A tale of two Robertos: Mancini vs Martinez

A tale of two Robertos: Martinez sent Mancini’s career into a downward spiral after shocking him in the 2013 FA Cup final… and tonight they will meet for the first time since as Belgium and Italy bosses in Euro 2020 crunch

  • Roberto Martinez’s Belgium face Roberto Mancini’s Italy in Euro quarter-final
  • The pair last met in 2013 FA Cup final – Martinez’s Wigan beat Mancini’s Man City
  • Both left their clubs after the Wembley final, with Martinez joining Everton
  • Mancini’s career stuttered and Martinez was sacked by Everton in 2016
  • Both managers have rebuilt their managerial repuations in international football 
  • Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here

Roberto Mancini and Roberto Martinez not only share a name, but their managerial careers are curiously intertwined.

On May 11, 2013 the pair shared a touchline for the ninth time in four years, with Martinez still looking for his first win over Mancini, who had won the last seven.

What followed was the biggest FA Cup final shock in modern history as little Wigan toppled mega-rich Manchester City, thanks to an injury-time winner from Ben Watson. It would be both managers’ final matches at their respective clubs, and remains the last time the pair have met. Until tonight.

Italy boss Roberto Mancini has enjoyed a fine Euro 2020 so far (left), as has Belgium coach Roberto Martinez (right), an old rival from their days managing in the Premier League

Robertos Mancini (left) and Martinez (right) on the Wembley touchline in the 2013 FA Cup final

The 10th meeting between the two Robertos takes place in Munich as Martinez’s Belgium take on Mancini’s Italy for a place in the Euro 2020 semi-final. 

Despite Belgium being ranked No 1 in the world, most bookmakers have Italy as the marginal favourites. Unlike that day in May 2013, it is as close to a 50-50 call as you could get. It is certainly the standout fixture of the quarter-finals, with the tournament’s two form teams meeting.

Italy breezed through their group playing a brand of attacking, possession-based football we are not used to seeing from the Azzurri. They weren’t at their best in the last-16 against Austria, but Federico Chiesa’s extra-time winner will only have strengthened their resolve.

Belgium have had tougher challenges, edging past holders Portugal in the last-16 after coming from behind against an emotionally-charged Denmark in Copenhagen in the group stage – but they have done nothing to suggest their pre-tournament billing as favourites is wide of the mark. The main concern for Martinez, and perhaps the reason the bookmakers are leaning towards Italy, are injury concerns over key men Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard. 

Wigan pulled off a massive shock by beating City to win the FA Cup in Martinez’s final game

Manchester City won their first league title since 1968 under Mancini in 2012

Whatever the result tonight, both managers deserve credit for rebuilding their careers by drilling in clear systems and styles to their teams, which is not easy to do in international football with limited time available to work on the training ground. Both bosses have shown their pragmatism too, with Mancini’s 4-3-3 and Martinez’s 3-4-3 both systems designed to fit the players, rather than vice-versa. 

That Italy have played the most attractive football so far at Euro 2020 does not just go against the grain of the Azzurri, but of Mancini too. When he was sacked by City in 2013 and replaced by Manuel Pellegrini, the club infamously released a statement saying that wanted a more ‘holisitic’ approach to their football. In short, they were fed up of Mancini’s turgid tactics and wanted to watch better football. 

The wheels were already in motion before the FA Cup final, the defeat just made Mancini’s sacking a little easier for City to manage, with it coming just a year after he had led them to their first title since 1968, earning him legendary status with the club’s success-starved fanbase. 

Martinez is sweating over the fitness of key man Kevin De Bruyne (centre) ahead of the match

Martinez keeps an eye on his squad training ahead of their showdown with Italy

It clearly hit the Italian hard, as he bounced from job to job the next over the next five years without impressing in any. He has just a Turkish Cup to show for four seasons combined at Galatasaray, Inter Milan and Zenit St Petersburg. Having won four titles in six seasons with City and in his first spell at Inter before that, it was quite the fall from grace for the Sampdoria legend, who jumped at the chance of taking the Italy job in May 2018.

With the Azzurri having inexplicably missed out on the World Cup, Mancini had a clean slate to work with and has transformed their fortunes magnificently, embarking an a 31-match unbeaten run which he carries into tonight’s quarter-final.

Martinez knows a thing or two about falling from grace too. Like Mancini, his Wigan exit was already set in stone before the 2013 FA Cup final, the result just probably helped him get a better job. Despite being relegated with the Latics, his credit in the bank having kept them up for three seasons before that on the Premier League’s smallest budget earned him a crack at the Everton job, where he got off to a flyer, winning the fans over with exciting, attacking football.

The pair share a joke before a Premier League clash between Wigan and Man City in April 2013

Having looked nailed on for Champions League qualification for long parts of the 2013-14 season, however, Everton lost three of their last five matches to finish fifth and miss out to Arsenal. The next season Everton never got going and finished a disappointing 11th, and when Martinez was finally sacked at the back end of the 2015-16 season with the Toffees in 12th, it had been a long time coming. He was wise to take the Belgium job almost straight away, however, and has set to work on rebuilding his reputation since.

Martinez led Belgium’s previously under-performing ‘Golden Generation’ to the World Cup semi-final in 2018, beating Brazil in the quarter-final before losing to France on penalties. Shortly after the World Cup, in September 2018, he steered them to No 1 in the FIFA World Rankings, where they have remained since.

The two bosses could not have had more contrasting playing and managerial careers up until their last meeting in May 2013. Mancini had been a Serie A superstar and began his career in the dugout in the Italian top flight too, quickly ascending to the status of title-winning, Champions League manager with Inter after spells at Fiorentina and Lazio.

Mancini addresses his flying Italy players on the eve of their mouthwatering game

His intense and attacking side have been the most dominant team at Euro 2020 so far

Martinez, on the other hand, forged his career in the English lower leagues with Wigan and Swansea, having been released by Zaragoza, near his hometown in north-east Spain. He started his managerial career in the Football League too, leading Swansea from League One to the Championship, before taking over at Wigan in 2009 – the same summer Mancini joined City.

The last few years, however, have seen the two Robertos performing similar roles as former Premier League bosses with points to prove as they look to rebuild their managerial careers in international football. Aged 47 and 56 respectively, both Martinez and Mancini should have plenty of miles left in clock as managers. 

Just as when they last met in the 2013 FA Cup final, tonight’s result will have a major impact on which direction they will both be travelling.

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