Bologna manager Marco Di Vaio gave an extensive interview with Tuttomercatoweb where he spoke about the difficult decision to fire Sinisa Mihajlovic. The former Parma and Juve striker took up the role as sporting director in June 2022, and was forced to make some difficult decisions in the early part of his tenure. Speaking with TMW, Di Vaio explained his role at the club and the path he has taken since retiring from football:
“By now I feel like an acquired Bolognese. It has been 15 years, this is the sixteenth, that I have lived here with my family, except for a brief time in Montreal. The city has adopted us, we feel Bolognese and we feel at home. When everyone thought I was finished, at 32, they gave me a second chance and for that I will always be grateful. They gave me back emotions that I no longer felt, I became the captain, it was a wonderful journey in which we built friendships, a new life. We were wanderers, my wife and I, as often happens to footballers, in Bologna I put down roots’.
Montreal was an important stage in the relationship with the current ownership.
“With Joey Saputo I was a footballer, he came here with the then MD of Montreal to talk to me about his project to join the MLS in 2012, I was the first Designated Player in their history in the project. I wasn’t too convinced, I imagined finishing my career as captain in Bologna, but he gave me serenity, making me feel important. My family felt protected by his presence. So I understood a lot about the man and the person, I gave him a lot of confidence because of what he said, and once in Montreal I found it. A wonderful experience, both in football and in life, we all opened our minds by going to a completely different place. And then chance and luck wanted him to join Bologna, first in part and then with the complete takeover. So it gave me the chance to start a new adventure’.
Perhaps he put in a good word for Bologna?
“He knew what I represented at Bologna and that he could put in whoever could identify with his and the club’s idea’.
More beautiful or difficult to be a Sporting Director?
“Difficult before beautiful (laughs, ed.). Joking aside, it’s a complicated role: having worked alongside so many directors I’ve been able to understand how many things you have to pay attention to, how much relationships and preparation count, the vision of the players. I have studied and am studying a lot.
What is it like working with a director like Sartori?
“For me it’s good fortune, just as it was to have worked alongside Sabatini, Corvino, Bigon. These have written the history of the role in Italy. With Giovanni there is a different methodology, he made me discover a new approach. I am like him, connected to the live vision, in this we found each other immediately. Before I was a scouting manager… Working with him is an important, active experience. Especially on the foreign side, speaking languages and maintaining relationships with agents. Trying not to leave anything to chance’.
Is there anyone in the dressing room or management who dreams of Europe?
“History teaches us that a club like ours must take advantage of the difficulties of the big clubs. The gap, unfortunately, is very big compared to the top six or seven in the league. A process of gaining the strength of a new group made up of young people is taking place here, which has changed radically and is forming on a positive basis. The boys realise that they can be a nuisance, that they are strong and can have their say. Thanks to the guidance of a young but very clear-minded coach, there is a lot of potential and a desire to prove their strength, to compete and understand what they can say against the big ones. To cradle other dreams we need the second half of the championship: finding continuity is difficult. In Florence we did not deserve to lose, for example, but unfortunately episodes are fundamental. Let’s maintain and try to grow, to consolidate the mentality we need results, experience and time’.
Did you think Motta would become a coach like that? What stage is the renewal at?
“I hoped so, when we decided to bring him here we knew of the work he had done in La Spezia and partly in Genoa. We knew his potential and hoped he would express it with us in a definitive way. With us he gave an identity to the team, with character and determination, thanks to the staff and together with the club. During the summer we worked to give him players closer to his ideas, trying to keep those who had done better with him last year. All following his indications. He has great potential and this gives us the will to move forward. We have already explained this to him and his agent, at the moment he prefers to think about the day-to-day, but knowing that he is doing well is enough for us to plan the near future. We want to go on beyond the end of the championship.
How difficult was it for you to take over from Mihajlovic? And for you to sack him?
“It was the most difficult and tragic moment of my post-playing experience. We all went through his illness together, I was one of the first at the beginning to know about his illness. I saw the fall, the rise and unfortunately the relapse. I still can’t believe it… At the time, telling him that we were going down another road was complicated, but we treated him as he wanted. As a coach, not as a sick person. That was the respect we had given each other and for us we had reached the end of the relationship, the team was no longer responding to the stimuli. Reluctantly, I say this, because we would have gone on with him for life. The football world was outraged, but without knowing the conditions. Superficial judgements were made, without knowing how things were internally. Some opened their mouths just to speak,”
How much do you miss Mihajlovic?
“A lot. I experienced him in two moments, both as a player and as a manager, we spent a lot of time together and I had and have an important relationship with him and his family. Again, I can hardly believe it even today, because of everything he represented. I also experienced a personal crisis, you ask yourself too many questions… It wasn’t and still isn’t easy’.