How many of us look back on those 2012-14 Fiorentina squads and just sit back in amazement of that midfield? Probably a lot. Borja (my original Vlahovic), Pek, Vecino, Matigol, Ljajic and of course, Fiorentina’s recent Primavera Coppa Italia Cup winner, Mr Alberto Aquilani.
Alberto’s magnificent career started with his boyhood club AS Roma, which was followed by a blockbuster move to Liverpool, two jaunts to Juventus and AC Milan before finding his way to Firenze. Fans remember fondly his time with the club: two consecutive top four Serie A finishes with one year reaching the Europa League semi-finals. Flash forward 4 years, Alberto was back with the Viola, this time getting his first taste of coaching with the Fiorentina U18 side during the 2019/20 season. Halfway through the season, concurrent with Giuseppe Iachini’s hire, Alberto was promoted to work with the first team as part of Beppe’s coaching staff. After spending 6 months with the men’s team, Alberto was hired by the Commisso family to replace the highly successful Emiliano Bigica as head coach of the highly regarded, Fiorentina Primavera.
ViolaNation is once again humbled by the opportunity to interview such an important personality within the club.
ViolaNation: Your first game after taking over is a cup win. Can you share with us the emotions of that game?
Alberto Aquilani: It was certainly a strong emotion. It is always when there is a final with a cup up for grabs. Starting like this is always positive, we are happy for the property and for the city.
ViolaNation: How important is it for you and the young men of the Primavera to bring the Commisso family their first cup in their ownership?
Alberto Aquilani: It was very important to win for the Commisso family. Giving them the first trophy and being the first to do it is a great satisfaction for us to know how much they care about the youth sector. This win will always remain inside of each of us.
ViolaNation: (From Yotam Shavit of Viola Club Israel) What are your initial thoughts on the expectations for this season?
Alberto Aquilani: The thoughts are positive. We need to make the boys grow and bring them to the first team.
ViolaNation: How good is Christian Dalle Mura today and just how good can he be?
Alberto Aquilani: Dalle Mura is an important prospect who Fiorentina believes in and he is constantly training with the first team. If he is humble, understanding not to settle down, he can go far.
ViolaNation: We know it’s not always fair to compare young players to older ones, but I’ve heard the name “Sergio Busquets” mentioned when evaluating Dimo Krastev. Is that a good comparison for him? Do you have a better comparison?
Alberto Aquilani: Certainly playing in that position he has those characteristics and Busquets is the best in that position. Krastev is young and needs to grow. He had a good final but he needs to improve a lot.
ViolaNation: The Primavera have played a 4-3-3 or a 4-2-3-1 for much of Bigica’s tenure. What type of football can we expect from your boys during this upcoming season?
Alberto Aquilani: I’m not one who marries a module. The boys have to get used to playing differently so that when they go to the first team they will be used to the various formations.
ViolaNation: Being a youth coach isn’t quite the same as working with senior players, which is what you were doing at the start of last year. What’s been the biggest adjustment for you, going from talking to full professionals to helping teenagers fulfill their potential?
Alberto Aquilani: Coaching young people is different. They are not yet professionals and they have a lot of room for improvement. The work is different and even talking about results is not the same as for Serie A. The work with young people is done on purpose, to improve and make them grow on and off the pitch.
ViolaNation: Since a lot of players grew up watching you, have any of them been star struck?
Alberto Aquilani: I don’t know if I was an example when I was playing. The important thing is that I set an example as a teacher and as a man now.
ViolaNation: (From Yotam Shavit of Viola Club Israel) How often do you meet with Giuseppe Iachini and the senior coaching staff and what is discussed between you two? Does Beppe’s approach to the men’s team impact the Primavera?
Alberto Aquilani: I meet with him often. He is a coach who has given me so much. He was the best coach that I could have had to learn different concepts from that I didn’t know much about. He cares a lot for the Primavera.
ViolaNation: At the youth level is it more important to train the team towards the formation of the senior squad or develop the young player’s individual skill sets?
Alberto Aquilani: The goal is to train the players to get them to the first team. That is our mission.
ViolaNation: You were always one of the most elegant, creative, and technically gifted players on any pitch you stepped onto. Everyone assumes that a midfielder like you will believe in playing a positive style of game, prioritizing the attack over the defense, but that’s not always the case. Is your philosophy more positive, more Prandelli or Montella, or would you call yourself more of a pragmatist like Rafa Benítez?
Alberto Aquilani: When you are a midfielder you have an advantage because you have a global vision of the field. You are used to attacking, defending and setting. It is a role that introduces you to more aspects of the game; I would like a brave team trying to set the game.
ViolaNation: What’s it like stepping into Coverciano for the first time? After spending so much of your career working under coaches who studied there, did it have that mystique as the central library for all footballing knowledge assembled? How does the mystique of Coverciano compare to iconic stadiums that you have played in like Anfield?
Alberto Aquilani: Coverciano is one of the most prepared schools in the world, having this for us coaches is a fortune for both footballers and coaches. The Coverciano course is an important course that must be taken seriously to learn as much as possible.
Grazie, Alberto. Still can’t believe we get to talk with a legend like this.