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Baresi hails former team-mate Di Canio's managerial qualities
FRANCO BARESI admits he never envisaged Paolo Di Canio becoming a manager – but the Italian legend now believes his former AC Milan team-mate has what it takes to succeed at the highest level.
Having spent two years together at the San Siro, Baresi and Di Canio will be reunited tomorrow when they line up in the AC Milan Glorie squad for Steve Harper’s charity game at St James’ Park.
While Baresi’s only backroom role since retiring from playing saw him briefly take over as director of football at Fulham – a spell that came to an abrupt end when he clashed with then manager Jean Tigana – Di Canio enjoyed a successful stint at Swindon Town before replacing Martin O’Neill as Sunderland manager towards the end of last season.
The volatile Italian has hardly been out of the headlines since, and while Baresi concedes Di Canio never came across as a typical managerial candidate, he believes he has some crucial attributes that mark him out as a natural for the role.
“When I played with Paolo at AC Milan, I felt he was a really talented and a very good player, although he only played with us for a short period,” said Baresi, who is looking forward to marking Alan Shearer in tomorrow night’s game. “When I was playing, I never thought that he could become a manager.
“But now it is easier to see why it has worked. He has shown that he has a strong character, with passion. His objective was never to coach in Italy – it was always to come back to England.
“I think that Paolo now has a good chance to be a really big success, and I don’t think he will want to miss it. He will do his best to show that he can do it.”
Di Canio’s regard for Baresi is apparent from his autobiography, which contains a number of passages extolling the former centre-half’s qualities and professionalism.
In one passage, Di Canio says: “Watching Baresi play was a treat to anyone who loves the game. Simply put, he was as close to perfect as any footballer I have seen.”
Rio Ferdinand tells how Di Canio would instruct him to watch Baresi for central-defensive lessons when the pair were playing together at West Ham, and the 53-year-old’s presence is understood to be one of the reasons why the Sunderland boss had agreed to play in tonight’s game, despite it being staged at St James’ Park.
Baresi is one of the driving forces behind the AC Milan Glorie project, and is equally delighted to have secured the services of Di Canio, whose forceful personality means he is unlikely to treat any game as an inconsequential outing.
“I’m honoured that Paolo mentioned me in his book, and said such nice things,” said Baresi. “He has got some skills and character that he will definitely try to bring to his players.
“He has a certain attitude that will be reflected in his teams. Paolo is a passionate person and that will come through. You get respect if you are an example and he wants to be the example for his players.”
* Tickets for the Steve Harper 20 Years Game, which will raise funds for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, Great North Children’s Hospital and Newcastle United Foundation, are priced £10 for adults and £5 for children and concessions.
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