San Jose Earthquakes General Manager Jesse Fioranelli
I grew up in a very international household; my father being Italian, my mother being American and living in Switzerland where you speak three languages. I grew up with football at home ever since I was a little boy because my father represented players at a time when football agents were still not central to the entire market. My father worked closely with Italian, German and Swiss teams and operated by representing the interests of the clubs back then.
This allowed me to understand and get access to things that usually a 12 or 15-year-old boy cannot get. That was something that was very special to experience whether it was going to the stadiums or getting to know coaches and players and witnessing their development in a period of time in which Italian football was considered one of the most important markets in Europe, if not the world.
When I was older, I went to college at Franklin University in Lugano, Switzerland, where I met my wife Spring. Once I laid my eyes on her, I didn’t want to let go. For that reason, I started to work for six months at a restaurant because I needed to get my feet wet. I was certainly very green behind my ears and I didn’t know very much about the service industry. I started to work with people and really appreciated the culture and teamwork that it takes to run a restaurant and to serve people.
"I started from scratch."
After six months of working at the restaurant, my father and I realized that there was more work ahead of us at his football agency. In 2001, the family company got into the English Stock Exchange alongside another agency. At that time, the company represented many players and had done very well. I worked inside the agency for seven or eight years and I realized that I wanted to step out on my own two feet, having had a young family with a two-year-old son. At the time, I thought I would do something outside of football to see what else was out there. I worked at Zurich Insurance in the private insurance industry in Italy and Monte Carlo. As promising as that pathway sounded, after a year and a half, I realized how much football was a part of my life. Working inside of a club was the direction I wanted to go with Spring and Jesse Jr.
I started from scratch. I was under the impression that I knew a lot about football at the time, but little did I know how little I actually knew. I joined the coaching staff as a video analyst at a time when video analysts didn’t really exist. We started working in Turkey, and the goal was to help the coach translate his ideas to players who didn’t understand his language by using video. After getting experience in Turkey and Switzerland, the opportunity presented itself to go to Lazio, Rome. That was eye opening as an experience because I always appreciated football from Italy, but I didn’t understand everything that went into the culture of the Italian game at the time. The love for the details, whether it be from the tactical front or coaching players, creates a culture and a certain standard that coaches follow to be able to study the game and coach their players.
I lived by myself in Rome in a 400 sq. ft. bedroom at the training center while my family was living in Switzerland. We were grinding there for two years. It was very special to go to the big stadiums, to get to know some of the great football minds and breaking down their game at the service of Lazio coach Vladimir Petković, who is now the head coach of the Swiss National Team. That created a real foundation for me because I had to study the game and serve the coach to be able to ultimately get his ideas across to the players.
"I have to do this for my family."
At the end of my second year with Lazio, we won the Italian Cup. It was not just any trophy; it was the first time in 100 years that Lazio defeated AS Roma in the final. That was a historic moment for the city because they were able to celebrate a unique moment in their history. I stopped working for Lazio a year later, having worked with Stefano Pioli, the current head coach at the time who's now the head coach at AC Milan. During my time there, I became the head of the scouting department while I was continuing my tenure as a video analyst.
About three months prior to my final season with Lazio, the sport director of AS Roma approached me. I was not interested in switching sides but I was also in a position to make a decision about my future. After the third time Roma’s sporting director Walter Sabatini reached out to me, I asked myself, ‘how can I give up on an opportunity just to listen to Mr. Sabatini?’ I sat down with him for 15-20 minutes and that opened the door for me. As hard as it was to switch sides, I thought I have to do this for my family. Thankfully I still have very good relationships with the people at Lazio; I have real friendships there that will last a long time.
That’s when my family joined me in living in Rome. At Roma, we started to create a club-led football operations department that was responsible for scouting, player analysis, forming coaches and youth development. We called it, ‘The Roma Way.’ Our methodology was half Italian and half American because ownership was also American, so we adopted diverse principles and methods for a standard that we wanted to represent across all levels of the club.
"I’m really looking forward to building on what we have started in San Jose."
Little did I know, less than two years later, I would be considering coming to MLS. This new opportunity presented itself at a point in time where Sabatini was about to leave Roma, so I have to say that opened a new door for me to come to San Jose with my family. I realized from the beginning that we would shape a new direction for the San Jose Earthquakes and that change would be a part of a long-term goal of enforcing areas that may not have been present like they were at the clubs in Italy. Whether it was the scouting, having professional coaches in youth development or identifying talent here in the Bay Area from San Jose, to the north to San Francisco, to Salinas and wherever else we’re present, we realized that on the roster front there was a lot of work that needed to be done over a two to three-year span.
Now being in my fourth year, having closed one chapter, I’m glad that there is a foundation from a roster perspective. There’s talent. There’s a mix between veteran, young and international players; a very diverse group yet we all speak the same language of football. They’re led by a very special person whom I consider a partner and a friend that really helps these guys believe in a direction and commit. Besides that, there is a very committed group in the football operations teams that I have had the pleasure of working with for more than two and a half years who are very determined to serve the club in their respective areas. They carry a lot of weight in the direction they’re headed. Because of these people and experiences, I’m really looking forward to building on what we have started in San Jose.