1. You have recently decided to return to Italy after 11 years and become AS Roma manager. What is your top preparation tactic for making a big decision?
When making big decisions, I make sure I have all the information I need to hand. This is the top ‘tactic’ because it is impossible to make any decisions without knowing all the details and taking time to understand them.
2. What was the biggest decision you made in your career and how did you prepare to make this decision?
The biggest career decision I’ve made has been to be a football manager. I made the decision that I wanted this career and to dedicate my life to being the best I can be in this area.
3. How difficult is it to use your instincts/expertise in the face of data if you feel the two don’t mirror each other?
They [instinct and data] both have an important role. I think if all decisions are based solely on data, then many factors will be missed; data doesn’t give the full picture. When you sign a player, it isn’t just their data but their mentality, their support system, their work ethic, that are so important. You see that when players make a step to a big club, they need to have the mentality to take on the pressure and the expectation, and deliver!
4. High-pressure is a normal part of the job of every football manager, but when a such situation suddenly appears without warning, what piece of advice can you offer to someone to help them cope?
It comes down to preparation. It’s important to always be prepared for all eventualities, because, in this way, you can adapt to pressure moments by relying on your preparation and your repetition.
5. How do you handle your emotions during a high-pressured situation?
Once the whistle goes, I am only focused on the match and the moment. I don’t think about me or my emotions; I think about what is in front of me and what we need to do to adapt to what is happening.
6. What has been the most highly pressured situation you have had to face in your career?
For me, every game has a pressure because they all mean different things. There is pressure with a derby, a semi-final to make the final, a final to win the trophy, and 3 points to progress up the table and not lose your position. The best way to keep the pressure away is to prepare with consistency, and also in normal conditions so the players don’t feel anything different.
7. How do you deal with pressure from the fans, players and press?
We don’t let outside influences affect what we do inside. Pressure is always there in football, so we focus on the basics and our preparation and we keep the environment fun but committed and professional.
8. Both in investing, football and everyday life not everything always goes as we want. What top tips can you offer to someone who is dealing with a situation that didn't go as planned?
I think it is all about preparation; when you prepare for all eventualities, it allows you to adapt quicker and also eliminates the surprise element. When I was at Porto, I told the team I expected to draw United, the hardest team in the draw - we then drew United, but we were prepared so it was as we expected, and we weren’t worried about the challenge ahead.
9. What has been the biggest situation in your career that didn't go as you would have expected?
I think the biggest surprise can be when something goes perfectly to plan, just as you predicted, because, in football, you almost always expect something to happen that you don’t prepare for. When we won the Champions League final with Inter Milan, it was a perfect game in that sense. What we prepared for, we executed, and I felt we were always in control.
10. How important is it to surround yourself with the right people?
It is incredibly important to surround yourself with the right people, and I rely on my team a lot. The squads these days are so big, and there are so many tasks for a manager that you need to know you can maintain quality levels even when you aren’t there. You also need to be challenged and supported when it comes to key decisions for the team.