Trani on ride of his life as Muscat’s right-hand-man in Belgium

Luciano Trani, left, with Kevin Muscat Source: Smets Patrick

Amid a growing number of Australian coaching exports, the name Luciano Trani is one of the least mentioned.

Yet the 53-year-old Melburnian is earning his crust in the world’s top ranked football nation, riding shotgun to Kevin Muscat at Belgian Pro League Sint-Truiden.

A perennial assistant on a coaching journey that has spanned Wellington Phoenix, Adelaide United, Brisbane Roar, Melbourne City, Newcastle Jets and Perth Glory, Trani’s travelogue took a new twist in January when a surprise call from Muscat had him packing his bags for Belgium.

The incongruity of an Australian double act spearheading a club seeking to punch above its weight - in a league boasting big shots like Club Brugge, Anderlecht, Standard Liege and Genk - isn’t lost on Trani.

But a season-opening 2-1 victory over Gent last weekend has stoked optimism ahead of Sunday’s clash with powerhouse Anderlecht.

“When we arrived, it was seen as a strange and interesting decision made by the management,” Trani said.

“The belief was that unless you know the league how can you manage a football team and a club over here?

“But the way I look at it, if you apply the right principles on and off the pitch, and adjust that to the players you have, then things can be achieved.

“We’re here in Europe mixing it up and it proves that it doesn’t matter where you come from, if you have the right approach.

“It’s good for everyone involved in Australian football and hopefully there are other coaches who get the same opportunity.”

Distilling the task that greets any foreign coach entering unfamiliar terrain, Trani said: “You need a little time to assess the quality of players in the competition, its infrastructure and the market value of players available.”

Trani was briefly a teammate of Muscat’s at Victorian state league club Albion Turk Gucu, back in their formative playing days.

But they had never previously worked together as coaching collaborators.

“Coaches have different styles and Kevin has his own way, and it’s always good to adapt and find out more about the individual,” Trani said.

“It’s been enjoyable and working closely with him, you can understand all the success he had at Melbourne Victory.

“He knows how to get his messages through to the players, and it’s a matter of working hard to make sure those small details rub off on a daily basis.”

There’s also an element of managing expectations at his new home, with De Kanaries operating on one of the lowest budgets in the league.

“We’re at the bottom end in terms of what’s allocated to the football department, so we have to be realistic,” Trani said.

“What will it look like at the end of the season? We can judge that on how we prepare and perform every day.

“If we do that well then we’ll continue to get results like last week, and maybe we’ll continue on and surprise a few people.

“It’s always possible to get a result in a one-off situation, but the key for a team and a club like us is to match that level on a regular basis.”

The Muscat-Trani combination guaranteed safety last season, with three wins and a draw ensuring top flight survival.

Whilst they had different titles then, as Muscat sought to have his AFC licence accepted by UEFA, they were most certainly pulling the strings.

“You have to understand the league and how it’s basically all about attacking on wide areas here,” Trani said.

“You have to ally yourselves with what you’ve got and I think we’ve done that so far.

“We’re a club that can maybe provide game time for players not yet ready to play in Europe’s top five leagues.

“There’s huge opportunity for youth here - we want to grow this club.

“The Belgium federation is always looking to make sure the nurturing of young talent is at the forefront of all Pro League clubs.

“It’s about creating top individuals, who continue to maintain the status of the national team as number one in the world.

“During the (COVID-19) lockdown, we had more time to assess things and study how the other teams operate and I think that helped.”

During his 16 years in the coaching realm, Trani has established himself as a jack of all trades, able to morph into multiple roles.

“My role is very diverse,” he said.

“It can go from an analyst to the conditioning side of the game, to individual coaching.

“It all depends on the situation. I help the team wherever I can.”