Napoli coach Luciano Spalletti will come up against a number of his former players when he and the Partenopei travel to the San Siro on Sunday, but perhaps none that he had a more decisive impact on that Marcelo Brozovic.
This according to today’s print edition of Turin-based newspaper Tuttosport, who highlight the Italian tactician’s importance in the Croatian midfielder’s transition to playing as one of the top registas in Europe.
Brozovic had impressed in periods during his first few seasons with the Nerazzurri, where a number of coaches tried him out in several midfield roles.
Spalletti himself had used the Croat as a primarily attacking midfielder or as a two-way midfielder in a three-man unit fir long stretches of his first season in charge at the Nerazzurri.
However, in a match against Napoli on March 11, 2018, the coach made a decision that appears hugely significant in retrospect, playing Brzovic in a deeper midfield role alongside Roberto Gagliardini.
The Nerazzurri’s performance looked more fluid than had often been the case up to that point in the season, and Brozovic in particular shone in his regista role.
That match finished 0-0, but it was significant for the future of Inter as it clearly demonstrated that value that Brozovic could have to the team, something for which Spalletti can take significant credit.
The Italian tactician has undertaken several positional changes of players throughout his career, with the most direct analogue to his work with Brozovic being the decision to play Bosnian midfielder Miralem Pjanic in a similar regista role whilst he was coaching Roma.
Spalletti now returns to face Brozovic as an opponent for the first time since he departed from Inter in the summer of 2019, ironically with the team against he first tested the positional change that would cause the 29-year-old to grow into one of the most widely-admired midfielders in Serie A and in Europe.