Coaching continuity finds an unlikely home in Serie A

FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017 file photo, AC Milan head coach Vincenzo Montella looks up prior to the Europa League group D soccer match between AC Milan and Rijeka, at the Milan San Siro Stadium, Italy. Vincenzo Montella is Milan's sixth coach since current Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri was fired in January, 2014. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno, File)

For the first time in nearly 20 years, no coaches have been fired through the opening seven rounds of Serie A

ROME — Silvio Berlusconi can no longer order AC Milan's manager to change the lineup to his preferred "Christmas tree" 4-3-2-1 formation and fire the coach if he refuses.

Maurizio Zamparini, another notoriously impatient owner who has made more than 40 coaching changes in 15 years, still presides over Palermo, but which is in Serie B.

Maybe it's a coincidence but in the first season since Berlusconi sold Milan to a Chinese-led consortium, there have been no coaches fired in Serie A through seven rounds — the longest the league has gone without a sacking in nearly 20 years.

There were already two coaching changes by this time a year ago and 12 by the end of the season, including caretakers.

There was a record 17 changes in the 20-team league in 2011-12, and that doesn't include Stefano Pioli's firing by Palermo before the season even began.

The last time there were no changes this far into the season came in 1998 when Luigi Simoni was fired by Inter Milan after the 11th round.

While AC Milan has gotten off to a rocky start after a summer spending spree that brought in 11 new players, the new ownership has given constant support for coach Vincenzo Montella. Montella is the sixth manager since current Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri was fired by Berlusconi in January 2014.

"(Montella) has our respect and trust," Milan CEO Marco Fassone said this week.

"We've created a long-term project with him. We kept him with the knowledge that it was going to take a while before things work like we want them to."

Patience of the sort that Fassone expressed lies in direct contrast to the way Berlusconi, the three-time Italian premier, used to order his coaches around, removing them at the first hint of a problem.

That was the fate for the likes of Clarence Seedorf, Filippo Inzaghi, Sinisa Mihajlovic and Cristian Brocchi, each of whom coached the seven-time European champion in rapid succession recently.

France's Ligue 1 is the only other major European league without any coaching changes so far this season.

In La Liga, Alaves, Villarreal, and Las Palmas have made changes.

In the English Premier League, Frank de Boer was replaced by Roy Hodgson at Crystal Palace less than a year after De Boer was fired by Inter.

The most high-profile firing in Europe came when Carlo Ancelotti was ousted at Bayern Munich.

"Firings are part of my job," said Ancelotti, who was previously sacked by Parma, Juventus, Chelsea and Real Madrid.

While there is speculation Milan might rehire Ancelotti as an eventual replacement for Montella, it's at the bottom of the table where the first firings are more likely to occur.

Last-place Benevento visits basement rival Hellas Verona on Monday with Marco Baroni and Fabio Pecchia each at risk.

Ivan Juric is also wavering at winless Genoa, which is second from the bottom.

But the big clubs all seem comfortable with their coaches, including AC Milan, which goes into the derby against Inter on Sunday following consecutive 2-0 losses to Sampdoria and Roma.

Maurizio Sarri is approaching saint-like status with Napoli leading the league, Allegri has led Juventus to two Champions League finals in three years, and Luciano Spalletti has restored confidence at Inter.

Simone Inzaghi has fourth-place Lazio performing beyond expectations and in the hunt for a Champions League spot, and new Roma coach Eusebio Di Francesco has quickly gained the confidence of the Giallorossi's American owners.

As always, though, things can change quickly. In fact, three high-profile matches this weekend — Juventus vs. Lazio, Roma vs. Napoli and the Milan derby — could provoke sudden mood changes.

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More AP Serie A coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/SerieA

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Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf

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