José Mourinho began his football management career as an interpreter and translator for Sir Bobby Robson in Portugal (Sporting Clube and Porto) and Spain (FC Barcelona).

27 May 2014

Thesis Review: "A Mentality to Be Winners" by Filippo Inzaghi

Filippo "Pippo" Inzaghi and his book,
"300 Goals and I Haven't Finished Yet."
Image credit: Mondadori.

"I cried when I won but never when I lost."


"A Mentality 'to be' Winners."

by Filippo Inzaghi

  • My briefer Italian version of this review (Una Recensione della Tesi di Filippo Inzaghi).
  • "Filippo was a great player who won everything. And now he starts his journey on the bench. I hope that he does well starting on Sunday (after the game with Juventus on Saturday)." 

Italian managers present a thesis to their colleagues and teachers at the Italian Federation (FIGC) site in Coverciano, Italy. This discussion finalizes a three-part training process that currently lasts over nine months according to the FIGC.

Filippo "Pippo" Inzaghi, who until recently was the manager of the Primavera (youth sector: U-19) at AC Milan, presented his research during the 2012/2013 UEFA Pro "Corso Master" (Master's Course.) Hernan Crespo (his thesis on internationalization and globalization was reviewed in detail last December) was also in his coaching class as were many of Inzaghi's former Azzurri and club teammates: Fabio Cannavaro, Fabio Grosso, Mark Iuliano, Marco Materazzi, Massimo Oddo and Gianluca Zambrotta, respectively. You may click the link above to download a PDF file to view the original in Italian.

Mister Inzaghi led his youth team to victory a few months ago in the prestigious Torneo di Viareggio tournament over Anderlecht (3-1):

Career Highlights for a Highly-Decorated Player: A Winner

Filippo was born in Piacenza in 1973 and made his professional debut with his hometown club in 1991. He then went on loan to Leffe and Hellas Verona, respectively. Inzaghi made his Serie A debut with Parma in 1995.

His star rose at Atalanta where he led the Serie A in scoring before his first big career move to Juventus in 1997. Inzaghi stayed with the Old Lady until 2001 when he was transferred to AC Milan. He remained with the Rossoneri until his retirement in 2012. Inzaghi also had 57 caps for Italy scoring 25 goals according to the FIGC.
"Pippo has always been something of an animal. He's an incomplete player. Still, inside the penalty area, no player on earth can compete with him."
--- Carlo Ancelotti, "The Beautiful Games of an Ordinary Genius." 
"He has extraordinary enthusiasm, a great desire to do well and has already taken on experience in the youth sector. Surely, he has all of the characteristics to do it. And being acquainted with the environment as I am, if he'll become manager of Milan, good luck to him.
Everyone has the characteristics to manage but nobody has the experience in the beginning. That comes to you in time. For a manager, a knowledge of styles of play is important. Then comes the practical aspect and preparation as a coach. The most difficult part is found there and you have to study because one doesn't have the know how in preparation and scheduling."
--- Carlo Ancelotti, quoted in La Gazzetta dello Sport on 27 May 2014 from Rome, Italy. 
 It is safe to say that the man Sir Alex Ferguson once said "was born offside," Filippo Inzaghi, knew something about two things: Scoring goals out of seemingly nothing (a career strike rate of almost one goal for every two games) and winning:
  • Two UEFA Champions League titles with AC Milan in 2003 and 2007.
  • Two Italian Serie A Scudetti with AC Milan
  • Two UEFA and Italian Super Cups with AC Milan
  • One Italian Serie A Scudetto with Juventus
  • One Italian Super Cup with Juventus.
  • One UEFA Intertoto Cup with Juventus in 1999.
  • One Coppa Italia (Italian Cup) with AC Milan
  • One FIFA Club World Championship with AC Milan in 2007.
  • One FIFA World Cup title with Italy in 2006.
  • One UEFA U-21 title with Italy in 1994.
Discussion Items
  1. Thesis Overview
  2. Writing Style
  3. Images and Graphics
  4. Notable Quotes
  5. My Ratings
  6. Link to the Italian Source Document

Pippo Inzaghi interviewed in Washington, DC, in 2010. He identified Walter Samuel of Internazionale as the toughest defender he ever faced. Best manager? Carlo Ancelotti. His best goal? At the 2007 Champions League final in Athens, Greece.

1. Thesis Overview

Photo credit: AndhikaMPPP.
His choice of a thesis topic was intriguing and perhaps as unique as the former player's penchant for scoring goals: The psychology of winning. Certainly, it is not a research theme we might expect to see from a new manager.

The length of this thesis was 60 pages. There were two parts divided into six sections in the first, and four in the second, respectively. I will provide key quotes from each section and full translations of his introduction and concluding remarks.

Introduction: The Sense

Part 1: Theory, Experience and Philosophies

1.1 Pedagogical characteristics of a successful manager
"A coach must:
Know:  Have culture, knowledge of limits, sense and scope of activities that he undertakes.
Know how to do:  He'll know how to translate knowledge and culture into practice.
Know how to give: In all environments of interpersonal human relations, in an exchange of information, in the ability to transmit and the essential capacity of 'knowing how to give attention' and 'knowing how to be in the moment.'
Value: To have personality and values to transmit. The manager is an example for the entire team and coaching staff. And above all, he'll be able to influence, in a special way, behavior.
1.2 The psychology of success
"Summing up a few concepts from various authors (psychologists et al), you can say there is a relationship between Psychology and Success. Therefore, the same essence of success seems to be psychology.
You can define success as 'a favorable or advantageous result or end of each action taken'.  
We can then say that the mind, or better yet, the mental quality of a certain person, is the only essence of its real success or failure. Therefore, luck does not exist. Our 'luck' is the development of our abilities and relationships to the maximum extent as is possible." 
The qualities that are typical of 'fortunate' persons or perhaps better defined as successful ones, are curiosity, attention to unexpected phenomena and mental flexibility."
1.3 The mechanism of success
"Don't be afraid to make mistakes or to go against momentary failures. The mind reaches a purpose going forward and backwards, making mistakes and by correcting them immediately.
Everything that happens in life offers the possibility to be considered as a winner. It is possible to learn from every experience by using past experiences in order to obtain a pattern of growth. Everyone can emerge from an activity to be a winner, and even more, with the possibility to gain further expertise in that certain activity. Such a positive attitude decreases feelings of fatigue and even the 'resistance' to training session work which present themselves later on.
These two variables are the 'real matrix' that determine success or failure for the skills and standards of the ideal coach's profile: 1) Locus of Internal Control and 2) Sense of Self-Efficacy." 
1.4 Locus of control
"In particular, those who believe they are able to have control over the events in their lives, and who feel that their efforts, commitment and capacity can determine what happens to them, are defined as persons with a locus of control.
From the point of view of interpersonal relations, scientific studies have demonstrated that the most active possess an internal locus of control rather than an external one.
It is seen that wherever a perception of control is present, or potential control over events, it's easier to take on stress in an adequate way. 
An external locus of control generates a vicious circle of disorganization and abandonment. A life permeated by a sense of victimization and impotence that degenerates into self-defeat." 
1.5 The sense of self-efficacy
"The beliefs of efficacy originate from four main sources:
1. Self-efficacy and processes of motivation (to have intrinsic motivation and know how to motivate.) Beliefs control the quality and quantity of motivation.
2. Self-efficacy and affective-emotional processes (knowing how to deal with difficulties, knowing how to relate, confidence in yourself and with others.)
3. Self-efficacy and processes of choice (knowing how to choose).
Persons who have achieved positions of prestige in their chosen fields are equipped with an inextinguishable sense of effectiveness and a firm conviction in the value of their own capacities.
4. An evolved analysis of their beliefs of self-efficacy (controlling processes)."   
1.6 Philosophies, opinions and experiences of colleagues
People with a strong motivation to succeed know their potential, know where they can arrive, behave with humility and share experiences with others ("Victory is noble only if it is shared.")
"The winning mentality in sport is therefore an open one, that has a tendency towards success. One that knows how to manage good times and respond to eventual failures ('It is from a defeat that you need to depart in order to construct a victory.')
Part 2: From Theory to Practice, How and What to Do

2.1 The presence of the manager, managing the network and communication
"If a group is composed of four elements (A, B, C, D) and if A messages B, this in turn will stimulate C and lastly, D. Which in turn then gives input to A. This means that in a group relationship, a conflict between two members inevitably will also involve other components of the group.
Fairness can mold a team and its absence can destroy it.
I firmly maintain that the primary condition of communication is to be 'real'. And falseness destroys any encounter from the start. To be real, in my opinion, is to be yourself in the totality of your own life.
In my career as a player, I always appreciated coaches and persons who communicated their opinions with clarity and sincerity."
2.2 A method to develop a winning mentality
"Becoming winners certainly depends on the method used, since the latter is tied to the philosophical and psychological choices of the coach. From the mentality of the latter will be a model for the development of the footballer, expression of play and who goes on the pitch. Also for this reason, the coaching staff and players must have the same mentality.
The method (in its etymological meaning: 'meth - odon', through the road) is based on the theories and forms of learning. In fact, it can be considered a choice, and a way in which to work, to achieve objectives and transmit principles."
"Win" is a word that encompasses many aspects of life. Often it is determined by luck. However, the interpretation is such as to allow one to consider a defeat a victory and vice versa.  
2.3 From saying to doing, my experience
Fair play is an unwritten rule but dictated by an honor code present in the game of football and in many other sports. The word Fair Play (correct play) can be translated in fact with loyalty. Fair Play is the name of an official commitment taken by UEFA and FIFA to increase professional ethics within football and to prevent discrimination in this sport. 
I have therefore sought in corrective actions to use the verb 'to be' in a positive reinforcement (You've been good at kicking in that situation), while the verb 'to have' in corrections on 'to do" (But you made a mistake not to aim for the second pole).
Players must then be stimulated to improve continuously since the desire to 'overcome' and 'outdo yourself' (challenge) is essential to the formation of a winning mentality.
A behavior that i think is very important is the assignment of the match kit by the manager before the match as a sign of personal trust. But especially to raise awareness among players of an attachment to the club's colors.
Personally, I have always felt inside of me the thrust to want to try to win. But as I have passed along to my players, I cried when I won but never when I lost.
I have always kept players under pressure during workouts with rhythms of engagement almost identical to, or higher than, match situations. And with methods to always have an increase of the cognitive load to stimulate their attention spans more and more. 
A manager must transmit optimism and positivity because if he is timid, the team will also show the same attitude on the field. Charisma and personality are essential traits but they should not limit the character and expressiveness of the players."
2.4 Weekly training schedule
He also included a very concise, detailed, one-page training sheet on Page 60 that covered Tuesday to Friday sessions. This page illustrated individual technical, tactical and motor drills. He also discussed possession drills, neuromuscular exercises, velocity/pace work, etc. These drills ranged from 10 to 40 minutes, respectively.

Bibliography (He listed 20 sources).

2. Writing Style

Hernan Crespo photo HernanCrespo3.jpg
Photo credit: AndhikaMPPP.
Three words describe the author's writing style: Humility, Inquisitive and Passionate. He is very engaged by this topic and cited many experts to provide an excellent presentation. Inzaghi even discussed Dr. Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs" (and included a graphic to demonstrate his theories geared to a coaching sense.)

Inzaghi made a deep analysis into the psychology of winning. This well-written, detailed and researched thesis is not merely "Think like a winner and you'll win" pop psychology mantra. As you saw in my thesis overview section, he provided a glimpse into a very serious scope of research that would follow: "Mechanism of success. Locus of control. Self-efficacy." 

The author also seems very firm in his views. With Inzaghi the manager, you are onside or offside. There is no gray area or video replays. Especially about openness in communication, being "real", correct and incorrect behavior, team versus singular players, truth and falseness. At times, this thesis took on a self-help tone although in a positive way. He will make a very good coach because he obviously cares about and respects his new craft deeply on a humane level.

On an editorial note, one aspect I didn't like was his very long paragraphs (sometimes almost a page) and liberal uses of bold-faced words. Both made reading this thesis difficult and more time-consuming.

3. Images and Graphics

Paolo Maldini photo Maldini.jpg
Photo credit: AndhikaMPPP.

Inzaghi used many actual images from his new role as Milan's Primavera manager. Most focus on his players or fellow coaching staff. He used very basic d
iagrams and significantly fewer than I've seen in past Italian Federation thesis reviews. The author used too many words in these cases when a detailed schematic diagram would have communicated his views more effectively.

4. Notable Quotes from Filippo Inzaghi

Image credit:
360 Network.

1. From his introduction: The Sense (Boldfaced text from his manuscript is in red.)

Experience and knowledge are the basis of any professional activity. Both are essential to success since one without the other would limit the expression and ability of a person. The growth of each one of us passes through the exchange and comparison with the other. An awareness of their personal values, and own ideas, allow for a proper analysis of information received and the intelligent processing of them. Which allows a qualitative choice that is useful for their own reality. To remain always in keeping with the times, which is very accelerated today by science and technology, the process of training must be permanent.

In fact, today, with the knowledge to take on a new 'trip' that has nothing to do with what I did as a footballer, to have taken this Master's course, the first experience of a manager, I take into account how many things are necessary to be a good coach. To lead a group, to know how to relate to them on an individual basis, to devise and program, face criticisms, manage success and failures, mediate conflicts, take care of internal and external communications along with the specific technical competencies, etc.

The challenge is one of 'being' and not only 'doing' a manager's job. Nevertheless, because it is the same challenge that I faced as a player, the priority becomes how to transmit my mentality and professionalism to the players. I think that the difference and quality in a profession with regards to the 'how', and not only a thing, is how much you do. For this reason, I'll elaborate in the first person. Because I maintain that it's proper to treat an argument from the title towards its own conscience since the manager must be a researcher and theorize about his own experiences.

It's my idea that starting with the development of a mentality, whether fundamental or basic, to impose work in a team and also in a group. The leitmotiv of being winning managers, which will be all elaborated as follows, is borne from an analysis of my experience as a player. I had so many coaches and what I mainly remember are those who presented themselves to me as teachers. That is, those who transmitted values and a mentality. But above all, those who demonstrated to value, and to be, as a person.

Socrates said that 'a mediocre teacher recites, a good one explains, and an excellent one demonstrates, while a maestro inspires.' A manager, at any level, must already consider himself a teacher and a developer. And his example will allow for the creation of the right mentality.  

This thesis will be divided in a first part of research where theories, philosophies and experiences from various authors, psychologists, sociologists and managers are collected. Then my deeper look to connect experience to theory. The second part, on the other hand, evidences my first practical experience as a coach and how I intend to transfer a mentality to the group to be winners. A way to connect theory to practice. The nexus between the two parts of the so-called key parts are marked in bold.

2. From his conclusion:

I don't yet know if I am and will be a winning manager; however, surely I want to become one with humility to always want to improve myself. And with the spirit that always animated me as a player. The Master's Course experience surely helped me to improve and transmit new ideas in reference to novel footballing coaching methodologies. They confirmed and sustained diverse aspects that I faced this past year and which I had already elaborated about in my own playing experience.

My progression as a player passed through different stages and with the same increments that I want to face as a manager. Because experience is what teaches you the most in life and in your profession. And humility is the first value.

I have perceived, together with my group, by analyzing all of the aspects shown explicitly in this essay, a sporting result of the season (semi-final Italian title) which was a great success. It was a departure point to build a new and an always improved product. Accordingly, I thanked my team and collaborators for what they have given me in terms of emotions, discussions, commitment and collaboration.

To sum things up, I thank all of my docents in the Master's Course who contributed to this, my writing product, to my growth and who demonstrated great professionalism, competence and... a winning mentality.

My secret is to always give the utmost and have a clear conscience to have done the best that one could do... I could have played well or poorly, scored or not, but I was prepared at my best!!!
--- Filippo "Pippo" Inzaghi

5. My Ratings

Photo credit:
Coaching education: 9/10
Editorial organization: 7/10
Graphics: 6/10
Research: 9/10
Writing style: 8/10
Overall: 8/10 = Four and one-half Stars.

Filippo Inzaghi has written a provocative and educational thesis about a topic that few professional athletes and coaches discuss at length if at all. Inzaghi's work on this important topic needs a wider audience outside of Italy. I hope that the Italian Federation, or the author himself, decides to translate this brilliant thesis into many languages. It was a great pleasure to review this thesis and to provide a few translated quotes to whet our collective appetites for more.

6. Italian source document courtesy of Federazione Italiana Giuoco Calcio (FIGC)

Scuola allenatori - Tes


Tesi finale del corso Master 2012/2013 per allenatori di Prima categoria Uefa ProAutore/i: Filippo Inzaghi
Related Coaching Thesis Articles

Translated excerpts from FIGC (Italian Federation) Master's Course Coaching Theses. 
Image credit: FIGC.

Please click the image to visit my page dedicated to the works of Massimiliano Allegri, Milena Berolini, Hernan Crespo, Roberto Donadoni, Mark Iuliano, Roberto Mancini, Vincenzo Montella, Mauro Tassotti and Gianluca Vialli, respectively.

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Steve Amoia is a freelance writer and translator from Washington, D.C. He is the publisher of World Football Commentaries since 2006 and The Soccer Translator since 2008. You can follow Steve @worldfootballcm on Twitter.

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