Budapest Honvéd FC are enjoying a resurgence under coach Marco Rossi, with home-grown winger Filip Holender crediting the club's Italian contingent for their upturn in fortunes ahead of the UEFA Europa League second qualifying round tie with FK Vojvodina.
Honvéd have not won the Hungarian First League since 1993 but they are much revived under their 48-year-old Italian trainer and his back-room staff. Rossi, who played in Serie A with Torino FC, Brescia Calcio and UC Sampdoria, took charge in January and oversaw the team's rise from mid-table mediocrity to a third-place finish and European qualification.
There has been no let-up this term either, with an impressive 13-1 aggregate victory over Montenegro's FK Čelik Nikšić in the first qualifying round a demonstration of their ruthless streak under Rossi. A graduate of the Honvéd youth system, 18-year-old Holender has flourished under the new Italian regime and hopes to help continue the side's ascent away to Serbian opponents Vojvodina in Novi Sad on Thursday.
"Marco Rossi is the most important man for me because since I have been in the first team he has helped me prepare for games in terms of mentality and motivation," said Holender, who scored three goals in the first qualifying round. "He is a big reason why I am so motivated and I think that's why I have started scoring goals."
Another of the Italian brigade is international director Fabio Cordella, who has been a key figure in bringing four compatriots into the squad. Andrea Mancini, 20-year-old son of former Manchester City FC and FC Internazionale Milano coach Roberto Mancini, joined along with ex-Italian Under-20 international Emanuele Testardi. The latter signed on loan from Sampdoria three weeks ago but settled in quickly, hitting a hat-trick on his home debut against Čelik Nikšić. Holender has relished playing alongside the newcomers and is not just learning from their football skills.
"The Italian players here have a very good attitude. They are aggressive in the right way, when they need to be, and provide a good example on and off the pitch," he added. "Our left-back Raffaele Alcibiade is a very good friend. Fabio [Cordella] and Marco [Rossi] help me and give advice, not just about football but also on life and how to look after myself.
"Our ambitions under Marco are simply to improve. Last season we finished third so our coach wants us to aim for second or even first. Personally, I want to keep improving and benefit the team whichever way I can, including many goals and assists. I feel comfortable that with the help of Marco and the others I can achieve this."