In the space of a few months, the young technician Francesco Farioli went from the post of goalkeeper coach in Sassuolo to that of head coach of Fatih Karagümrük in Super Lig (Turkey). Spotted by Roberto De Zerbi, Farioli made his ranges with the most trendy trainer in Italy before choosing to stand on his own feet. Back on an unusual journey of a coach who defines himself as an extremist.
A few months ago, Francesco Farioli made the choice to leave the staff of Roberto De Zerbi to follow his dream. A courageous decision as the Italian coach is courted by major Italian teams and is at the end of his contract next June. But courage is a value that the young 32-year-old coach does not lack and that he also instills in his players. From Italian amateur football to Turkey, via Qatar and the Aspire Academy, the young thirty-something has already lived many adventures.
A goalkeeper by training, Francesco Farioli ended his amateur career at the age of 21. He has been coaching young goalkeepers in parallel for two years and seized the opportunity to join a club in Eccellenza, the equivalent of the Italian fifth division. There is only one season left before moving to the next level until he turns 24. A specialist in the post of goalkeeper, he also began to take an interest in football in a more global way and fulfilled the tasks of video analyst. The acceleration came in 2014 when he joined Lucchese, professional club of Lega Pro, the Italian third division. A year later, he continues to progress by leaving the boot. Head to Qatar and the prestigious Aspire Academy.
In Doha, he works with Roberto Olabe, then director of football at Aspire Academy, now at Real Sociedad, and Inaki Ulloa, also in post (goalkeeper coach) at the Basque club. These two technicians develop at home a 360-degree vision of football. Farioli gathers knowledge. In his free time, he feeds on football and develops a curiosity for an unknown young coach: Roberto De Zerbi. The current coach of Sassuolo was then 36 years old and lived his second season at the head of Foggia, in the third transalpine division. His team is ambitious, develops attractive football and achieves good results. Francesco Farioli begins to take notes and ends up publishing an article about the game of this team. A long tactical analysis of the different phases of the game. A few days after the publication, he receives a congratulatory message from Roberto De Zerbi for the quality of his work.
De Zerbi asks him to join him, Bielsa guides him
Contacts between the two men are not particularly frequent and yet, when Roberto De Zerbi takes charge of Benevento in October 2017, after the club’s catastrophic start in Serie A (9 matches, 9 losses, 2 goals scored and 22 conceded), he has the opportunity to form his own staff and asks Francesco Farioli to join him as goalkeeper coach. Within a week, Farioli packed his bags, left Qatar and landed in Campania. Then began a three-year collaboration between the two men.
Appointed at the head of Sassuolo in June 2018, De Zerbi takes his staff in his luggage. Farioli is then in charge of the work with the guards. An essential position in the game plan of the coach who wants his players to get the ball cleanly on the ground from the goalkeeper. In two years, Andrea Consigli’s progress in the use of the ball has been noticed, despite a complicated start.
Roberto De Zerbi is very important in the construction of the Farioli game project and in his vision of football. In the methodology and in the application of the principles of the game, the two men are perfectly aligned. Like his new mentor, Farioli appreciates Marcelo Bielsa. In private, the 32-year-old coach talks about his admiration for the Argentine coach. At Bielsa, he likes the personality and the human dimension that he brings into the sporting context. “Bielsa is a maestro of life”, he repeats willingly. He often quotes his speech during his visit to OM where he spoke of injustice, of the need to accept it and “to swallow the venom”. Like Bielsa, Farioli describes himself as an idealist for whom there is no compromise and refers to the career of the Argentine who chose adventures where he could express his football however he wanted.
6 months to get noticed in Turkey
Last summer, Francesco Farioli is in search of responsibilities and autonomy. He left his post as goalkeeper coach at Sassuolo and was appointed assistant coach at Alanyaspor, Turkish Süper Lig club. The club are looking for technicians to help them grow and have a slightly more European mentality, after the departure of their coach for Fenerbahçe. He landed on the shores of the Mediterranean thanks to the advice of a player, Merih Demiral. The two men got to know each other during the Turkish defender’s visit to Sassuolo. Demiral recommends Farioli to his former leaders who consulted him to find out if he knew good profiles in Europe. In Alanya, Francesco Farioli is in charge of the work and play methodology. He can thus transcribe into the field all his ideas accumulated over the years, in contact with De Zerbi, Olabe and Ulloa. Quickly, the team obtained results and was even at the top of the standings at the end of the 14th day. Above all, his game seduces: high pressing, possession, controlled ground ball exits, valued players. Alanyaspor’s style can be seen in the figures: second largest ball possession in the country (behind Besiktas), weakest PPDA (makes it possible to quantify a team’s desire to recover the ball quickly or not), the most intense high, etc.
The media are starting to take an interest in this 31-year-old Italian. The clubs too. In March, Fatih Karagümrük tries an approach. They want to make him their new coach. The Istanbul club is promoted for the 2020/2021 season but has solid ambitions and an Italian-sounding workforce. Six major players have gone through Serie A. Among the best known, goalkeeper Viviano (Fiorentina, Sampdoria), midfielder Biglia (Lazio, Milan) and striker Borini (Roma, Milan). During his interview with the leaders, his only request is to be able to face this opportunity with his weapons. In other words, with his ideas for play. Despite the great opportunity, he does not want to become number 1 if he cannot implement his project. Green light from his new employers and Farioli arrives in Istanbul, as number 1, at 32 years old.
From Zerbismo, Bielsismo and extremist at the same time
Upon arriving, Farioli has ten days of international break to make a first assessment: the players are distant on the pitch, not ready to make a compact block to go high and are not used to this style of play, they who have won. several encounters with 35-40% possession.
He begins to set up his project. It disrupts the way of playing, the training methodology, but also the demands on the phases with and without the ball. The general idea is there, even if it still takes time to assimilate everything. If he has a very experienced workforce, he also lacks dynamic players to make his high pressing work perfectly. It will undoubtedly be necessary to rejuvenate the workforce a little after securing a first season in Süper Lig. Farioli is convinced of it. To succeed today, we also need young, more functional players, able to bring dynamism and a large volume of races. In private, he nevertheless underlines that his workforce has reacted perfectly to the many changes and he underlines the very good mentality of his group which is entertained on a daily basis.
If Farioli insists so much on high pressing, it is because he differs greatly from Roberto De Zerbi on this point. Without the ball, there is no waiting phase for the 32-year-old coach. The team must be proactive. Either she has the ball, or she tries to recover it, with all the risks that this entails. He doesn’t want a block waiting at the halfway line trying to cut the pass lines. To grow players and make them progress, Farioli explains that we must accept to give them responsibilities. In Sassuolo, De Zerbi is more careful. Fatih Karagümrük’s coach is happy to say that he is more extremist than his mentor, he who does not manage to be happy when his team wins by being 11 behind.
In training, there is no exercise without opposition. Everything is done with opponents to stay as close as possible to the match phases. For Farioli, a match is a showdown. As long as his players have gasoline in the engine, they have to give their all. Realistically, he concedes that it is logical that on certain phases, the adversary puts pressure and that his men recover a little energy. But as soon as they can, they must regain their conquering spirit.
The strong notion of courage
Everyone who follows Roberto De Zerbi has a phrase from Sassuolo’s coach in mind: “I never get angry when a player misses something difficult that we have worked on in training, I get angry if he doesn’t. I don’t have the courage to try this gesture or this pass again. ” Francesco Farioli is part of this straight line of coaches advocating a certain dose of risk taking, even if it means failing first.
He gladly recounts an anecdote from the recent match in Galatasaray. We play the hour of play and the team makes a new exit of the ball on the ground in front of the opposing pressing. Midfielder Aksel Aktas misses a control just in front of the box, Galatasaray recovers and Babel scores. The two teams leave in a draw (1-1). At the end of the match, Farioli walks into the locker room and hugs his player, telling him it’s okay because that’s what they work on all week in training. He adds that since his arrival, many situations favorable to the team have arisen from these phases of the game. That we must continue to try, even after an error that cost a goal.
Farioli insists on the coach’s need for consistency. The strength of the coach is in the consistency of the words, the choices and the attitude. At the first technical meeting after taking office in March, his speech was as follows: “I ask you to be courageous because our way of playing will give us many advantages but also some problems. If we accept it and are united, so we take a path together and we follow it, in good days as in bad days. ” For the Italian coach, there are more advantages than disadvantages to playing like this.
When he has the opportunity to watch Serie A matches, Francesco Farioli focuses on three clubs: Sassuolo – obviously -, Atalanta and Hellas Verona. In Gian Piero Gasperini and Ivan Juric, he recognizes the courage to use one-on-one all over the field, against small and large teams. Again this notion of courage. A constancy for the one who chose to leave Roberto De Zerbi, then in full light, to join a championship that has already seen 29 manager changes this season. If he demands courage from his players, Francesco Farioli does not lack it. At 32, the young Italian is undoubtedly a trainer to follow in the months and years to come.