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  • Writer's pictureDag Jenkins

Manager Series: Edy Reja

Updated: Sep 15, 2023

Edoardo Reja was born in Lucinico (Gorizia), on October 10, 1945. He has Slovenian origins.

Official SS Lazio photo

He started playing football in local San Lorenzo di Mossa before moving to Ferrara at 18 to join SPAL. He played in their "Primavera" (U19's) and in 1965 alongside Fabio Capello won the Italian championship.

He then joined the first team and played 70 league games with 2 goals in 5 years (4 in A and 1 in B). In 1968 the "Estensi" were relegated and Reja moved south.

In the summer of 1968 he joined Palermo in Serie A. The manager was Carmine Di Bella and the "Rosanero" finished 11th. Reja played 27 league games and 2 in Coppa Italia. The following season they were relegated in 15th place. In 1970-71 Di Bella was replaced by Benigno De Grandi after 18 games and Palermo finished 13th in Serie B. In 1971-72 Palermo were promoted again but the following year went straight back down under Umberto Pinardi (1-22) and then Alvaro Biagini (23-30). At Palermo Reja played 124 league games with 1 goal plus 12 games in Coppa Italia.

In 1973 he joined Alessandria and stayed three seasons. In the first the "Grigi" were promoted to Serie B under Dino Ballacci first and then Mario Pietruzzi. The following year the "Orso Grigio" was relegated under Sergio Castelletti and then Anselmo Giorcelli. In his last year in Piedmont, Alessandria finished 16th in Serie C. Reja made 76 league appearances and scored 1 goal for the "Mandrogni".

In 1976-77 he played for Benevento in Serie C. The "Stregoni" (The Sorcerers) finished 6th. The Sanniti started with Carlo Orlandi, then Antonio Napolitano, Andrea Bassi and then finished with Carlo Orlandi again. Reja only made 7 league appearances and then retired at 32.

Reja was a midfielder. He had a decent career playing 7 years in Serie A. He won a promotion to Serie A with Palermo and to Serie B with Alessandria.

Two years after retiring he started his extremely long career as a manager. His first job was with Molinella (Bologna) at amateur regional level. He then spent a year at Monselice (Padova) in Serie D and a period with Pordenone in C2 before his first sacking.

In 1982-83 he was back at Monselice but was relegated from C2.

In 1983-84 he was near home at Pro Gorizia in C2. The Biancazzurri finished 15th.

In 1984-85 he coached Treviso in C1. The Biancocelesti were relegated.

In 1985-86 he was in Mestre near Venice, in C2. The Arancioneri finished 9th.

In 1987 he took over at Varese in C2 during the season, replacing Pietro Marroso. The Biancorossi finished 10th.

Between 1987 and 1989 he was head of Pescara's Primavera (U19's) and in 1989 became Pescara's first team coach in Serie B. The "Delfini" (The Dolphins) finished 8th.

Between 1990 and 1992 he was at Cosenza in Serie B. The "Lupi della Sila" (The Sila Wolves) finished 16th and 5th (going close to promotion)

In the following five seasons he changed club every year; Verona (B- 12th), Bologna (C1-replacing Alberto Zaccheroni after 12 games, 4th), Lecce (B, briefly for 10 games between Luciano Spinosi and Piero Lenzi, relegated), Brescia (B, 1st and promoted), Torino (B, from 6th game onwards taking over from Giancarlo Camolese, joint 4th but lost promotion playoff to Perugia on penalties.).

After a year off he reappeared at Vicenza in 1999-2000 in Serie B. He took the "Lane" (The Woolies) up to Serie A in 1st place but the following season was unable to avoid relegation with a 16th place (they lost twice to Lazio but did beat Milan). The squad included future Lazio Ousmane Dabo and Fabio Firmani and future World Champion Luca Toni.

In 2001 he was appointed Genoa manager at Christmas taking over from "Professore" Franco Scoglio but only lasted 2 months. For the record the Rossoblu finished 12th in Serie B.

In 2003 he took over at Catania for 9 games in Serie B in a farcical season. The Etnei started with Francesco Graziani and Maurizio Pellegrino but they lasted one game.. in came Welsh legend John Toshack for one game before the original duo returned until the 12th game when Toshack returned until the 20th game, then in came Edy Reja for 9 games until Vincenzo Guerini took over for the last 9 games. The "Elefanti" were unsurprisingly relegated in 17th place but then stayed up due to other clubs' financial irregularities.

In 2003-04 after 17 games he took over, from future Italy manager Giampiero Ventura, at Cagliari in Serie B. He got the "Casteddu" promoted in 2nd place. His squad included future Chelsea legend Gianfranco Zola and future Lazio Rolando Bianchi.

Between 2005 and 2009 Reja was at Napoli. He started off in serie C1 (Napoli had gone bust) and got the Partenopei promoted to Serie B. The following year came another promotion to Serie A with 2nd place. He then finished 8th and 12th in Serie A.

In 2009 he went for his first foreign experience when he joined Croatians Hajduk Split. He was manager from August 18 to February 9. Then during the winter break in Croatia he was called back to Italy to help salvage Lazio's collapsing season.

He arrived in Rome and took over from Davide Ballardini who had won the Italian Supercoppa (Inter 2-1) but then had a disastrous Serie A campaign. Lazio were in deep trouble in the relegation battle. Reja won the first match 2-0 away at Parma and then after some bad results Lazio finished strongly and came 12th (even qualifying for the Intertoto Cup due to Livorno and Messina dropping out). Reja won 7, drew 3 and lost 5.

He was confirmed for the following season. Lazio finished 5th going close to a Champions League qualification.

In 2011-12 he stayed on in the capital. Lazio again went extremely close to a Champions League slot but just lost out to Udinese again. Lazio finished 4th after 18 wins, 8 draws and 12 defeats. After many years Lazio triumphed in both derbies, both 2-1.

For the 2012 season he was replaced by Vladimir Petkovic but it was not the end of his connection with Lazio. During the Christmas break in 2013-14 he was called back to replace the Bosnian polyglot, due to bad results and having already signed a contract with Switzerland for July.

Reja debuted beating Inter 1-0 and led Lazio to 9th place (W 10, D 6, L5) but was knocked out of Europa League by Bulgarians Ludogorets 3-4 on aggregate.

In March 2015 he was called up by Atalanta to substitute Stefano Colantuono. He won 2, drew 8 (including Lazio and Roma) and lost 3 and the Nerazzurri avoided relegation.

In 2015-6 he was confirmed by Atalanta and the "Dea" finished 13th. The Nerazzurri won 11 (including Lazio 2-1 at home, Roma 0-2 away and Milan), drew 12 (including Roma) and lost 15 (including Lazio away 0-2).

In April 2019 he became national manager of Albania. He stayed with the Albanian Eagles until December 2022. His record reads 14 wins, 9 draws and 15 defeats. His best result was winning promotion to Group B in the Nations League in 2020-21.

In March 2023 he became the coach of Gorica in the Slovenian top flight. The club were in deep trouble four points adrift at the bottom of the league. By April they were joint bottom so had hopes of survival but at this point Reja resigned. For the record Gorica were eventually relegated in penultimate position.

At 77 years of age it is unclear if Reja will continue his career. It has certainly been a long one with ups and downs. Reja is considered an old school manager, strict and defensive. In his career he has won 5 promotions (4 to A and 1 to B).

At Lazio he is well liked despite narrowly missing out on champions league qualifications two years running. He came to help Lazio out twice in times of need. The first time he avoided relegation and the second he improved the team again. In between he won two derbies in the same year after a long time ('97-98) but was possibly too defensive and conservative, which ultimately prevented him conquering Lazio fans' hearts completely, to achieve Champions League qualifications. That said he will always receive a warm welcome in Rome on the Lazio side of town.



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