Inter CEO Beppe Marotta underlined the importance of strong leadership when building a winning team and reflected on the Champions League final loss to Manchester City.

The Nerazzurri unexpectedly went all the way in Europe’s premier club competition last season, matching up against Pep Guardiola’s side in a tense clash in Istanbul. Although they put up a good fight, it wasn’t enough to stop Manchester City from securing a 1-0 win and completing their Treble.

Inter have carried this momentum forward into the new season and are now in the early stages of a title race with rivals Juventus. They’ve already booked their spot in the Round of 16 of the Champions League.

Speaking at the ‘Leadership and communication in the world of sport’ event via Calciomercato.com, Marotta first discussed the importance of the work of the backroom staff.

“I’m talking about the team off the pitch, who works behind the scenes to enhance those who go on the pitch. Enhancement means understanding who you have in front of you, regardless of age. Then you need the concept of delegation, of trust to be transmitted.

“Then we have to compare: when I was at Varese in Serie A, there was a patron president like Giovanni Borghi, owner of Ignis, who had created a sports centre that included football, cycling, basketball and other sports.

“He listened to the workers as he went among them, finding ideas from the words of the workers. I have experienced a lot behind me and have acquired a lot by listening. Another fundamental pillar is the example: you cannot manage a team without setting an example.

“Leadership and communication are fundamental, the last example is coordinating my work group by synthesizing and making decisions, a task that falls to those who have an important role.”

He touched on the importance of financial health and sustainability.

“Football is now a business activity. It is a social phenomenon, of strong aggregation, from Serie A to minor teams, both men’s and women’s. At the beginning, the economic aspect was little considered, there were owners who aimed for sporting results then cut the check to cover the deficit.

“Today there is the term sustainability, so it is normal for shareholders to give guidelines that dictate the path.

“Then you need to create objectives, creating teams that have objectives in various areas, from revenue to commercial, the important thing is to work as a team, if you have this concept, you get the results.”

The Inter CEO commented on the need to delegate and work as a team.

“Building a team of collaborators is the most difficult task. When you have delegation of ownership, it is easier to work as a team. The team has objectives, rules to respect, many common affinities. When you identify these concepts as work culture and sense of belonging.

“The talismans in football like Sandro Mazzola or Gianni Rivera are no longer there and this lack of sense of belonging is found a lot and is instead important in achieving goals. At a corporate level, you must be good at instilling this concept in your collaborators.

“You also need to be humble, ambitious in the sense of always wanting to raise the bar without wanting to seem arrogant. In sport, defeat is an element to strengthen the desire to win. As Mandela said, either I win or I learn.”

Marotta spoke about how those in leadership roles always need to keep learning.

“I use my own experience. I have met many talented managers who, however, were not accompanied by character aptitudes. When you are a leader you must have trainable qualities, I too am learning even though I have been working for 45 years.

“And I will also understand if I can improve from hearing the other speakers today. But you either have the quality of a leader or you don’t. And if you don’t have it, it’s difficult to be identified as such.”

The Nerazzurri CEO touched on the need for communication with players.

“Life leads us to have continuous growth, and sport is not exempt. The figure of the footballer has become emancipated, today it is a small industry, surrounded by a coordination of people who manage various activities.

“Anyone who deals with footballers must have preparation. I managed someone like Cristiano Ronaldo, who is a source of crazy culture, capable of asking questions about the mineral water he drinks.

“The modern footballer asks questions and demands answers, at the level of conversation. You must always be able to give concrete answers.”

He discussed why changes are sometimes needed at a management level.

“When I was at Juventus, I met someone like Sergio Marchionne, a number one in his world. He said that the change must be made yesterday, otherwise the others will take over your space. It happened to me too, the first thing I do when I enter a club is take a photograph.

“It often happens that there is no culture of victory, but rather there is a sedentary culture resulting from negative results. That’s where you have to change quickly, to create new motivations. Then it is normal that your responsibility is to test the motivational state of those in front of you.”

Marotta touched on the need for patience.

“You need to have great balance. Today football clubs are private companies but of public interest, because everyone talks about football and criticism is quick. Italo Allodi said that the only world where a bricklayer can become an architect overnight is football.

“You have to deal with ownership, shareholders, the media, the fans, with whom you have to interact.

“You must have patience, have a very important communication staff because knowing how to communicate also means knowing how to manage appropriate communication for certain moments.

“If you win or lose, the situation changes. When you win the big problem becomes small, when you lose it’s the opposite.”

He spoke about why stress can be a beneficial element.

“Stress is an integral part, whether you are on or off the pitch. I noticed that Inter, after the defeat in Istanbul, improved a lot in their self-esteem. The team now approach the match with the desire to win, something they didn’t have before.

“You learn a lot from certain opponents, at Inter and before that at Juventus I had to deal with many champions who sometimes expressed complaints about certain details. This led us to elaborate on not giving players excuses.

“Which doesn’t mean spoiling them, but respecting the minimum objectives to perform at their best. If you don’t pay salaries, and I’ll give a fairly anachronistic example, maybe they feel legitimated in not giving their best.

“You must always have great balance. I specialized in managing a 360-degree team.”

Finally, Marotta spoke about his work under various club presidents in his career.

“My cunning has always been to listen over the years, and understand the good things and the bullsh*t. Then I had very different presidents over the years, going from a Maurizio Zamparini who was a coach-eater at Inter, to the Agnellis and the Garrones.

“I benefited from being confronted with realities bigger than myself and grasping the positive things. Today I try to give what I have received.”

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