Pierluigi Casiraghi on what went wrong at Birmingham & Chelsea

In Depth

Gianfranco Zola lasted only four months in charge at Birmingham City, winning only two of his 24 games in charge. And for that reason his assistant Pierluigi Casiraghi says they won’t take their next job mid-season.

Just over a year ago, on December 2016, Birmingham announced the appointment of Zola as their new manager, a few hours after they had sacked Gary Rowett. They were seventh.

Four months and 24 games later, Zola announced he had resigned. Birmingham were 20th, just three points clear of the relegation zone with three games to play. At the time, if you were generous, you might have described sacking Rowett and appointing Zola as brave. It didn’t take long for it to seem foolish.

“His pedigree, philosophy and ambition fits with what we would like to achieve as we move in a new direction,” Blues director Panos Pavlakis had said at the time.

Twelve months on, Casiraghi believes the biggest problem he and Zola faced at St Andrew’s was attempting to carry out the board’s wishes midway through the season.

“The team was good and it was doing quite well, but the owner wanted to improve the quality of the game. We were called for that and that was what we tried to do, but you need time.

“We did well in some matches, but we lost a lot so I think some players were afraid about the table and then things become more and more difficult.

“But I think that the main problem was that we couldn’t start the season. That’s why now we (him and Zola) have decided to wait for a project we can take from the beginning.”

Playing for Chelsea

Zola, of course, had plenty of previous experience of English football, spending seven years as a player with Chelsea, before later going on to manage West Ham and Watford.

Casiraghi actually played alongside Zola at Stamford Bridge, but his first spell in England was rather less successful: he scored only one goal in 10 appearances before suffering a cruciate ligament injury which ultimately ended his career.


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Despite that, the former Italy striker has fond memories of his time in west London and the Premier League in general.

“It was time to change after Lazio, and when Chelsea called me I accepted immediately,” he says. “I joined Chelsea because I always dreamed to play in England, where they played a kind of football I loved and still love.

“It was a very strong team, with very important players like Vialli, Zola, Di Matteo, Wise, Leboeuf, Desailly, Poyet and many others.

“It was just before Abramovic’s era, maybe the first Chelsea that could challenge for the title. Unfortunately, I was able to play just few matches before the injury but I still remember the mood, the fans, my goal against Liverpool at Anfield.

“It’s something I will never forget. English football is very special and there are no doubts that now the Premier League is the number one in the world. Spain has Real Madrid and Barcelona, but La Liga is not the Premier.”

Casiraghi and Zola’s next job

As for the future, Casiraghi and Zola have recovered from their Birmingham experience and would gladly take another job in England should the opportunity arise.

“I would love [to work in England again], but I know it’s very difficult because there are so many coaches there, foreign coaches but also British ones who have benefited from big foreign coaches who have gone to England and done a wonderful job.

“Compared to my previous experience with Chelsea, English football had grown up a lot, mainly from an economical point of view.

“Now it is business at all levels; in the past there was more genuine passion. Now stadium are like theatres, the organisation is top and the level of the game improved as well. To me English football really is the best.”

And what sort of job offer is Casiraghi hoping for?

“A good project, enabling us to build up something from the beginning. We are sure we could do well if we find someone who trusts in our job and gives us enough time to show it”.

By Sergio Stanco


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