ROME (Reuters) - Gennaro Gattuso will be looking to claim the first title of his coaching career, and show that he brings more to the bench than just his famous grit and determination, when his Napoli side meet Juventus in the Coppa Italia final on Wednesday.
His opposite number Maurizio Sarri, meanwhile, is eyeing his first Italian trophy and the first of what he hopes will be many conquests at the helm of the team which has dominated Italian football for the best part of a decade.
The Coppa Italia will be the first title to be settled in the current Italian season, which has just resumed after a three-month coronavirus stoppage. Wednesday’s match will be played behind closed doors at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico (1900 GMT).
Famous for his cutthroat playing style, Gattuso won the World Cup, Champions League and Serie A as a midfielder, but his transition to coaching has been far from smooth.
He was quickly sacked from his first two jobs, at Swiss side Sion in 2013 and Italian Serie B side Palermo, before spending six months at OFI Crete who, according to Gattuso, were “struggling to feed their players” at the time.
Back in Italy, he took Pisa out of the third tier before his former club AC Milan came calling in 2017.
Although he did not get them back into the Champions League, Gattuso led Milan to the Coppa final in 2018, where they lost 4-0 to Juventus, and many felt he did better than expected with an unbalanced, youthful squad.
Gattuso then replaced Carlo Ancelotti at Napoli in December with the squad in free fall and players at loggerheads with club management after refusing to take part in a week-long training camp.
After a tricky start, he had the team performing well - guiding them to a 1-0 win over Juventus in Serie A in January in the two sides’ last meeting.
“The squad believes in what we’re doing, works hard during the week, and these lads are giving us everything,” he said after Saturday’s 1-1 second-leg draw at home to Inter Milan that took Napoli to the final, 2-1 on aggregate.
“I think the quality level is very high and if we manage to defend and attack with humility, we can achieve great things.”
“When other teams put us under pressure, we know how to suffer and deal with it.”
Writing by Brian Homewood; Editing by Hugh Lawson