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  • Writer's pictureSimon Basten

Manager Series: Mario Sperone

Updated: Sep 26, 2023

Mario Sperone was Lazio manager in 1948-49, substituting Orlando Tognotti, 1949-50, 1950-51 as well as in 1953-54.

Mario Sperone is the first on the left standing. Source Wikipedia

Sperone was born in Priocca near Cuneo on July 1, 1905. He played football as a midfielder for Torino from 1923 to when he retired in 1932. He even played a couple of friendlies for the Nazionale in 1927.

Source Wikipedia

With Torino he won two scudetti. The first, 1926-27, was revoked for an alleged case of match fixing. He won the second in 1927-28. The National Division was divided into two groups of 11 teams with the top four going to a second phase to determine the winner. Torino topped their group in the first phase ahead of Genoa, Alessandria and Milan (Lazio had arrived 10th). In the final round Torino won ahead of Genoa and Alessandria. It was the first scudetto for Torino.

He became a manager and continued with Torino. In 1938 he substituted Gyula Feldmann who had been sacked. He was then assistant to Erno Erbstein, Tony Cargnelli and Andra Kuttik. In 1942-43 he coached Cinzano and after the war Alessandria and Biellese.

In 1947-48 he returned to Torino and won the championship together with Roberto Copernico as Technical Director.

In 1948 he became manager of Lazio. The Biancocelesti started the season under Orlando Tognotti but after 10 games they had only four points. Lazio’s first match under Sperone was Lazio-Bologna on November 21, 1948. Bologna had won the scudetto the previous season and had never lost a game so far. Lazio had never won. Nobody would have expected what was to happen. The Biancocelesti destroyed Bologna 8-2 with two goals from Aldo Puccinelli and Romano Penzo and one each from Ferenc Nyers, Salvatore Gualtieri and Mario Magrini plus an own goal. The season became a decent one and Lazio ended up 10th.

Source Wikipedia

What followed were two magnificent seasons where Lazio reached consecutive 4th places behind the great powers of the North, Milan, Inter and Juventus. The team was characterised by a strong defence (the iron defence it was called) with Lucidio Sentimenti IV in goal and defenders Zeffiro Furiassi, Francesco Antonazzi, Stefano Malacarne, Romolo Alzani, Vittorio Sentimenti III and Leandro Remondini. The attack was also great with Norbert Hofling, Romano Penzo, Aldo Puccinelli, Enrique Flamini and Flavio Cecconi. An excellent Lazio, historically one of the best.

In 1951-52 he went back to Torino but was fired in March. Sperone’s next job was with Milan for the 1952-53 season in which they came third. In those years he also coached the Nazionale Under-21 from 1951 to 1953.

He came back to Lazio for the 1953-54 season but Lazio were disappointingly 10th and in March he was sacked and replaced by Federico Allasio. He was then head coach at Palermo in Serie B for the 1954-55 season taking the place of Adolfo Baloncieri after just 5 games. Palermo the previous year had been relegated from Serie A, but it was a bad year and they only just managed to avoid relegation to Serie C.

In 1955-56 he came in to rescue Alessandria in the 6th game of the season of Serie B and the Piedmontese arrived 9th. He was confirmed as manager and Alessandria were favourites for promotion. After an excellent start, in March they collapsed and it looked as if Serie A was not to be. Sperone resigned and the Piedmontese regained confidence, reached second place together with Brescia and won the playoff.

At this point he stopped managing and worked for Torino as a scout for the youth sector.

Sperone was a follower of the mezzo-sistema, a reinterpretation, Italian style, of the classic British WM. It was first adopted by the Great Torino of the late 1940s and was more flexible than the WM. Strictly defensive, the formation was a 1-3-3-3, creating scoring opportunities with the counterattack, with long balls after winning back possession. The more extreme mezzo-sistema was the catenaccio.

He was a great manager and Lazio thrived under him especially in his first stint. The two consecutive 4th places were the best the Biancocelesti could achieve in those years.

Mario Sperone died in Turin on February 17, 1975.



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