Roberto Mancini’s task as the new manager of Galatasaray is to turn around the fortunes of a side who had steadily been falling further from the pace under Fatih Terim, and his first test is tomorrow night’s Champions League clash with the Bianconeri.
But in his pre-match press conference at Juventus Stadium, the 48- year-old Italian reiterated the difficulty of the task he faces in leading a team that he has only just joined up with for the very first time into a game as important as tomorrow evening’s fixture.
Things have moved incredibly quickly for Galatasaray and Mancini in the past few days, and he started by expressing the challenge of inspiring a team without having had the opportunity to build any kind of rapport beforehand.
“For me it will be quite strange”, he admitted, “because I met the squad for the first time yesterday and I don’t have a magic wand.”
Nevertheless, he continued by describing how he could not have hoped to come up against more appropriate opposition in his first match in the Galatasaray hotseat.
“Making my return to the Champions League against Juventus is a wonderful thing for me, and I think that any controversy that might have occurred in the past has now disappeared, not least because I myself was born a Juventus fan and remained so right up until I was 13 or 14.”
Mancini did manage to pick up two 1-1 draws against Juventus as manager of Manchester City in the 2010/11 Europa League group stages, but the Bianconeri of today are a very different side, something that he went on to acknowlegde.
“We’ll come up against a great team, who have improved a great deal over the past two years thanks to Antonio Conte’s efforts. It will be very hard for us.”
And Mancini’s job is made all the more difficult by the stature of the man he replaced. Fatih Terim is an icon of the club and was much loved by the fans, leaving big shoes for his successor to fill.
He noted: “I think he’s the best Turkish manager and one of the best in Europe, so it’s normal that he’s much loved by the fans. My task will be to continue the good work the Fatih has done.”
An added spice to tomorrow night’s fixture is the possibility that Mancini will encounter Carlos Tevez once again if the Argentine manages to overcome his ankle injury, and the Galatasaray boss was full of praise for the player he oversaw at Manchester City.
“I’m happy to be meeting him again after just four months because we always had an extraordinary relationship and we won three titles together at Manchester City. He’s a great player and I don’t think he’ll pull out because of an ankle injury.”
On the subject of old acquaintances, next to speak at Juventus Stadium was Felipe Melo, who joined the Bianconeri in July 2009 and made a permanent move to Galatasaray after two seasons on loan in Istanbul this summer.
The Brazilian endured a difficult time with a struggling Juventus side, but he insisted that there is still a place in his heart for the black and white stripes.
“Of course I’m still fond of Juventus because I spent two years here in which we also suffered a bit, and when you go through an experience like that you become emotionally attached. Now, though, I just want to do whatever’s required to help Galatasaray.
“When I was at Juve I never held back, and everyone knows that I always wore my heart on my sleeve in every game. I’m happy for my ex-team-mates because they’ve won a lot in these last two years, but saying that I hope to put in a good performance and bring home three points.”
Melo concluded by reinforcing the point that he is relishing the chance to play against such a strong side.
“I’m happy to be here because you don’t get to play at such a high level very often. The Juve midfield is one of the strongest in Europe alongside Barcelona, Real Madrid and Paris Saint Germain’s.”