FC Sion and their owner Christian Constantin have once again hit the headlines in Switzerland. After a heavy 4-0 defeat against Thun, the architect from Martigny chose to appoint current captain and star of the team Gennaro Gattuso as interim coach. Despite Spaniard Victor Munoz being relieved of his coaching duties, the man who was the club’s fourth coach of the season and the 28th of Constatin’s reign was not sacked, but instead placed in charge of Sion’s scouting operation. Inside Futbol went to speak to Sion sporting director Marco Degennaro to understand what is happening inside the ambitious Swiss giants.
Inside Futbol (IF): Mr Degennaro, the appointment of Gattuso was totally unexpected. Why did Sion’s management choose the team captain?
Marco Degennaro (MD): Gattuso is a natural born leader and after the disappointing performance against Thun, the team needed a big shake-up. The president has decided to hand over responsibility to the players and, above all, to their captain. We changed coaches many times during the season, it would have been useless to look for another. Now the time has come for the players to manage their own affairs.
IF: Have you been satisfied with the impact Gattuso has had in the Swiss league?
MD: Absolutely. Gattuso is not only a unique footballer, but also a unique person. It’s not easy to describe what it means to work with an outstanding player like him. Since his first few days at Sion he has shown an extremely professional attitude, always giving 100%. Gattuso has given Sion a lot, and not only on the pitch.
IF: Is he ready for a coaching career?
MD: Gattuso has personality, great tactical knowledge and a lot of experience – that makes him the natural leader of the pack. I know he had a talk with Milan a couple of months ago when it seemed that coach Massimiliano Allegri was close to leaving the club. Luckily he is still with us, and we need him to get into Europe.
IF: After Sion’s impressive start to the season, 16 points from seven games, the expectations were a bit higher though, weren’t they?
MD: If we are talking about the league, Basel are still the team to beat. They have a bigger budget than us and they have been playing in Europe for years. This means a lot, not only economically, but also for the players’ mentality and approach to the game. That’s why I say that we must play in Europe next season. Apart from Basel, no other Super League team have our quality.
IF: What has been missing?
MD: We have to find the tough, battling spirit founded on hard work, that we had at the start of the season.
IF: President Constantin doesn’t seem to be the easiest man to work with.
MD: He is a charismatic leader who knows a lot about football. Constantin is how the president of a football team should be: the reference point for players and staff. I have learnt a lot from him.
IF: Last summer Sion were close to signing Alessandro Del Piero.
MD: It would have been a dream to see him and Gattuso together on the pitch. However, his choice to join the Australian league should be respected. During his talks with Sion, Del Piero never acted like a superstar, but was always extremely professional and kind. I wish him a lot of luck.
IF: Who will be Sion’s next big thing?
MD: I’m betting on Yannick N’Djeng, a 22-year-old Cameroonian striker we recently bought from Tunisian club Esperance. He’s a talented player who will surely play for a top European club. I also want to mention Oussama Darragi and Kyle Lafferty, they both have big qualities.
IF: You have more than ten years’ experience in the football world. Can we consider Gattuso your best signing so far?
MD: Yes, of course. However, I would like to mention Senad Lulic too, from when I was at Bellinzona. Now he’s playing regularly with Lazio under Vladimir Petkovic. I worked with Petkovic for three years at Bellinzona, and last season during the playoff at Sion. He is a great coach and I am not surprised he is doing so well in Italy.
IF: Petkovic took minnows Bellinzona to the UEFA Cup of course.
MD: That was an incredible season. We reached the Swiss Cup final as a second division club and one month later we were promoted to the Super League. We built a very solid group and had strong support from the fans. I remember the cup final at St. Jakob Park against Basel. A lot of people travelled for more than 250km from Canton Tessin to Basel to watch the game and among them there were not only Bellinzona fans, but also football lovers who were following the fable of little AC Bellinzona.
IF: Will the current season end in a positive way too?
MD: Sure, I have no doubt about it. Every mistake helps you grow.
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