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  • Writer's pictureDag Jenkins

Manager Series: Davide Ballardini

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

Davide Ballardini was manager at Lazio in the 2009-10 season, winning the Italian Super Coppa.

He was born in Ravenna, on January 6, 1964.

He had a playing career, with Cesena for seven years and Faenza for one, but not of any particular significance, although he did win a Primavera scudetto (U19's) with Cesena in 1982. More important were probably the coaches he crossed paths with in the Cesena set up: Arrigo Sacchi and Osvaldo Bagnoli.

Ballardini went into coaching at a young age. At 24, in 1988, he joined the Bologna youth sector and stayed five years. There followed three years with Cesena, three with Ravenna, three with Milan and two with Parma all at youth level.

In 2004-05 came his first head coach position, at Sambenedettese in Serie C1. "La Samb" finished 4th and then lost in the semi-final of the playoffs.

In 2005, after three fixtures, he was taken on by Cagliari in Serie A but was sacked after nine winless games.

In July 2006 he signed for Pescara in Serie B. He was sacked after six winless league games.

On December 27, 2007 he returned to Cagliari in Serie A, taking over from Nedo Sonetti. He had the task of keeping the Sardinians up which he did in style with a 14th place. He then resigned at the end of the season.

On September 4, 2008, he was called to replace Stefano Colantuono at Palermo in Serie A, after only one game. The Rosanero finished a good 8th and set a new club record of 17 wins in a season (including Roma, Juventus away, Milan, Napoli and Lazio).

The following year he arrived in Rome, at Lazio. He replaced Delio Rossi, who had just left after winning the Coppa Italia. Consequently Ballardini's first big match was a massive one, the Italian Supercoppa. It was played in the Bird's Nest in Beijing, China, on August 8, 2009 against Jose Mourinho's Inter. Lazio, against all odds and with a dose of luck, managed to win 2-1 with goals by Francelino Matuzalem and Tommaso Rocchi while Samuel Eto'o pulled one back for Inter. So, a dream start for Ballardini with silverware to show for it.

Back in Serie A, Lazio began well with two wins (Atalanta, Chievo) but then after losing at home to Juventus they faltered and went winless for 13 games. They then won two, drew one and lost two before a final fatal home defeat to Catania which cost Ballardini his job. His time at Lazio was not helped by the exclusion from the squad of players such as Cristian Ledesma and Goran Pandev. He was then replaced by Edy Reja and Lazio finished 12th.

Under Ballardini Lazio were also knocked out of the Coppa Italia, in the quarterfinals by Fiorentina 2-3, and the Europa League. In Europe they had qualified for the group stage by eliminating Elfsborg 3-1 on aggregate but then went out against Salzburg (1-2, 1-2) , Villarreal (2-1, 1-4) and Levski Sofia (4-0, 0-1).

In 2010-11 he became manager of Genoa in Serie A, taking over from Gianpiero Gasperini after ten matches. The "Grifone" finished the season in 10th position after 14 wins (including Roma 4-3), 9 draws and 15 defeats (including Lazio 4-2).

In 2011-12 he was back in Sardinia with Cagliari. He took over from Massimo Ficcadenti from the 12th game to the 27th and then was in turn replaced by Ficcadenti. In his 16 games in charge "Casteddu" won 4 (including Roma 4-2), drew 6 (including Juventus away 1-1) and lost 6. Cagliari in the end came 15th.

On January 21, 2013 he returned to Liguria and Genoa, replacing Luigi Del Neri. He managed to keep Genoa up in 17th place, with 4 wins (including Lazio), 9 draws and 4 defeats. In the summer he was awarded a fair play award for having stopped play to get attention to a Roma player down injured.

In January 2014 he replaced Stefano Pioli after 18 games at Bologna. He was unsuccessful in saving the "Felsinei" from relegation in 20th place.

In 2015-16 he was back in Sicily with Palermo. A farcical season with six different managers. Ballardini was in charge from the 13th to the 19th game (W 1, D 1, L 5) and again from the 33rd to the 38th game (W 3, D 2, L 1). The Rosanero came 16th.

In 2017-18 he was back with Genoa for a third time again taking over, this time from Ivan Jurić after 12 games and a derby defeat. In the end the Rossoblu came 12th, after 11 wins (including Lazio away 2-1 and Inter), 8 draws and 19 defeats.

He then took a pause but returned to Genoa for a fourth time in 2020 and again took charge during the season, from Rolando Maran after 13 games. The "Vecchio Balordo" (The Old Fool) finished 11th, after 10 wins, 12 draws (including Lazio 1-1) and 16 defeats (including Lazio 3-4).

He continued with the "Grifone" in the 2021-22 season but was sacked after only 12 games in which Genoa earned a meagre nine points. Genoa then tried another three managers but were ultimately relegated.

In January 2023 he replaced Massimiliano Alvini at Cremonese in Serie A after 18 games. Cremonese improved but in the end could not avoid relegation. The Grigiorossi finished 19th, after 5 wins (including Roma), 12 draws and 21 defeats (including Lazio 0-4, 2-3). They fared better in the Coppa Italia where they reached the semifinals. After eliminating Ternana, Modena, Napoli and Roma, the "Violini" were knocked out by Fiorentina 0-2 on aggregate.

As a manager, Ballardini is a self-proclaimed "Sacchiano" (an admirer of Arrigo Sacchi's style of play). He tends to favour the 4-3-1-2 formation and his teams are usually well organized and have a recognizable game plan. He has had a decent career especially saving clubs from relegation.

At Lazio, despite a perfect start and lifting the Supercoppa he was not a success. He never really settled into the Lazio world and often came across as slightly arrogant and superior (never taking his sunglasses off did not help). He never built strong bonds with the players. The relationship with the fans never took off either and he is not received well when he returns to Rome as an opponent. To his credit, however, he did bring Lazio a cup to their trophy cabinet.



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