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  • Writer's pictureDag Jenkins

Manager Series: Ilario Castagner

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

Ilario Castagner was manager of Lazio in the 1980-81 season and half of the 1981-82 championship.

Source Wikipedia

Castagner was born in Vittorio Veneto (Treviso), on December 18, 1940.

He was a forward and his first professional club was Reggiana in Serie B in the 1959-60 season. He played 9 league games and scored 2 goals (Modena, Cagliari). The "Granata" narrowly missed out on promotion, finishing 5th.

In 1960 he joined Legnano in Serie C. He played 23 league games for "I Lilla" and scored 5 goals.

He then made a life changing move to Perugia in Serie C. He stayed three years in Umbria, playing 84 games with 33 goals and also met his future wife Liliana.

Source Wikipedia

In 1964 he moved to Tuscany to play for Prato in Serie C. He stayed three seasons with 88 appearances and 17 goals.

The last two years of his playing career were spent at Rimini in Serie C. He played 51 league games and scored 16 goals.

So a decent Serie C career with plenty of goals but it was as a manager that he would reach the big time.

He started the second phase of his career in Perugia in 1974. It started with a bang and the "Grifoni" won Serie B and promotion. In the following years came respectable 8th, 6th and 7th places.

In 1977 the Perugini were hit by tragedy. Their midfielder Renato Curi collapsed and died on the field during a Perugia vs Juventus game, on October 30. The ground now bears his name, Stadio Renato Curi.

In 1978-79 Perugia performed their masterpiece. They went the whole season unbeaten and went close to winning the title, eventually finishing 2nd, three points behind Milan. That team are known as the "Perugia dei miracoli". The squad included Pierluigi Frosio, Salvatore Bagni, Paolo Dal Fiume, Franco Vannini, Gianfranco Casarsa and future Lazio Walter Speggiorin.

After the "miracle" he stayed one more season with the Biancorossi and finished 7th with a young Paolo Rossi in the team. In the UEFA Cup Perugia were knocked out in the Round of 32 by Greeks Aris Thessaloniki 1-4 on aggregate.

Source Lazio Wiki

In 1980 Castagner joined Lazio. His timing however was unfortunate. Lazio had just been demoted to Serie B due to some of their players alleged involvement in the Calcio Scommesse scandal. Lazio renewed the squad with some legends leaving; Pino Wilson (retired), Vincenzo D'Amico (Torino) as well as Mauro Tassotti (Milan) and Andrea Agostinelli (Pistoiese). In came keeper Maurizio Moscatelli (Pistoiese), defenders Giorgio Mastropasqua (Bologna), Arcadio Spinozzi (Bologna), midfielders Alberto Bigon (Milan), Dario Sanguin (Vicenza), plus forward Stefano Chiodi (Milan).

It was a team with promotion potential if you added Carlo Perrone, Paolo Pochesci, Filippo Citterio, Nando Viola, Maurizio Montesi, Aldo Nicoli among others. Lazio started well and were unbeaten until January (Milan 0-2) but then slowed down. They did however maintain promotion hopes until the end but a Chiodi missed penalty in the 90th minute in the penultimate game of the season meant Lazio missed out and ended up 4th, two points from the third slot. A huge disappointment. New keeper Moscatelli breaking his Achilles’ tendon in December and Chiodi's poor performances did not help the Biancocelesti's cause.

Castagner however stayed on the following season. Scudetto heroes Vincenzo D' Amico returned from Torino and Felice Pulici from Ascoli. Also arriving were defender Vincenzo Chiarenza (Taranto), midfielder Michele De Nadai (Roma) and strikers Walter Speggiorin (Napoli) and Claudio Vagheggi (Vicenza). Chiodi was sent packing to Bologna on loan.

After a terrible start (1 point in 3 games), Lazio picked up with 3 consecutive wins but then faltered again and despite some wins were inconsistent. The nail in the coffin for Castagner was a 0-3 home defeat by Palermo on January 24 and he was sacked. This was also the only time Simon and I have ever left a match before full-time ... three nil down, in 10 men (D'Amico sent off) and being outplayed ... members of the jury have clemency. Roberto Clagluna took over and Lazio finished a mediocre 11th. Speggiorin turned out to be no better if not worse than Chiodi. Luckily Bruno Giordano would be back soon.

Castagner's next experience was with Milan in Serie B. The previous year the Rossoneri had been surprisingly relegated so were back in the "purgatory" with Lazio. The "Diavolo" won the league, ahead of Lazio, and were back in the big time after 19 wins, 16 draws and 3 defeats.

Castagner was confirmed in Serie A. The first match was a disastrous 0-4 defeat at Avellino. Milan were then having a mid-table season when Castagner was suddenly sacked in May after the 24th fixture (2-2 away draw in Florence) for already having an agreement with city rivals Inter for the following season. Assistant coach Italo Galbiati took over for the last 6 league games and the summer Coppa Italia.

As it was, Castagner's next team was, unsurprisingly, Inter. In his first season the Nerazzurri finished 3rd and reached the semis of both the Coppa Italia (Milan 1-2 aggregate) and the UEFA Cup (Real Madrid 2-3 aggregate).

In 1985-86 Inter brought in Marco Tardelli from Juventus, Luciano Marangon and Pierino Fanna from Verona and Aldo Serena came back from Torino but Castagner only lasted 10 games. The "Beneamata" won 5, drew 3 and lost 2 but it was not enough and Castagner was on his way, replaced by club legend Mariolino Corso. Inter finished 6th (with players like Walter Zenga, Giuseppe Bergomi, Riccardo Ferri, Fulvio Collovati, Giuseppe Baresi, Liam Brady, Andrea Mandorlini, Gianpiero Marini, Alessandro Altobelli and Karl-Heinz Rummenigge).

Castagner then joined newly promoted Ascoli in Serie A. The "Picchio" (The Woodpecker) finished 12th (beating Milan and Inter) and won the Mitropa Cup (Bohemians Prague 1-0).

He stayed on the following season and the Bianconeri finished 12th (again beating Inter).

In 1989 he joined Pescara in Serie B. The "Delfini" (The Dolphins) started well getting through the first two rounds of Coppa Italia in the summer but then had a difficult start in the league. In the first 5 matches the Biancazzurri won 1, drew 1 and lost 3 (including Torino 0-7). Castagner was sacked and replaced by future Lazio Eddy Reja. In the end the "Adriatici" finished 8th.

In 1991-92 he was manager of Pisa in Serie B. The Nerazzurri came 6th.

After a year off he then returned to his beloved Perugia in Serie C in 1993. Castagner took the "Grifoni" back up to Serie B with 1st place. The following year he was replaced by his assistant Mauro Viviani in mid-march after a series of disappointing results. The Umbri finished 7th.

In April 1998 he was back with Perugia in Serie B. With 11 games to go to try and go for a promotion push. The results were excellent: 7 wins and 4 draws. Perugia then won the Serie A playoff against Torino on penalties. It was Castagner's second Serie A promotion with his adopted town.

The 1998-99 season would be his last. He resigned after 20 matches (W6, D4, L 10) after disagreements with the owner, volcanic tempered Luciano Gaucci. He was replaced by Vujadin Boskov and Perugia came 14th.

Castagner then continued with something he had already done in the 80's, television punditry. He worked with major companies: Telemontecarlo, Mediaset Premium and Rai Italia.

In 2005 he also returned to Perugia to help the reconstruction after the Gaucci bankruptcy. He was Technical Director and Honorary President until October 2006.

He settled in Perugia anyway after his managerial days. His career is very much linked to the town also called "La Vetusta". His name will forever be linked with the "Perugia dei miracoli".

At Lazio he was unlucky. He was a big name when he arrived and there was great optimism. He went close to promotion and had Chiodi not missed the possibly decisive penalty his Lazio days may have turned out very differently.

Castagner died in Perugia on 18 February, 2023.



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