Nereo Rocco (Italian pronunciation: [neˈrɛːo ˈrɔkko]; 20 May 1912 – 20 February 1979) was an Italian football player and manager. Regarded as one of the greatest managers of all time,[1] he is famous for having been one of the most successful head coaches in Italy, winning several domestic and international titles during his tenure with A.C. Milan. At Padova, he was one of the first proponents of catenaccio in the country.[2]

Nereo Rocco
Personal information
Date of birth (1912-05-20)20 May 1912
Place of birth Trieste, Austria-Hungary
Date of death 20 February 1979(1979-02-20) (aged 66)
Place of death Trieste, Italy
Position(s) Midfielder, forward
Youth career
1927–1930 Triestina
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1930–1937 Triestina 232 (66)
1937–1940 Napoli 52 (7)
1940–1942 Padova 47 (14)
1942–1943 94° Reparto Distretto Trieste
1943–1944 Libertas Trieste 14 (1)
1944–1945 Padova
International career
1934 Italy 1 (0)
Managerial career
1947–1950 Triestina
1950–1953 Treviso
1953–1954 Triestina
1954–1961 Padova
1960 Italy Olympic
1961–1963 AC Milan
1963–1967 Torino
1967–1973 AC Milan
1974–1975 Fiorentina
1977 AC Milan
*Club domestic league appearances and goals

Playing career edit

Club edit

Rocco playing for Triestina in the 1930s

Rocco played as a winger in midfield; he had a modest playing career, spent mainly with Triestina, Napoli and Padova. He played 287 Serie A matches within 11 seasons, scoring 69 goals. Rocco was also capped one time for the Italy national team.[3][4]

International edit

Rocco made an appearance for the Italy national team on one occasion: in Vittorio Pozzo's selection in the 1934 FIFA World Cup qualification match, on 25 March 1934 against Greece, a 4–0 home victory.[5][6]

Coaching career edit

Triestina edit

Rocco made his coaching debut for Triestina in 1947. He obtained a surprising second place in Serie A, which is still the highest result ever reached by the team. He left Triestina a few years later because of disagreements with the club chairmanship. In 1951 he briefly coached Treviso, then returning to Triestina.[4]

Padova edit

In 1953 Rocco signed as coach of Serie B team Padova, being able to avoid a relegation and obtaining promotion into Serie A the following season. The Serie A period of Rocco's Padova is still remembered as the team's most successful in their history, despite having a small team, they were able to take third place during the 1957–58 season.[4] During his time with Padova, he also coached the Italian team at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, alongside Giuseppe Viani, where they finished in fourth place.[4]

A.C. Milan edit

Pierino Prati and Rocco in training with A.C. Milan in the 1967–68 season

In 1961, Rocco was appointed as new A.C. Milan coach, starting one of the most successful periods for the rossoneri: he built a hard-working and defensively sound side around the team's young star playmaker, Gianni Rivera, which complemented the midfielders' creative playing style; Rocco formed an important relationship with Rivera throughout his career, and together, they played a key role in the club's successes,[7] winning the Italian league in 1962 and the European Cup in 1963. After a good stint at Torino, where he obtained the best results since the disappearance of the Grande Torino, in 1967 Rocco returned to Milan, where he immediately won another scudetto and the Cup Winners' Cup.[2][4]

He left Milan in 1973, after having won also another European Cup in 1969, an Intercontinental Cup, two Italian Cups and another Cup Winners' Cup. After one year in Fiorentina, Rocco decided to end his coaching career in 1975. In 1977, he was appointed by Milan as Technical Director and Assistant of coach Nils Liedholm. Rocco is Milan's longest-serving manager, managing the club for 459 matches (323 as head coach and 136 as technical director).[2][4]

Style of management edit

"Let's really hope not!"

— A famous response that Rocco was known for using during his spell at Padova whenever an opponent said to him: "May the best team win."[8]

Regarded as one of the greatest managers of all time,[1] Rocco was one of first proponents of catenaccio in Italy, and used the tactic to great success; drawing from Karl Rappan's tactics, his teams made use of a sweeper, who would sit behind the defensive line and clear the ball away, often using a 1–3–3–3 formation. His teams were known for their work-rate and physicality, as well as their simple but effective and pragmatic tactical strategies, namely their defensive strength, ability to counter–attack quickly with long balls, and score goals after winning back possession, rather than for being aesthetically pleasing to watch. During his time with Milan, he made use of Rivera as the team's playmaker in midfield, who took on the creative responsibilities of the team. He was known to be an excellent motivator, and developed strong personal relationships with his players in order to create a good team environment and foster a winning mentality, often discussing the team's tactics and the players man–marking roles over dinner rather than at a white–board during training sessions. In addition to his tactical intelligence, Rocco was also known for his charismatic personality, leadership, and sense of humour, despite his shy personality, and was known for being a very animated figures on the bench during matches. He also became popular for his quips, which he would often say to his players and journalists.[2][4][7][9][10][11][12] Rocco, popularly known as El Paròn (Triestin for The Master), was also popular for his strong use of his native Triestine dialect.[2]

Death and legacy edit

Rocco died on 20 February 1979, aged 66, in his hometown Trieste.[13]

On 18 October 1992, a new stadium in Trieste, named after Rocco, was inaugurated.[14]

Rocco's tactics heavily influenced manager Giovanni Trapattoni, who became one of the main proponents of the zona mista ("mixed zone," in Italian), or gioco all'italiana, which drew elements from both man-to-man marking systems such as Italian catenaccio, and zonal-marking systems such as Dutch total football.[15]

Honours edit

Manager edit

A.C. Milan


References edit

  1. ^ a b Jamie Rainbow (4 July 2013). "The Greatest manager of all time". World Soccer. Retrieved 5 November 2015.
  2. ^ a b c d e Andrea Schianchi (2 November 2014). "Nereo Rocco, l'inventore del catenaccio che diventò Paròn d'Europa" (in Italian). La Gazzetta dello Sport. Retrieved 5 November 2015.
  3. ^ "Rocco, Nereo" (in Italian). Retrieved 21 May 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g "Nereo Rocco" (in Italian). Storie di Calcio. Retrieved 5 November 2015.
  5. ^ Le vicende della partita "Italia-Grecia" nei quattro goals del trionfo "azzurro", Il Littoriale, 26 marzo 1934, pag.3
  6. ^ Italia-Grecia 4-0
  7. ^ a b "RIVERA Gianni: Golden Boy per sempre - 2" (in Italian). Storie di Calcio. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  8. ^ "No, speriamo non vinca il migliore..." La Repubblica (in Italian). 22 May 1999. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  9. ^ "What Nereo Rocco would say about AC Milan and the Azzurri". Calciomercato. 21 November 2017. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  10. ^ "El Paròn Nereo Rocco, l'allenatore della prima Coppa Campioni" (in Italian). Pianeta Milan. 20 May 2019. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  11. ^ Fontana, Mattia (12 August 2014). "La storia della tattica: dal Catenaccio al calcio totale" (in Italian). Eurosport. Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  12. ^ "Il Padova di Nereo Rocco: La Leggenda del Santo Catenaccio" (in Italian). Storie di Calcio. Retrieved 25 May 2020.
  13. ^ "Quanto ci manca Rocco" (in Italian). La Gazzetta dello Sport. 20 February 2004. Retrieved 5 November 2015.
  14. ^ "Stadio Nereo Rocco" (in Italian). Sport, Comune di Trieste. 31 January 2014. Retrieved 5 November 2015.
  15. ^ Sannucci, Corrado (25 May 2002). "Trap, il santone intoccabile che si ispira a Rocco". La Repubblica (in Italian). Retrieved 19 May 2020.
  16. ^ "BARESI, CAPELLO AND RIVERA ACCEPTED IN HALL OF FAME". 26 November 2013. Retrieved 20 April 2015.
  17. ^ "Los 50 mejores entrenadores de la historia". FOX Sports. 19 March 2019. Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  18. ^ "Los 50 mejores entrenadores de la historia del fútbol". ABC. 19 March 2019. Retrieved 29 December 2019.
  19. ^ Jamie Rainbow (4 July 2013). "The Greatest Manager of all time". World Soccer.
  20. ^ Jamie Rainbow (2 July 2013). "The Greatest XI: how the panel voted". World Soccer.