Levski Sofia have put their fortunes in the hands of Delio Rossi as the former Bulgarian champions look to end Ludogorets’ domestic domination. The much-travelled Italian coach can bank on a vast experience following successful spells at Lazio and Palermo among others. Gianluca Lia met with the Levski coach as they are currently in Malta to conduct a winter training camp…

The Italian Serie A has reserved a lot of satisfaction to Delio Rossi in a career which spanned over two decades and which reached its highlight in 2009 when he led Lazio to the Coppa Italia title.

But now the former Fiorentina manager is keen to prove himself at Levski Sofia, his first ever managerial experience away from Lo Stivale.

“I have always been a curious person and open to new challenges, therefore when Levski came to knock on my door, I immediately embarked on this project,” Rossi told the Times of Malta.

“I am very passionate about football, and Levski will serve me as a platform where I can continue to pursue my career while being in a new environment, and put myself in question again.”

His choice of finding fortunes in what may look an obscure championship has left many people perplexed about his ambitions, but Rossi believes that such new challenges are what keeps him motivated. “My philosophy has always been work, work and work, hence, for me to be part of an organised structure in which I can leave my blueprint is an extra stimulus,” the former Lazio coach said.

“I am always striving to make the next challenge, the best memory ever.”

The 26-times Bulgaria champions are currently third in the Premier League, nine points adrift of Ludogorets. They are also in the domestic cup semi-final, with a double-legged tie against city rivals CSKA awaiting them.

Levski do not resume their domestic campaign until February 18, and Rossi and his technical staff opted to travel to Malta to step up their preparations for the second part of the season.

“For me, this is the first experience working during a long winter break, because in Italy we have only the pre-season preparation,” he said.

“Currently, in Sofia we have a temperature of -10 degrees and obviously, it is not ideal for us to train in those conditions.

“After a thorough research with my staff, we decided that Malta can offer us the two conditions that we wanted; warm climate and modern infrastructure.

“We hope that this preparation can give us a boost in order to bring a silverware to the club.”

Ludogorets have been the dominant force in Bulgaria, having won the title in each of the last six seasons and Levski are hopeful that Rossi can change their fortunes.

Rossi is still striving to raise the bar at the club and the likes of former Man. United and Newcastle winger Gabriel Obertan, and Jordi Gomez, who made a name for himself at Wigan Athletic, can give him a huge helping hand in doing so given their respectable curriculum.

After a thorough research with my staff, we decided that Malta can offer us the two conditions that we wanted; warm climate and modern infrastructure

“When one decides to emigrate, he has to find a balance between his principles but also the culture with which he will face himself,” the 57-year-old said.

“Having an organization acting as your backbone is very crucial in these type of circumstances, and I feel that the club is seriously thinking about upping the ante in order to be more competitive in the years to come, highlighted by the criteria of players that we are looking after.

“When a new project starts, everything begins from scratch and one cannot expect to reach the objectives at once.

“While the objectives have to be very realistic, we also need to make sure that the players we bring in suit our mentality because that helps a lot in our development.”

Rossi is remembered fondly by the supporters of Lazio and Palermo with whom he enjoyed some of his best spells in the Serie A in Italy. A nation, historically one of the best in football, that is currently going through a turbulent period following their failure to reach next year’s World Cup in Russia.

Italian football’s travails

“First of all, I am the last person that should indicate what are the problems and what should be done, however, I am convinced that such a failure can raise lot of questions and that might be the foundation layer on where to start projecting the future,” he explained.

“In 2006, Italy won the World Cup, yet that success might have overshadowed the problems which were already existing and I think that we should not have arrived to this point to realise that our movement was falling behind in the pecking order of world football.”

Levski, who arrived in Malta earlier this month will feature in the Valletta 18 Football Tournament which will be part of the V18 activities and which will welcome 14 clubs from seven different nations.

They have already announced two friendlies in which they will lock horns with Malta champions Hibernians, tomorrow, at the National Stadium (kick-off: 6.30pm) and Wolfsberger from the Austrian Bundesliga on Sunday, at the Hibernians Stadium. Balzan will be the other Maltese representative in this tournament and their first match is set to be against the Austrian side on January 25.

Joining Wolfsberger from Austria will be Floridsdorfer and Kapfenberger SV, from Division One.

Switzerland’s St Gallen and FC Winterthur, Norway’s FC Stabaek and 2015 Swedish champions IFK Norrkoeping will also be counted amongst the other participating teams in the tournament.

Teams from Eastern Europe will also be involved in the tournament with Georgia’s Lokomotiv Tbilisi, FC Haladas of Hungary, and Slovakia’s FC Trnava, who once boasted striker Jean Paul Farrugia on their books, and FC Jablonec of the Czech Republic.

The games will be played between January and March and the winner will be decided following an evaluation of the results.

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