Marco Simone breezed into the Ratchaburi press room as the club’s new head coach without a hint of the nervous tension of someone who knew that he could be out of a job in a couple of months.
The former AC Milan star was relaxed, smiled easily and talked at length in English about the challenge that lay ahead.
He reminisced about a trip to Thailand with the great Milan side of the 90s a quarter of a century ago and joked that he was ready to don his boots again if his new club needed him.
The more serious questions about the possibility of quickly becoming the latest victim of Ratchaburi’s notoriously short patience were skilfully handled as he suggested that such impatience was a part of the game across the world.
He also seemed very laid-back about the possibility that his stay at the Thai League club could last either two months or two years.
Such an attitude might just serve him well at a club that has gone from progressing and progressive to shambolic in the last 18 months.
The completion of the impressive Mitr Phol stadium was a testament to the club’s ambitions to be among the top sides in the country, while consecutive placings of 4th, 7th, 6thand 6th suggested the Dragons were consistent but just a little short of becoming title challengers.
Since Spanish head coach Pacheta led the club to the second of two sixth-placed finishes in 2017, the club have employed six head coaches. This sudden instability saw Ratchaburi finish the 2018 season just a point above the relegation zone.
Manolo Marquez Roca was appointed as the new head coach in November but left in January, without taking charge of a competitive match.
Christian Ziege’s brief stay at the start of 2018 showed clear issues with how he thought things would run and how things actually ran, but Simone gently dismissed any comparisons by stressing that every situation was different.
Simone learned to be philosophical during his highly impressive playing career when he often had to play second fiddle to the likes of Marco Van Basten, George Weah, Jean-Pierre Papin and Roberto Baggio at Milan. He watched from the bench as his team-mates won the UEFA Champions League in 1990 and 1994, as his great talents just fell short of some of the world’s best players of the era.
But racking up 145 league appearances and scoring 45 goals for the Rossoneri during the club’s golden age points to a player with considerable gifts and he went on to star at Paris Saint-Germain and Monaco where he was a more regular starter and goal scorer.
It remains to be seen if his charms will inspire this stuttering Ratchaburi side. They have plenty of attacking talent but it has been the defence and an error-prone goalkeeper that have let them down badly this year.
Simone has had a modest coaching career to date, his biggest job at Monaco coming when they were in Ligue 2. Spells with Lausanne, Tours, Laval and Tunisia’s Club Africain have followed but, now 50, the Italian’s chances of a high-profile career are diminishing.
A challenging first Thai League fixture awaits when Muang Thong United visit Ratchaburi on Sunday. Simone gently deflected the question of how he would prepare for the challenge of the Kirins by highlighting that he needed to get to know his own players before looking at his opponents.
Few people expect the Italian to stay long in Thailand, but if he can harness the laid-back approach he demonstrated in the press conference, maybe he will be well suited to the job.
Having such a decorated former player in the Thai game is always a boost for its profile but another unhappy ending after a matter of weeks or months would not be good for its credibility.
Let’s hope that Simone defies expectations and sees out the season at the very least and then perhaps he will be ready for his career trajectory to go in a new direction.