MILAN (Reuters) – He is known as one of Italy’s angriest coaches but on Saturday Torino’s Walter Mazzarri will hope to make the headlines as the man whose team handed runaway Serie A leaders Juventus a first league defeat of the season.
Mazzarri’s arguing with match officials has earned him three sendings-off already this season, most recently in Sunday’s 0-0 draw at AC Milan — only his third game back on the touchline after doctors had ordered him to take a rest.
“The president and the doctors made me take a break and they were right, because I did need a complete check-up,” he said on his return. “Now I am back, feeling better than ever, fired up and eager to do well.”
There are no exact figures but Italian media said the Milan match was around the 20th time that Mazzarri had been ordered from the touchline in his 17-year coaching career.
Despite the dismissal, Mazzarri was let off with a warning by Serie A’s disciplinary tribunal and will be able to sit on the bench when his sixth-placed side face their bigger and more famous neighbours on Saturday.
It is a tough ask for Torino, who have beaten Juve only once in their last 23 meetings.
Juventus have dropped only two points in their first 15 league games of the season, putting them eight points clear of Napoli and well on course for an eighth successive title.
Mazzari’s old club Napoli, who went out of the Champions League in midweek after a 1-0 loss at Liverpool, are away at Cagliari on Sunday while third-placed Inter, who also failed to reach the last-16 of the Champions League after only drawing at home to PSV Eindhoven, host Udinese.
Mazzari’s volatile temperament is likely to be put to the test by Juventus. He has a degree in degree in psychology and sociology which he says helps him deal with young players — even if it does not seem to calm him down during matches.
Sometimes it is the players who are on the end of the Mazzarri treatment but he usually reserves his wrath for match officials and the introduction of the VAR system has given him extra reason to be angry.
He was particularly annoyed after being sent off during the match against Fiorentina in October for what Mazzarri claimed was simply asking a question.
“What I cannot abide is the arrogance of power that allows you to send off a coach who was simply asking for an explanation,” he said, adding that referees were often failing to use the VAR system, especially at Torino matches.
“I want referees to recognise their mistakes,” he added. “Why don’t they use the VAR when we’re playing? Udinese, Bologna, Fiorentina and now this game… The technology is useless.”
He concluded that rant by saying maybe officials just did not like him. “They think it’s better to send off Mazzarri, that way he won’t talk,” he said.
“I guess I’m just not a very nice person.”
(Writing by Brian Homewood; editing by Martyn Herman)