Gennaro Gattuso is a member of a prestigious club. Pele, Beckenbauer, Maradona and Zidane are all members. The club? World Cup winners.
There is a second club that Gattuso is a member of, along with Alan Shearer, Tony Adams, Marco Van Basten and Bryan Robson. The club? Great players who do not make good managers.
Looking at the list of honours that Gennaro Gattuso has won during his illustrious playing career, you remember just how important a player he was in his prime. It’s easy to forget at times. Never blessed with as much technical ability as his team-mates, Gattuso was living proof that hard-work and grit can get you to the top.
Two Champions League medals, two Serie A medals, a Coppa Italia medal, two UEFA Super Cup medals, two Supercoppa Italia medals, a FIFA World Club Championship medal and a FIFA World Cup medal.
A list of honours that even the best of players would dream of.
As a player, Gattuso was tough. A defensive midfielder that most players feared coming up against. Hard to beat, but even if you did make it past, you could count on him to get back at you, whether legally or not.
He formed a formidable partnership with Andrea Pirlo at the heart of midfield for both AC Milan and the Italian national side. In his prime, Gattuso was the heartbeat and energy behind Carlo Ancelotti’s narrow midfield of Pirlo, Seedorf and Rui Costa. Gattuso’s sheer drive and energy in closing down the opposition allowed the more creative players run the game, supplying the deadly Andriy Shevchenko up front.
It all started for ‘Rino’ Gattuso at Perugia before an unusual transfer to Scottish giants Glasgow Rangers. The Italian played 34 games, and scored three goals, for the Ibrox club and quickly became a fan favourite. The man who brought him to the club, Walter Smith, left at the end of that season, and Rino was soon on his way out of the club too.
Smith’s replacement, Dick Advocaat, did not favour Gattuso and played him in an unfamiliar right-back position. It wasn’t long before the fiery Italian had had enough and was heading back home, this time with Salernitana.
The newly promoted Serie A club sold Gattuso to Milan a year later after their relegation back to Serie B, doubling their £4 million outlay on him in the process. It was at the San Siro that Gattuso really found his home.
Carlo Ancelotti was the man who brought Gattuso to Milan, and would centre his midfield around him for years to come. The tactical awareness that Gattuso possessed made him the ideal partner for Andrea Pirlo, who joined the club a year after his long-term midfield partner from city rivals Internazionale.
‘Growl’, as he was nicknamed, spent 13 glittering years in Milan, winning two Champions Leagues, amongst other titles, and truly cemented himself as a Rossoneri legend.
Whilst Rino was disciplined tactically, allowing the more creative players to express themselves further up the pitch, he did not come without his controversies. You’d lose count of the amount of bookings that Gattuso received, but that is of course natural for a player of his nature.
It was his hot-headed temperament that often got Rino into trouble. In 2003, he was sent off for slapping Ajax’s Zlatan Ibrahimović. In 2005, he was caught seeking out Schalke’s Danish midfielder Christian Poulsen after two heated Champions League games. And, in a 2011 Champions League game, he pushed Tottenham coach Joe Jordan by his throat before head-butting the Scotsman at the final whistle – he was subsequently suspended for five Champions League matches.
Rino’s temper often got himself in trouble, but it was that passion that made him the player that he was. It also led to some absolutely hilarious stories, such as this from the Andrea Pirlo autobiography.
“You could see the red mist coming down and he just wasn’t able to hide it. We could tell what was coming and so we’d commandeer all the knives. Gattuso would grab a fork and try to stick it in us.
‘Some of us ended up missing games because of one of Rino’s fork attacks, even if the official explanation from the club was one of muscle fatigue.” – Andrea Pirlo
Gattuso the Champion
2006 – 07 was the year of Gattuso’s career. The summer of 2006 saw him pick up a World Cup medal as Italy beat France in an infamous final in Germany. He was voted in the Team of the Tournament and in the Top 10 Player list of the World Cup. His fortune continued with success in the 2007 Champions League, where Milan got their revenge on Liverpool for the Istanbul final in 2005.
He suffered as a result of that Istanbul final; his ageing legs were part of the reason why Liverpool came back from 3 – 0 down to draw 3 – 3 only to take the title on penalties. Previously, Rino had enough energy to account for two holding midfielders but it was no longer the case and Ancelotti had been forced to insert Massimo Ambrosini into midfield next to Gattuso.
Despite this inevitable set-back that comes with age, the Italian spent another five seasons at Milan, although his role faded; playing only 12 games in 2008/9 and 22 in 2009/10. The following season, 2010/11, saw the resurgence of Gattuso. The fierce tackler played 31 games and ended a three year goal-drought with a strike against Juventus.
At the start of the 2011 season, he ran into team-mate Alessandro Nesta during a game against Lazio after experiencing vision problems. He was hauled off after 20 minutes before being diagnosed with paralysis of the sixth cranial nerve, resulting in diplopia in his left eye. That would be the last season the midfielder played in Milan, leaving the club in the summer of 2012.
Despite the problems with his vision, the Italian joined Swiss side FC Sion, ignoring strong links with his former club Rangers. Just eight months later, Gattuso embarked on his managerial career at the club; becoming Sion’s fifth manager of the year. Despite winning his first match in charge, the new manager only won 25% of his 12 games in charge and was sacked in June 2013.
A month later, Rino was back in Italy with Palermo, who had just been relegated to the second tier of Italian football, Serie B. Eight games later and Gattuso had been sacked, only winning three games during his short stint in Sicily.
In 20014, Gattuso returned to management, this time in Greece. OFI Crete had taken a chance on the Italian despite a questionable start to his managerial career. As to be expected from Gattuso, his time in charge was overshadowed by controversy. During a media interview, the former World Cup winner continuously swore and banged on the table as he was asked about the club’s financial difficulties; claiming players should give 100% whether they are paid or not.
Five months into his Greek career, Gattuso resigned from his role at the Crete club, but was soon dissuaded by the club’s board and decided to stay. Two months later Gattuso again resigned as manager of OFI Crete with a record of just five wins in 17 games on the Mediterranean island.
Once a first class player, Gennaro Gattuso became a managerial joke. His hot temper and fiery energy have not been best suited to the dugout, winning less than 30% of his matches as a manager up until leaving the Greek side. When you add all of Gattuso’s time as a manager together up until 2015, though, you soon realise the lack of experience that Gattuso had. Combined, Rino had only spent 13 months as a manager.
He was overlooked for the Hamilton Academical job back in Scotland, and expressed his interest in managing his old club Rangers.
Gattuso needed a break. He needed a side to show faith in him and to be given the chance to put his tactical knowledge into place. In August 2015, he was given that chance.
Third division side Pisa gave Gattuso a chance and he rewarded them with a play-off spot. His side won the first game, beating Maceratese 3-1. Currently Pisa are 3-0 up against Pordenone after the first leg of the semi-final – should they hold on to the advantage, Gattuso and his men will reach the play-off final for a shot at promotion to Serie B.
The final is due to take place on 5th and 12th of June 2016 with Lecce or Foggia – teams that both have experience of playing in Serie A – as their opponents.
Despite a difficult start to his managerial career, Gattuso has finally found his feet with the modest club in a city that is more famous for its leaning tower. The Italian hard-man is living proof that young managers need to be given a chance in the professional game.