Andrea Pirlo paid tribute to his former coach Carlo Mazzone, saying he was already a super-modern coach back in the 90’s. The pair worked together at Brescia where Mazzone moved Pirlo into a deeper lying midfield role, changing his career as a result. Speaking with La Gazzetta dello Sport, Pirlo talked about their time together and the influence the legendary coach had on his career, starting with his participation in a documentary with Amazon about Mazzone’s life:
Was it difficult to convince you to participate?
“No, I accepted immediately with enthusiasm because the coach was very important to me and my career. To be part of this project really made me very happy. I was lucky enough to have been coached by a great guy like him, and this was also a way to let everyone know how happy I am that he was the one who raised me, because, again, I consider him one of the most important people in my whole journey.”
You say in the documentary that with Mazzone it was love at first sight. You were 21 years old, what was it about this big man that fascinated you?
“He made me realize right away how much he believed in me and then he pointed me to my new position on the field, in front of the defense, the turning point of my career. I liked that, especially the way he was able to explain it to me. There the spark of a different idea of the game was sparked.”
A decisive insight. Did you initially make no opposition to the change?
“No, I immediately went along with his requirements, partly because I already liked to come and get the ball and start the game from the bottom. From that moment I could always touch the ball, always be in the center of the game, and I enjoyed it a lot.”
He entertained all of Italian football. In “Like a Father,” you speak of Mazzone as a “super modern” coach.
“He was often considered an old-fashioned coach, but he had innovative ideas. In those years there were not many coaches who wanted to always play the ball from behind, have possession and start the action. We did that, even though we were not a great team. He conveyed to you this desire to impose the game, he wanted to dominate the game. And then he was a great connoisseur of football and players: already on Tuesday he could tell you everything about the following Sunday’s match.”
This is the technical Mazzone, as a man who was he to you?
“We had a wonderful relationship both on and off the field. He was very nice, a true Roman, he was not afraid to say things to your face and he did not discount anyone.”
For many players he was “like a father.”
“The players were part of his family. Woe betide anyone who prodded him, we were truly like children. He gave you great protection, but you had to give him back what he asked for. And he was a demanding guy.”
Is there anything in his coaching style that he learned from Mazzone?
“Being direct with the players, if something is wrong you say it to the face of those directly involved. You have to be sincere and authentic, as he was, without subterfuge and lies.”
In temperament, however, you are different…
“Yes of course, but you can always learn.”
Is there a Carletto Mazzone missing from today’s football?
“Definitely, coaches like him are always missing, not only because he was a special person in interviews and in the way he did things, but also because he was a coach who really did good for all of Italian soccer and for so many players.”
Materazzi in the documentary likens him to Mourinho in the way of teamwork…
“Mourinho I didn’t have, but to tell the truth coaches with his character in this world I don’t see any, it’s hard to find any in today’s football. Before a club was a much more familiar environment, now it is dispersed, there are so many people. The locker room has also changed, there used to be no phones, you were much more together, you joked, you focused…. Now we talk less and think mostly about social media.”
Would Mazzone have difficulty in such a locker room?
“He would have been very angry, maybe he would have seized the phones….”
Did you still talk to each other?
“We’ve been in touch throughout my career, until some time ago. He knows how I feel about him, and I know how he feels about me.” He makes this clear in the closing of the documentary, “I will forever thank him.”