Read Part 1 here.
The player who walked into Romeo Montague's office on that very first day was none other than Italian football legend Luca Toni.
Act Two, Scene One, Part Two
One of the best Italian forwards of his generation, up there with Totti and Del Piero, Luca Toni has enjoyed a long and illustrious career all over the world, representing his country 47 times and winning the 2006 World Cup.
Starting his career at Modena, he had his first big season in 2003 when he fired Palermo to promotion, winning his first Italy cap in the process. The following season, he scored 20 goals in Serie A, stamping himself as a serious talent.
Fiorentina paid big bucks to sign the 28 year old and was serviceable throughout his 3 seasons, scoring 47 goals in 67 games, before signing for European giants Bayern Munich. Since then, he has also played for Roma, Genoa, Juventus, Al-Nasr, Fiorentina once again and lastly Hellas Verona. At the age of 37, he became the oldest ever Serie A Campiocannone (Golden Boot), kicking 22 goals for Hellas in the 2014/15 campaign.
Toni was also part of the triumphant Italian team who won the 2006 World Cup, playing all 120 minutes in the tumultous final and earning his winner's medal. Luca Toni is truly a legend of Italian Calcio.
But, like every other Verona employee, he was distraught with the appointment of Romeo. It was such a crux season
, he thought, with the club finally in a position to move up the table after their 2 seasons back in the top flight. An appointment like this would ruin everything. But.
Luca Toni was nothing if not experienced, and he had witnessed his fair share of bad managers. And he owed it to the rest of the squad to at least get down to the root of the problem.
"Boss, I have no confidence in your management abilities, and neither do the rest of the squad.
Romeo sat there, emotionless, listening to Luca Toni. When he had finished, he sat up a little and studied Toni. When he spoke, he did so without any pauses, ums or ers.
"I understand your problem with me Luca. I can't do anything to dispel that,"
"All I can ask is that you give me until the end of pre-season to prove myself to all of you. I can only start that if you come back to training."
Toni laughed. "I wouldn't bet on that today. Do you even have any experience?"
"I've watched football my entire life."
"This is Italy. Everyone's watched football their entire life. Have you ever played?"
Montague shook his head. "Everyone has seen football. I have watched football. There is a difference,"
"Why don't you say any of this to anyone then?"
Montague always took 5 seconds before he spoke, as if he was constructing his sentence before he said it.
"I don't want a reputation to precede me. I want to come in here, with none of you knowing anything about me, and prove myself worthy of your respect."
"I had the impression you didn't want to be here?"
Montague waved it away. "Whether I want to be here or not, I have a job to do. And whether I succeed or not is largely up to the players. So my first task is to get you onside."
Toni sat back, digesting the conversation. Montague was certainly not a rich ego-maniac, and seemed a very deep and thoughtful person. He was young, so could perhaps be a bit foolish and headstrong, but from the outer he acted like he was twice as old as his 23 years. And he was the only manager Verona had. Toni made up his mind.
"Listen here boss. I still have my doubts about you, as to how you can actually manage a football team. But you seem pretty decent at managing people. Were you a psychologist? I digress. I will support you, I will try everything I can to get the players to listen, but know this. If you fail, the world is going to come crashing down your head and I will be bringing most of it."
Montague nodded his head vacantly, looking off to some random point, and Toni let himself out with a single thought.
This Romeo Montague bloke is capable of anything.