Gnonto still in awe of working with Mancini at Italy: 'He was an idol'

By Sports Desk March 22, 2023

Wilfried Gnonto has expressed his continued disbelief at working alongside Italy head coach Roberto Mancini as they prepare to start their Euro 2024 qualifiers against England on Thursday.

Italy missed out on the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after a loss to North Macedonia in their qualifying play-off in March last year.

It was the second successive World Cup that the Azzurri had missed and came just months after their victorious Euro 2020 campaign that saw them beat England on penalties in the final.

Gnonto made his international debut in May 2022 and looks set to add to his eight caps for the national side when they face England on Thursday before travelling to Malta on Sunday. 

The Leeds United winger was a product of the Inter youth academy when Mancini was in charge of the Italian side and hailed the national team boss as one of his inspirations.

In an interview with Corriere della Sera, Gnonto said: "I remember when I was young at Inter and he coached the first team. He was an idol and I never expected to be in the national team with him."

The winger became the youngest goalscorer for Italy when he scored against Germany last June and backs Mancini's recent claim that Italy have young talent comparable to England's Jude Bellingham.

He said: "He gave a strong signal, both with me and with other young people. We hope many others will follow."

The 19-year-old also hailed to influence of former assistant coach Gianluca Vialli, who worked with the younger players extensively before passing away after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

"He immediately tried to make me feel part of the group and to give me advice. The moments spent together and his words will always remain with me," Gnonto said.

Leeds sit 14th in the Premier League but just two points off the relegation zone, with Gnonto registering four goals in all competitions since his move from Zurich last year. 

"I didn't even hope so much, it all happened very quickly and I didn't have time to realise," he said, reflecting on his transfer to the Premier League. 

"But it was a beautiful emotion. The impact was good on a personal level, the team is experiencing some ups and downs.

"It seems like a dream to me. I come from Baveno and I never expected one day to get to the Premier League or to receive compliments from such players. I live everything with great pride and I always try to commit myself to improve."

Related items

  • Man City players going ‘in the fridge’ to chill after busy week – Pep Guardiola Man City players going ‘in the fridge’ to chill after busy week – Pep Guardiola

    Pep Guardiola feels his Manchester City players will need to cool off “in the fridge” after their exertions of the past few days.

    City responded to last Wednesday’s draining penalty shootout loss to Real Madrid by digging in for a hard-fought 1-0 victory over Chelsea in their FA Cup semi-final at Wembley on Saturday.

    The win, secured by a late goal from Bernardo Silva, maintained their hope of defending the domestic double but Guardiola later hit out at the scheduling of the fixture.

    The City boss felt his players should have been allowed more rest after their European game and he now intends to give them a break before they return to Premier League action at Brighton on Thursday.

    “In the fridge for two days,” said Guardiola when asked what his plans were for his squad ahead of the trip to the Amex Stadium.

    “Don’t see each other, stay at home with your families. Try to rest, nothing special.

    “Two days to prepare for Brighton and (Nottingham) Forest. One game at a time.”

    Guardiola clarified comments after the game suggesting he could boycott media duties over the issue.

    The Spaniard insisted he meant to say he would not have time to go above and beyond the usual obligations.

    “No, it’s Gary Lineker – come on!” he said, in reference to the host of Saturday’s BBC TV coverage.

    “If they ask for a photoshoot for the broadcasters, I’ll say no I’m busy, I don’t have time. It’s a joke for the future.

    “I always attend the media because I represent this institution. I’ve always done it and will always do it, but if they ask for extra then I don’t have time.

    “If you put me in a game every three days then the managers have a lot to do.”

    Guardiola also praised the character of Silva, who had been one of two City players to miss in the penalties in the defeat by Real. The Portuguese had also been close to being substituted shortly before scoring his 84th-minute winner.

    He said: “Always life gives you a second chance and he took it.

    “I was thinking of changing it and put Oscar (Bobb) on the right but, after the goal, Bernardo is so intelligent to keep the ball. So intuitive. In that moment I could not change him.

    “He was so tired but Bernardo has this special intelligence. I’m so happy, he deserves the best. They weren’t easy days for him.”

  • Erik ten Hag: Man Utd got away with it but Coventry scare is not ’embarrassment’ Erik ten Hag: Man Utd got away with it but Coventry scare is not ’embarrassment’

    Erik Ten Hag insisted he was not embarrassed but admitted Manchester United “got away with it” after edging past Championship Coventry on penalties in their FA Cup semi-final.

    The Premier League outfit were given an almighty scare at Wembley on Sunday as the second-tier side fought back from 3-0 down and then had a late extra-time winner disallowed for a marginal offside.

    A thrilling contest ended 3-3 after 120 minutes and it was United who ultimately prevailed, 4-2 on spot-kicks, to set up a repeat of last year’s final against rivals Manchester City.

    It was another highly unconvincing performance by United – which may have increased the pressure on under-fire manager Ten Hag – but the Dutchman tried to highlight the positives.

    Ten Hag said: “I can’t say that word (embarrassment) because, at the end of the day, it’s about the achievement.

    “I see the mistakes we make – we can’t look away from it – but it’s not an embarrassment. It’s a huge achievement.

    “Even the big team from United, a decade ago, only achieved the final three times. We now have two times in two years. So that’s a good performance.

    “I see we can play in very high levels but in the same match we can also go very low. That’s not explainable. It has to do with managing the game.

    “I have to teach my players, clearly. We have to do better in such occasions.

    “On several occasions we’ve let the result slip away but today we got away with it.”

    United had looked to be cruising past an apparently inferior opponent as they opened up a handsome lead with goals from Scott McTominay, Harry Maguire and Bruno Fernandes.

    Yet the Sky Blues, who are eighth in the Championship, pulled one back through Ellis Simms on 71 minutes and then threw caution to the wind.

    Callum O’Hare pulled another back with a deflected strike and Haji Wright sent the game into extra time with a stoppage-time penalty after handball by Aaron Wan-Bissaka.

    Both sides hit the bar in extra time before Victor Torp thought he had snatched a dramatic winner in the closing minutes, only for VAR to rule Wright fractionally offside in the build-up.

    Despite the heartbreaking manner of the loss, Sky Blues manager Mark Robins insisted there was no feeling of injustice.

    The former United striker said: “If it’s the right call, it’s the right call. I think he was a toenail offside, which is disappointing. Had he cut his toenail, we wouldn’t be talking about penalties.

    “This FA Cup run will be spoken about, certainly in Coventry City circles, for a long, long time.

    “Whilst I’m disappointed for everybody, we can’t be too down about it. We’ve gone toe to toe with Manchester United, come back from 3-0 down and almost won it with a fourth, then lost it in a shoot-out, which can happen.

    “We performed like Manchester United for that last half-hour and that’s what I’m most proud of.

    “This club has been in the doldrums for so long but we’re certainly out of that period. We’ve just got to keep moving it forward, which is why we won’t feel sorry for ourselves.”

  • Jurgen Klopp hails ‘complete’ second-half performance as Liverpool beat Fulham Jurgen Klopp hails ‘complete’ second-half performance as Liverpool beat Fulham

    Jurgen Klopp lauded Liverpool’s “complete” second-half performance after they secured a 3-1 victory at Fulham to move level on points with top-of-the-table Arsenal.

    Liverpool regained their winning touch in the Premier League after last week’s 1-0 home defeat to Crystal Palace as they enjoyed three points with goals from Trent Alexander-Arnold, Ryan Gravenberch and Diogo Jota.

    Timothy Castagne had equalised for the Cottagers with his first goal for the club in the first half but it was not enough as Klopp’s men showed their class after the break.

    “The second half was a complete performance, if you want,” Klopp said.

    “It was our best performance so far that we’ve had against Fulham. I thought the next step was to win today, the boys did that and it was really good. We created much more chances, we could’ve scored more often.

    “I’m really happy with the performance and hopefully nobody got hurt and we will see because we have to recover quickly as we’re playing on Wednesday.

    “We’re in the situation we are at the moment because of the character of these boys. Nobody expected us to be here and we are and that’s because of the boys.”

    Alexander-Arnold’s 32nd-minute free-kick was the pick of the goals after his stunning strike gave the Reds the lead.

    Klopp believes “nobody plays like” the full-back after he returned from a knee injury at Anfield last week.

    https://twitter.com/premierleague/status/1782083567528333595

    When asked how important it is to have Alexander-Arnold back in the side, Klopp added: “It’s super important.

    “Nobody is like Trent so that’s how it is. The way we play with him can be different so it’s super helpful and I’m really happy about that.

    “It’s good for once to have all the big guns around.

    “It’s a great free-kick and he has that from time to time. We needed it, it was a great goal, the other goals were good. For long periods of time Trent was exceptional, superb.”

    Fulham boss Marco Silva admitted the defending in the lead-up to Liverpool’s second and third goals needed to be better as his side rued a leaky performance at the back.

    Silva said: “I think the third goal killed the game, we were very loose on the right. It was one moment we should be stronger in the challenge because we were soft and it was a moment to stop the situation before Jota scored.

    “It was hard to concede the second and third in the second half. After that it was hard for us to react.”

© 2023 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.