Bemused by Watford's new boss? Meet Walter Mazzarri – who's good news for Deeney and Ighalo
Italians do it better. If the 2015/16 campaign taught us anything, it's that having a man from the peninsula sitting on the bench is a huge advantage. As Claudio Ranieri led Leicester to a miracle title triumph, citizens of il Bel Paese revelled in his success.
“What he is doing now is a fantastic advertisement for Italian football,” Vincenzo Montella, who played under Ranieri and is currently in charge of Sampdoria, said of his former boss. But the newly crowned Premier League champion wasn't the only one. Max Allegri created history by clinching another domestic double with Juventus, while Gianni De Biasi steered Albania to Euro 2016, the first major tournament the Balkan nation has ever qualified for.
The footballing world has certainly paid heed to these accomplishments, and there could yet be more next season with Carlo Ancelotti soon to arrive at Bayern Munich, and Chelsea making Antonio Conte the fifth Italian to take charge at Stamford Bridge. Yet while those two men arrive with well-earned reputations and an impressive collection of honours, Watford's selection of Walter Mazzarri as their next manager came as much more of a surprise.
Learning on the job in the third and fourth tiers, he returned to Tuscany with Pistoiese and then Serie B side Livorno, whom he helped guide to the top flight in 2003/04
His appointment ends a hiatus that had lasted almost two years, having been unemployed since his sacking by Inter in November 2014. The Nerazzurri were Mazzarri's seventh club in a coaching career that began some 15 years earlier, after he – a product of Fiorentina's academy – brought his modest time as a player to a close.
A journeyman midfielder who spent time with Cagliari, Empoli and Pescara before retiring in 1995, Mazzrri began working as a scout and – bizarrely – a goalkeeping coach at Napoli before taking up his first job as manager Acireale in 2001. Learning on the job in the third and fourth tiers, he returned to Tuscany with Pistoiese and then Serie B side Livorno, whom he helped guide to the top flight in 2003/04.
Reggina snapped up Mazzarri soon after, and he enhanced his growing reputation over the next three seasons. Retaining their Serie A status each time, the club overcome an 11-point penalty in his final year in charge before he again stepped up a level with Sampdoria in May 2007.
The Genoa-based outfit finished sixth in his first campaign and qualified for Europe a year later. He then signed a contract with Napoli just a month into the following season, replacing Roberto Donadoni and launching the most memorable period of his career to date.
That placing brought Champions League qualification, with Napoli going on to reach the knockout stage despite being drawn in a tough group alongside Manchester City and Bayern Munich
Mazzarri turned the Partenopei into a well-organised and effective counter-attacking side that clinched third spot in 2010/11. That brought Champions League qualification, with Napoli going on to reach the knockout stage despite being drawn in a tough group alongside Manchester City and Bayern Munich.
Inter was Mazzarri's next port of call following a runners-up finish with Napoli in 2013. Things didn't go as well at San Siro, however, the Italian lasting only 56 matches – a run which yielded just 25 wins – before being replaced by Roberto Mancini.
His appointment at Watford should be interesting from a tactical standpoint, though: the 54-year-old is a devout disciple of the 3-4-2-1 formation that has served him so well in the past. Mazzarri is also a strict disciplinarian with an old-school approach when it comes to his relationship with players, and constantly drills his teams on the training ground, teaching them the precise movements he wants to see during matches.
At Napoli and Inter, the San Vincenzo native urged his side to sit deep, defend in numbers and quickly break forward to punish opponents with speed on the break.
That approach has seen Mazzarri become known for getting the best from his strikers. Livorno duo Cristiano Lucarelli and Igor Protti plundered 29 and 25 goals respectively under his guidance in 2003/04, while Reggina's Rolando Bianchi earned a move to Manchester City with his performances under the new Hornets boss. The most famous beneficiary of Mazzarri's coaching prowess is Edinson Cavani, who netted 104 times in 138 matches as the focal point of Napoli's attack.
With a proven record of galvanising smaller teams and outperforming expectations, Mazzarri has the experience to thrive at Vicarage Road. He moved to England in June 2015 to improve his grasp of the language, immersing himself in the culture by living with a family in Manchester, and will find former players Valon Behrami and Miguel Britos waiting for him in Hertfordshire at the start of July.
They, and everyone else associated with Watford, will hope for another Italian success story in the dugout.