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Saturday September 10 2011
Mysterious Mangia

Palermo's fourth Coach in five months is an enigma yet, as Rob Paton discovers, one worth getting to know.

“This one I like,” declared Fabrizio Miccoli to Palermo's Ultras. For the chaos that has surrounded the team in losing their perceived new Coach for the coming season - Stefano Pioli - just a week before it starts, the relatively simple exclamation from Miccoli furthers the intrigue, and general positive reception, surrounding the latest Coach to step into the breach.

Devis Mangia finds himself in the hotseat, having impressed sporting director Sean Sogliano enough from their past work together for him to recommend the 37-year-old to Maurizio Zamparini. Sogliano, a recent arrival to the Sicilian outfit himself, gave Mangia his first coaching position at Varese and later returned him to a spot with the Primavera team, one that earned his initial move to Palermo earlier in the summer.

The duo's work when first together was seen as an integral element to Lombardy club Varese's return to professional ranks in 2006. Then, after spells across Serie D and C2 with other clubs, Mangia's move last year to lead Varese's youth side brought him further attention, as some of Serie A's strongest junior sides courted his signature.

Indeed, separately to Sogliano, Mangia found himself linked with a switch to Palermo this summer, who along with Inter, were known to be offering him their Primavera side. Mangia said his decision would come only after talking with Sogliano, and as the ds moved south, within a couple of weeks, so did Mangia.

So when the Rosanero found themselves after a new first-team Coach, Sogliano's recommendation of Mangia is less of a surprise than it first seemed. Sogliano is one of the country's most promising sporting directors, and in Mangia has a he has seen deliver results under his direction Coach on more than one occasion. “Mangia is not a gamble. I respect him a lot, he has clear ideas that I also see. I'm very confident.”

Mangia only had a few weeks of working with the youth team, but that work in training was also significant to his appointment, with the belief that within a month he had already brought the youngsters' fitness levels up to that of Pioli's senior squad.

Training is again where Mangia finds himself impressing ahead of his Serie A debut. Sogliano has described his work as introducing a level of intensity to the players, whilst he has visibly left them breathless from his demanding physical workouts, as he also makes clear the direction they must progress on the pitch. Increased ball possession and movement, full capitalisation on chances afforded to them, and a greater pace to their play are the over-riding themes Mangia is pushing.

Themes, along with a burgeoning relationship with the players, that saw Zamparini go as far as to mention Mangia in the same breath as Pep Guardiola, now the most successful Coach in Barcelona's history. Perhaps it was more for a similar description of being humble, quiet and equally confident of his own abilities as Pep is, than demonstrating just yet the capabilities of the Spanish tactician.

Tactically however, Mangia is looking to revolutionise Palermo. A team that has experienced the highs and lows last season of mixing between a 4-3-2-1 and 3-5-2, find themselves just a few days before facing Inter studying a 4-4-2. New arrival Edgar Alvarez is the squad's only recognised first-choice winger, but Mangia lists half a dozen central and attacking midfielders he is happy to test out wide.

Indeed crucially, such is Miccoli's warmth towards him, there is a feeling that he might have greater success in convincing the likes of work-shy Josip Ilicic to take a marauding right or left-wing role for the team than Serse Cosmi did last term.

For instance, where Miccoli complained of an uncertain period under Pioli where he did not know if he was going to play or not, a conversation with Mangia has the same player rhapsodising of the potential role he can play as captain, even if it comes from the bench.

However, perhaps most important to any success - or longevity - to his stay at Palermo comes from his relationship with Zamparini. A friendship with Sogliano and a growing bond with the players may count for little if he does not get on with the President who, as the Sicilian Press point out playing on the name meaning ‘to eat,' Mangia allenatori.

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