Magnanelli on Sassuolo's dizzying rise

Having come up all the way from the Italian fourth tier to Serie A and the UEFA Europa League with Sassuolo, midfielder Francesco Magnanelli knows his side are not a miracle club.

Francesco Magnanelli joined Sassuolo in 2005, while they were in Italy's fourth tier
Francesco Magnanelli joined Sassuolo in 2005, while they were in Italy's fourth tier ©Getty Images

When Francesco Magnanelli signed for Sassuolo in 2005, they were playing in the fourth tier of Italian football. This season they are in Europe, the defensive midfielder having helped them make it all the way to Serie A and beyond. The 31-year-old talked through their incredible rise. On matchday one, you captained Sassuolo to a 3-0 win against Athletic Club. When you joined them in Serie C2 did you ever imagine that might happen?

Francesco Magnanelli: Back then, I would have said there was no chance of me ever making it this far. When I look back in a few years' time, everything we have achieved might stand out more. Right now I'm over the moon, but very calm and grounded with it. The situation seems pretty normal. We're called a miracle because it is such a small city with no footballing history, but believe me, there's so much work behind it all. Lots of planning and a fantastic club. How did Sassulo make it all this way?

Magnanelli: I would need to write a book to describe the adventures there have been. I've seen so many team-mates, coaches and situations, good and bad. I've experienced it all. [Me and the club have] grown together. We've tried to improve with every year and we've achieved some incredible things. Over the years, the club have sought out the right people, the right coaches. People have come and gone, but I've been lucky to have always been appreciated, so I'm still here.

Highlights: Sassuolo 3-0 Athletic
Highlights: Sassuolo 3-0 Athletic You received the keys to the city for your work at the club. How did that feel?

Magnanelli: It was a special moment. It's a huge honour for me. I feel very attached to this place, because I've been here so many years. My whole life is here. My family live here, my children were born here. I've met some great people and have some very close friends here. It is a city that gives you a chance to live a normal life. That is a huge advantage. What would you say about the way Sassuolo play under Eusebio Di Francesco?

Magnanelli: We are a team that play good football. We have caught the eye and people like us, which is very nice. We're really flattered. [Di Francesco is] certainly the architect – a big part of the credit goes to him because he built the team. He found the right men, and then gradually, without fear, bedded younger players into the team. His ability to do that is one of his best qualities.

In my opinion, we have one of the strongest collections of young players in Italy, if not the strongest. We've got Pol Lirola, Lorenzo Pellegrini, Federico Ricci, Domenico Berardi, Luca Mazzitelli and Stefano Sensi, to name just a few. And this is an environment in which they can grow. We older players are always on hand to help them and vice versa, which is a winning combination.