesting that he had the wrong team and the club the wrong one Coach. He thought about it Rizzoli himself to calm Rocco down, convinced him of the validity of the election and confirmed him on the Rossoneri bench, certain that the results would come. The forecast has never been more accurate.

In the same season, Milan unexpectedly won the Scudetto. The big protagonist of this year was the then nineteen year old Gianni RiveraPlayers with low physical ability but exceptional technical qualities. It was Rocco himself who believed in him and made him great footballalmost in response to those who thought he was a boring defensive player, a little lover of beautiful football.

Nereo Rocco and Gianni Rivera “in conversation”

Submitted to the first Scudetto, it was the turn of the first European success in the 1962/63 season. He has actually arrived the european cup victory, after beating Eusebio’s legendary Benfica, one of the strongest teams in the world in those years, in the Wembley final. The captain who lifted the trophy to the London sky was Cesare Maldini, symbol of the Rossoneri and coincidentally the same as his Trieste coach. After three seasons in Turin, first as coach and then as technical director, the Paròn He returned to the Rossoneri house, where he sanctified his legend.

In 1967-68 Rocco again won the Scudetto and the Cup Winners’ Cup. The following season saw the second European Cup and the Intercontinental Cup thanks to the win over Estudiantes, which reached an epic level that is still remembered today due to the difficult environment in which it was played. ’68, year of political and social revolutions in our country, it was time for another revolution. Rocco’s Bolt, built from the free modern defender with innovative game setting tasks, has been consecrated worldwide. It was the coach from Trieste who said a few years later:

«It’s not entirely mine, but creating this free game that brought me boos and insults meant, stupid I say, but almost true, that the whole world is now playing with this module. It’s obviously improved because everything in fùtbal is getting better, but the form is always the same.”

He will continue to spend the final years of Rocco’s career between Milan and Padua, with a stopover in Florence, both as coach and technical director. Few victories these days, only in the Italian Cup, but not enough to eclipse the history of one of the most successful coaches of all time.

Few know it, but the legacy Paròn left to football is still clearly visible today; both on a technical-tactical level and in relation to the approach to the dressing room and the relationship between coaches and players. For the former, just think of coaches like Josè Mourinho or Antonio Conte. Technicians very different from each other – and in some ways also very different from Rocco – but who built their fortune on the school of Nereo: hermetic defenses and face-to-face reversals, with fast and deadly counterattacks.

For the latter we instead pester Carlo Ancelotti, one of the most successful coaches of the 21st century, protagonist before Milan’s last cycle of great victories, then Real Madrid’s tenth victory in the former Champions Cup, a feat that for years seemed taboo for meringues. Yours was essential great ability to hold the dressing room togetheroften formed by so-called top player very difficult to handle. It has always been emphasized that the fatherly attitude towards all elements of the squad was the basis of his successes and the origin of this attitude certainly lies in the more or less indirect lessons left by the Trieste coach.

Nereo Rocco has given us to understand that iFootball is not only a beautiful game and elegance. Often it is race, ductility, practicality and humility. If our school builds its success on these qualities, it is not least because of the unforgettable and unforgotten ones Paron.

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