Born in the Tuscan town of Certaldo, Luciano Spalletti spent the entirety of his playing career in the lower leagues with the likes of Spezia, Viareggio and Empoli. It was with the latter that Spalletti, upon hanging up his boots in 1993, had his first taste of management. His time with the Azzurri was a revelation, initially staving off the threat of relegation from the third division before sealing a double promotion to Serie A in 1997.
After keeping them up the following season in Italy’s top tier, Spalletti endured a somewhat turbulent four years, switching between Sampdoria, Venezia, Udinese and Ancona, before returning to the Udinese dugout in 2002. There he would work his wonders in guiding the Zebrette to the UEFA Cup in 2004 and then the Champions League in 2005 – the Friulian outfit’s first ever qualification to Europe’s premier club competition.
His achievements in north-east Italy were turning heads in the capital and that summer he would move south to take over the reins at Roma. His first three seasons with the Giallorossi saw them make steady progress, culminating in their second-place finish and 82 points in the 2007/08 season. During that campaign, he also led the club to a second Italian Super Cup in their history and a second straight Coppa Italia – incidentally the last trophies to have been won by Roma.