At the age of 34, Francesco Farioli (Italy) is considered “an interesting discovery” of Ligue 1 this 2023–24 season. Among all the coaches working in France’s highest league, Farioli is only “older” than Will Still, head coach of Reims, who is 31 years old. Too young and inexperienced in major tournaments, having only coached in Turkey for about 2 years, Farioli was a gamble by the Nice club’s leadership last summer.
After 4 months, Le Gym is currently ranked 2nd on the Ligue 1 rankings, having defeated PSG 3-2 and Monaco 1-0. In the past 8 matches in this arena, Nice has not lost a match and has only conceded 4 goals. In a short interview with L’Equipe newspaper published on October 19, 2023, Francesco Farioli shared about his interesting journey, a journey that blossomed while working with Roberto De Zerbi.
The players in Nice say they are playing a different brand of football than they have ever experienced. So what’s special about your football?
We are not the only team that wants to have a lot of possession and win the ball back at a high level. We want to have control throughout the match. But we can’t do it at 100 miles per hour all the time, so we have to have variations in tempo. Our goal is not to move the ball but to move the opponent’s formation based on ball movement.
Therefore, we must know how to read the space that the opponent leaves open. To do that, you must stay calm and persevere in circulating the ball, detecting and seizing the opportunity once the door (space) is opened because that door will close in the blink of an eye. You have to choose the right moment to change the rhythm, and in the first matches, we seemed a bit “worked out” because the players thought too much.
You have had an “atypical” career, so how has that career shaped your football ideology?
I didn’t invent anything in football. But the fact that I was only an amateur player until the age of 21, never rose higher than the 8th Italian division, started coaching at a very young age—at the age of 20, I studied philosophy and taught everything. I always need to ask questions and challenge myself on certain issues.
I started as a goalkeeping coach, and that world was full of dogma. For example, people used to think that goalkeepers were never allowed to leave in front of the goal. That’s true in most cases, but not always. We seek to go against the paradigms that have always been taught. That’s why I decided to major in philosophy—to find answers to these questions. If there is any knowledge I still retain from my school days, it is philosophy.
Find a way to talk to the players about “The Critique of Pure Reason”, the work of philosopher Immanuel Kant, one of the important philosophers of the modern world. does not seem reasonable at all, because the concepts of philosophical theory are not useful here. But through philosophy, you are taught to always question every problem and try to observe things from many angles. I want myself to understand that before starting a career. And I seek to convey that curiosity to the players and my colleagues.
Was Roberto De Zerbi, who helped him enter the professional world of football at Benevento and later Sassuolo, a good teacher?
Sure! Roberto is a coach who is obsessed with what he does. And in my opinion, obsession is a valuable trait. Sometimes, obsession also becomes a limitation. I see it myself too; for example, sometimes I have difficulties with my colleagues because I work too much. But coming from the desire to improve, make things better, and go further, Roberto taught me many lessons. He eats, sleeps, breathes, and lives football. There is rarely a character in the football world who is as dedicated to his job as Roberto.
In addition to ideas, a coach must also have management skills. How would you rate that skill?
This is a category in which I think I’ve improved a lot thanks to my diverse experiences. At first, I simply thought that a coach just needed to hone in to be good on the football field. I even consider this aspect to be 90% of the workload. Gradually, I realized that even though this factor played a fundamental role, it was not enough to do it well. You can persuade the players to follow your ideas, but the effect only exists at first. Over time, you also need to show your presence off the field, maintaining the relationships you’ve cultivated with the players. One thing that I have changed a lot since coming to Nice is that I pay more attention to the dialogue, talking directly to each player.
What have you learned about the next coach you will face, Gennaro Gattuso?
I want to tell my students a lot about Gattuso, his football career, and his spirit. But the best thing that Gattuso has is that even when he is a champion, he still keeps learning and developing ideas. Just look at Gattuso’s coaching career, and you can see that he coached in five countries, accepted the challenges set for himself, accepted to work in Serie C, and then returned to lead the team. youth of AC Milan. Gattuso’s coaching career says a lot about his personality.
On the flip side, do you think Gattuso wants something from you or your team?
Probably from my team, maybe a few players. We have some really quality names, not only in terms of their contributions to the team but also in terms of talent. I’m sure Gattuso wants those players too.