LONDON (AP) — Dubbed the “goal twins” during their playing days, Roberto Mancini and Gianluca Vialli are still teaming up to win matches.
This time as coaches of Italy’s national team.
When the Italians beat Spain in the European Championship semifinals, there was Mancini sharing joyous hugs with Vialli on the field at Wembley Stadium.
“Gianluca and I have known each other for a very long time so it’s only natural that our relationship is different,” said Mancini, now the head coach of the national team. “I’m not saying that we grew up together but it’s almost like that.
“We spent a number of years together and we have a relationship that goes way beyond friendship. He’s like a true brother to me.”
The pair have also gone through some high points and low points on the very same field in London.
They were teammates at Sampdoria when they lost to Barcelona in the 1992 European Cup final at the old Wembley. It was last match the duo played together after eight years at the Italian club, which they led to its only league title, four Italian Cups and a Cup Winners’ Cup.
Wembley successes followed, for both. Vialli won the FA Cup at the iconic venue as Chelsea manager in 2000, and Mancini did the same with Manchester City in 2011.
The pair was reunited in 2019 when Mancini appointed Vialli as delegation chief of the Italy team — shortly before Vialli publicly announced that he had recovered from a second battle against pancreatic cancer.
Vialli’s unruffled sense of calm contrasts with Mancini’s sometimes volcanic nature and his role allows him to work with the players, coaches and support staff, sharing his knowledge and experience.
Whatever they are doing, it’s working.
Italy missed out on qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, a shocking failure for a team that has won the tournament four times and always expects to a contender. But only three years later, the Mancini-Vialli combination led Italy past Spain in a penalty shootout and into the Euro 2020 final.
When Mancini and Vialli ran ecstatically onto the field on Tuesday, there seemed to be more in their celebration than just winning a game.
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