The trend of Maltese clubs in European competitions has slightly improved in recent seasons, becoming an expectation for them to at least advance one round.
This season was not an exception as Maltese football is still represented by three teams in the second qualifying round of the UEFA Europa Conference League, the new competition launched by the European football governing body.
This competition has seen Mosta become the first club to ever score and record a victory in it after their surprising 3-2 win over Spartak Trnava.
Andrea Pisanu, who is currently still waiting for a destination ahead of the 2021-22 season, was pleased to see Maltese teams doing well in these UEFA competition qualifiers.
“Maltese teams have been doing well in the past seasons and that means that the level is improving but at the same time the teams are doing a proper job in analysing their opponents while investing in more areas inside their clubs,” Pisanu told the Times of Malta.
“In addition, these matches give more exposure to the young Maltese players because they showcase their talent on an important stage.”
One of the young Maltese players with great expectations set upon him is Alexander Satariano, the former Wanderers forward who has just secured a move to Serie B side Frosinone and has already bagged seven goals in his first two pre-season friendlies.
Pisanu coached Satariano during his spell at Sliema Wanderers and spoke fondly on the improvement that the Malta international has made during the past season.
“Alexander Satariano is a great person who is always striving for improvement and I think as a staff, but also his team-mates, did a good work with him to help him grow more,” the former Sliema player and coach said.
“When I first came at Sliema as a coach, he was a different player from now and although he has improved drastically, he is not yet finished.
“The Serie B and Italian football overall will be an interesting challenge for him which I am sure he can stand up to it.”
Other players who were under the guidance of Pisanu and are attracting interest from abroad are goalkeeper Jake Galea and Kurt Shaw, the Malta international defender.
Pisanu is certain that both Galea and Shaw have what it takes to play abroad and have plenty of room for improvement.
“When I read that they have interest from overseas, I was very happy because that means my work did result in something,” the former Cagliari player explained.
“My first objective as a coach is always to improve the players and be part of their process to maximise their potential.
“I don’t need to win titles to be happy as for me, happiness goes beyond winning – leaving a legacy and having the players improved is what matters most to me.”
Asked about whether he was tempted to embark on another adventure elsewhere in Europe, Pisanu revealed that he did have offers but at the same time, there has to be a thinking process behind every decision.
“I don’t want to go somewhere else just for the sake of coaching,” Pisanu admitted.
“First of all, if I leave I have to move with the family because they are my priority while football-wise, I need to be part of a project where I can determine with my decisions and coaching.
“I am not obsessed overtaking over a team who wants to win, but I just want to be part of a team where I can leave my blueprint because I have fun coaching and I miss it, of course.”
Pisanu is currently in Italy and had planned to return to Malta on July 7 but Sliema’s situation has not improved and he opted to remain in his native country.
Unfortunately for him, the COVID-19 restrictions meant he had to miss his UEFA Pro License ceremony as well this month.
“I am planning to return in September, given that for now I am based in Malta and together with my family, we would like to stay on the island, for at least another year,” the former Montreal Impact player explained.
“I had also planned to visit some coaches with whom I am in touch with but due to the pandemic, I have to reschedule a bit my agenda for now.”
For Pisanu, Sliema still represents an important part of his football career having been the last club he played for and when he took over as a coach, he managed to restore competitiveness to the club in less than a full season given the premature end of the 2020-21 campaign.
“I think we did well on the field but when not everything goes according to plan, you will have setbacks and unfortunately this has hindered Sliema’s preparation for the upcoming season,” Pisanu explained.
“They are still looking for a coach and continue to strengthen their squad, and what’s important for them right now is to be sustainable and stable in order to start laying foundations for a better future.”
For yet another season, Maltese football will welcome an Italian coach in Gianluca Atzori who was named new Floriana coach.
Atzori is an experienced coach, having been at the helm of clubs like Catania,
Reggina and Sampdoria, and Pisanu has no doubt that Floriana have made a good choice.
“Gianluca Atzori even called me to discuss a bit Maltese football before accepting the job as we have a good relationship having been together at Parma,” Pisanu said.
In fact, Atzori was Silvio Baldini’s assistant coach at Parma in the first part of the 2004-05 season when Pisanu was a player there.
As an Italian native, Pisanu could not be happier given Italy’s success during the recent UEFA Euro 2020 championships.
The former Serie A player heaped praise on Roberto Mancini’s work, especially because Italy may had seen their respect as an elite team diminish following the failure to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
“I think the European Championships were won by the team which deserved it the most because although Italy may have suffered during the tournament, they managed to beat some of Europe’s best teams and were consistent in their playing style,” Pisanu explained.
“This success reflects Roberto Mancini’s great work in the past two years because he did not take over a team which was in an ideal position but still managed to restore an identity and a sense of belonging.
“More than ever, these values came to the fore whenever they were needed in the moments of difficulty and that helped Italy win.”
During his Serie A days, Pisanu had faced Mancini when the current Italy coach was at the helm of giants Inter.
“Obviously, Mancini had a different job at Inter because he was tasked to win and not challenge for European spots for example,” Pisanu said.
“What I saw different in Mancini though, is the way he spoke publicly as I saw him more calm and that is maybe due to the fact that being in charge of a national team, helps you handle the pressure even more.
“When you are in charge of a big team, for example, Inter, you are 24/7 under the spotlight whereas with the national team, you are not always in the headlines and that might have influenced him, and that’s why I will put Italy among the favourites for the upcoming 2022 World Cup.”