Archive for January 16th, 2008

Maniche, the New Face of Inter Milan

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

Maniche, the New Face of Inter Milan

His full name, says Gazzetta, is almost as long as the list of trophies he accumulated during his career. But hopefully for Inter, Nuno Ricardo de Oliveira Ribeiro “MANICHE” has thirst to add many more to his curriculum. The recent transfer from Atletico Madrid felt quite relaxed at his Milan press conference this week, and is very eager to begin his contribution towards the Nerazzurri’s chase for the UEFA Champions League. “To win“, Maniche said, “we must be a family, a united group. It will be difficult because there are many strong teams out there, but Inter has all the necessary qualities in order to achieve this objective“.

Luís Figo, age 35Santiago Solari, age 31Maniche is the 3rd player on Inter’s roster (after Luís Figo and Santiago Solari), to have already won the “Cup with the Big Ears” with another club (FC Porto). An experience which the Inter board and manager Roberto Mancini will undoubtedly be counting on. “The first impression I got arriving at Inter was very positive” said Maniche. “There is an incredible organization, everyone knows what to do, and it’s very important because a player can then focus strictly on playing“.

From Rojiblanco to Nerazzurro

Maniche, age 30, presented with his new Inter nº28 shirt alongside Marco Branca and Gabriele OrialiThere is no doubt that Maniche will find a much calmer atmosphere here, at the Pinetina training ground, compared to that of Vicente Calderón stadium (the relationship with Atletico Madrid coach Javier Aguirre had reached breaking point this past month). However, Maniche made a point in specifying some things about his ‘difficult character’: “Some have said I’m not very easy to live with. But having a strong opinionated mind doesn’t necessary mean being ‘difficult’. One must have respect for his own profession and be sincere. In any case I’m not thinking about my Atletico Madrid experience anymore, that’s in the past“.

If all goes according to plan for Inter, Roberto Mancini could utilize his new Portuguese recruit as early as Thursday afternoon, for the Coppa Italia match against Reggina (which should also feature, hear hear, Filippo Mancini a.k.a. Roberto’s son, age 17). In any case, we should definitely see Maniche in the starting line-up against Parma this Serie A week-end. A welcome addition for the Inter coach who’s been dealing with many injuries in midfield this season. “In my career I almost always played as a regular player, but this is Inter, there’s much competition for a spot in the starting 11. However I am convinced that I’ll do well“. The Portuguese star added: “I am a team player, not an individualist. It will not be easy but I will work hard to be always ready. One thing’s for sure, I didn’t come to Milan on holiday“.

Maniche (who will be wearing nº28, because his favorite nº18 is already taken by Hernan Crespo) has 5 months to convince the Inter bosses (the duration of the Atletico Madrid loan). “I have spoken a lot to Luís [Figo]” said Maniche, “and he told me there’s a great atmosphere, people who are used to winning so I will not have any adaptation problems. I know the Serie A is physically very demanding, but I am sure I’ll be staying much longer than a few months“. For Inter’s sake, we can only hope so too.

The History Behind the Nickname

Danish Benfica legend, Michael MannicheManiche’s name on his identity card is in reality Nuno Ricardo de Oliveira Ribeiro. The nickname “Maniche”, which through the past years has become the tag name by which everyone identifies the 30-year old Portuguese international, actually originally belongs to Danish striker Michael Manniche, born in Copenhagen on July 17, 1959. Danish Manniche played for 5 seasons (1982-87) in the Portuguese club Benfica, for which he played 132 games and scored 75 goals in the Portugal SuperLiga. At the time, a 7-year old boy named Nuno (our “current” Maniche) fell in love with the playing style of the tall blonde Dane, and eventually chose Manniche’s name as his own (or almost that is… he removed an “N”).

Juventus Fury at the Olimpico: 5 Goals to Get Past Empoli and Qualify for Quarters (Coppa Italia Round of 16 L2)

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

Coppa Italia Tim Cup 2007-08

Quite the goalfest in Italy this week. After the thumping 5-2 display at the San Siro this week-end, the fun continued on Tuesday, for the Coppa Italia Round of 16 return leg, Juventus-Empoli. As it turned out, this match revealed the two faces of Claudio Ranieri’s reserve side, taking great inspiration from a very famous Robert Louis Stevenson novel. Taking turns playing Dr. Jekyll tonight, protagonists such as Marco Marchionni, Pavel Nedved, Vincenzo Iaquinta, and Alessandro Del Piero. In the role of Mr. Hyde, we found Zdenek Grygera, Jean-Alain Boumsong, Tiago Mendes, and Emanuele Belardi. Thank God this was only an Italian Cup game… but wait, isn’t this the only cup Juve are competing in this year?

Coppa Italia Round of 16 Leg 2 - Juventus 5-3 Empoli

The answer to that last question is, sadly, yes. So you’d think that Ranieri’s choices for Juve’s “mini-Champions League” competition (as the Bianconeri have called it) would include a higher concentration of regular starters in the line-up, I mean especially since Empoli had obtained a 2-1 victory in the 1st leg, which gave them a fairly good opportunity of going through to the next round. No? I agree with giving the reserves a chance to shine, but looking at Juve’s starting 11 the only regular starters in sight were Chiellini, C.Zanetti, and Nedved. So… great confidence or sheer madness from Claudio ‘the Tinkerer’ Ranieri?

The first 10 minutes of tonight’s match pointed strongly towards the former. It took Juve very little to take, believe it or not, a double lead thanks to the goals by Marchionni (deep run down the right, dribble to the center and left-footed finish) and Nedved (slamming rebound from the edge of the box after a shaky goalkeeper clearance). 2-0 Juve with 9 minutes on the clock.

Unlike Ranieri however, Empoli coach Alberto Malesani didn’t shy away from his usual starters: Vannucchi, Abate, Antonini and Pozzi were all present, and it was no coincidence to see the last three combine to provide Empoli with the reduction of the lead first, then the equalizing goal. On the first occasion, a deep run on the right wing by Ignazio Abate found the foot of a faster-than-Grygera Luca Antonini for the finish. Then just seconds before the break, it was Nicola Pozzi putting his mark on the 2-2 tally, exploiting a cross of… once again, Abate. Juve were thus in an awkward position: having to score twice to qualify to the next round. The fact that Giorgio Chiellini had to leave the field, on what likely seemed a twisted knee injury (early reports are talking about 1 month recovery time) certainly didn’t help make things easier.

Nevertheless, the 2nd half started like an exact copy of the 1st: only 5 minutes on the clock and ball in the net for Juve. Exploiting a long pass forward, Iaquinta shielded the ball from his marker then slammed a low diagonal shot past Daniele Balli. 3-2. Three minutes later another goal, Juve once agai… wait no. Huh… I thought this was like the 1st half? Yeah, except this time the goal came Empoli’s way, thanks once again to some very shaky defending (on this one, Boumsong the culprit and Pozzi the scorer). 3-3.

So, once again, Juve were being forced to score a double tally to earn their ticket to the Quarter-finals. 10 minutes passed, and Iaquinta took the first step by converting an open-net chance after a Raffaele Palladino rebound shot. 4-3… could the scoring ever stop at the Olimpico tonight?

As it turned out, Ranieri’s team would also be helped by fate a tiny bit, because after picking up a knock, defender Francesco Pratali couldn’t return to the field and Malesani couldn’t replace him, having already reached the total of maximum substitutions allowed. So, Empoli had to finish the game 10 vs. 11, bad stuff against a fully pumped Juventus. In minute 76, Iaquinta once again exploited a pass from Nedved to set up a shot inside the box, but his finish was thwarted by Tosto. Illegally that is. The ensuing penalty shot was transformed by Del Piero, and Juve had the lead they needed.

To keep the suspense alive the Bianconeri even had the luxury of blowing away three unmissable chances in the final minutes (twice through Salihamdzic and once through Del Piero), but it didn’t matter in the end: at the end of 90 minutes, the show for the Stadio Olimpico faithful had included 8 goals, and the qualification of their favorite team to the Quarter-final stage of Coppa Italia. Could you ask more? A new pacemaker maybe?


Juventus F.C.
[Match Highlights]
 Empoli F.C.
GOALSCORERS: 5’ Marchionni (J), 9’ Nedved (J), 32’ Antonini (E), 45’, 50’ Pozzi (E), 48’, 60’ Iaquinta (J), 76’ pen. Del Piero (J)
JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Belardi – Birindelli, Grygera, Chiellini (19′ Boumsong), Molinaro – Marchionni, C.Zanetti, Tiago (46’ Salihamidzic), Nedved – Palladino (62’ Del Piero), Iaquinta. (bench: Buffon, Castiglia, Esposito, Trezeguet). Coach: Ranieri.
EMPOLI (4-5-1): Bassi (46’ Balli) – Raggi, Adani, Pratali, Tosto – Abate (65’ Buscè), Piccolo (61’ Marianini), Moro, Antonini, Vannucchi – Pozzi (bench: Marzoratti, Ascoli, Giovinco, Saudati). Coach: Malesani.