By Marco Keller
Udinese Calcio surprisingly finished fourth in Serie A last season to win a place in the third qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League. Their game against Sporting Clube de Portugal, which kicks off this week, will be a new experience for the club and their coach Serse Cosmi.
The 47-year-old, who took over at Udinese when Luciano Spalletti became coach at AS Roma, has been in charge at AC Perugia, AC Arezzo and Genoa 1893 and has won a place in Italian fans' hearts for his penchant for straight talking. He spoke to uefa.com about his plans for the season ahead and his dreams of a job in Rome.
uefa.com: Are you happy with your preparations for the new season?
Serse Cosmi: I am satisfied. Everything had to be done a bit quicker as usual because of the qualifying round of the UEFA Champions League. There could have been physical problems but there weren't. Also tactically, the players are making progress. We are quickly finding our identity. This is a new experience for the club and for me and we are looking forward to it. We have a very young, motivated group that did a tremendous job last season. One of our problems could be that we have a very large squad right now and it won't be easy for everyone to get a game.
uefa.com: Can you see anyone competing with Juventus FC, AC Milan and FC Internazionale Milano in Serie A this season?
Cosmi: These three teams will be the favourites. Behind them, I see several other sides able to leave their mark such as [ACF] Fiorentina, [UC] Sampdoria, [US Città di] Palermo, [AS] Roma and [S.S.] Lazio and I hope that Udinese will be among them. It's a new adventure for me but it would be nice to repeat what Spalletti achieved last year. I am excited because Udinese is a step up for me as a coach. It's a great club, one of the nicest in Italian football.
uefa.com: You have a reputation as an honest coach, who demands a lot from his players, puts an emphasis on team spirit and wants success. Are there any other sides to you?
Cosmi: That's more than enough. Of course, you have to know where you stand but I like to be a part of the team with the players.
uefa.com: One club did not hire you because you wore an earring. Others said that you can only work with low-budget teams and young players and not big clubs. Have you been misjudged?
Cosmi: Yeah, sometimes people just don't go deep enough to analyse a person. They just judge from the outside appearance and give you a label. It's clear, with Perugia, we played to remain in the Serie A but in all my other teams, we've always played to win titles.
uefa.com: More and more top Italian coaches are working abroad. Would you like to try that?
Cosmi: Right now, I don't feel the urge to go to work to another country, but it could be an option one day. To learn a new language and a different culture could be a very enriching human experience for me and my family.
uefa.com: Years ago, you made no secret of the fact that you wanted to coach Roma. Is that still your dream?
Cosmi: Earlier, my desire to coach Roma almost became an obsession. Now, it's not as bad. I consider myself lucky and mostly I have been able to fulfill my dreams. Time will tell if my Roma ambitions were just a dream.
©UEFA.com 1998-2016. All rights reserved.