Let’s discover together why the Grande Torino is considered one of the best club teams of all time
Why are they famous ?
They became famous because they dominated Italian football for almost a decade in the 1940s, winning five consecutive league titles, one Coppa Italia, and showcasing a modern, spectacular and offensive style of play.
Unfortunately, they are also remembered for the tragic Superga air disaster, in which almost the entire team lost their lives.
5 consecutive Serie A titles
1 Coppa Italia
They played a modern, attacking football
How did they play ?
On paper, today we will talk about a 3-2-2-3 formation, a tactic known as the “Sistema.”
In the 1930s, Italy had won two World Cups using the “Metodo,” a tactic employed by most teams in the preceding years (2-3-2-3), mainly focused on defense and quick counter-attacks.
Herbert Chapman, the manager of Arsenal, developed a new tactic called the Sistema in response to changes in the offside rule. And Torino was one of the first teams in Italy (a country often resistant to change) to adopt it systematically.
Sistema (WM) 3-2-2-3
In front of the goalkeeper, there was a line of three defenders: the central one (a precursor to the “stopper”) usually marked the opponent’s center forward, while the two full-backs marked their respective wingers.
In midfield, there were four players arranged in a square: two halves-back (often with complementary roles, one more defensive and the other more balanced), two inside forwards (today they would be considered attacking midfielders), one acting as a playmaker and the other more offensive.
Then there were two pure wingers and a center forward.
Il Grande Torino was a modern and balanced team: capable of dictating the tempo of the game, playing both in a faster and more vertical style (typical of Italian football) and in a calmer and more reasoned manner, with a focus on ball circulation (almost a novelty at the time).
In the defensive phase, the 3-2-2-3 formation transformed into a 4-2-4 or 4-4-2 as one of the defensive midfielders (usually Grezar) dropped back to the defensive line, allowing Virgilio Maroso, an incredibly talented fullback, to join the attack. The left winger dropped back to the midfield alongside Loik, Castigliano, and Mezzola while Romeo Menti, formerly a left winger, turn into a second striker.
Overall, the team moved harmoniously, running a lot (often more than their opponents) and even getting goals from the midfielders.
Who were the key players ?
Valentino Mazzola was the true heart and soul of the Grande Torino. Guys, let’s talk about what is considered one of the greatest Italian footballers of all time.
An incredibly modern, charismatic, versatile, and complete player.
Valentino Mazzola was an all-around midfielder who could actually play in any position.
He could play as a second striker, central midfielder, winger, or even as a forward. From this perspective, he can be considered an Italian version of Alfredo Di Stefano, although he didn’t possess the innate talent of the Argentine.
He was a charismatic man, a courageous captain, an incredible leader who guided the team through its difficult moments.
He was fast, physically powerful, had superb vision of the game, a powerful and accurate shot, and incredible stamina that allowed him to play all over the field.
He also had a great goal-scoring instinct and a spirit of sacrifice.
Virgilio Maroso is talked about far too little.
He was an incredible player, a superstar. He had the touch of an attacking midfielder and the strength of a central defender: he was elegant, had amazing anticipation, was quick, and was also fair and professional.
In the team, he played the role of the attacking left back (known in Italian as “terzino fluidificante”) with great modernity, and despite his untimely death at the age of 24, he is remembered by many as one of the greatest players in that position (like Cabrini or Facchetti).
Many other torino players (all of them actually!) would deserve a brief review, which I will do in another article in the future.