Daniele Santarelli

Here is something you don’t see every day... The same coach is simultaneously a reigning world champion, a reigning club world champion and a reigning Volleyball Nations League (VNL) champion, and that is, with three different teams! Yes, this is Daniele Santarelli, who within a period of under a year led the national team of Serbia to the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship crown, the Italian team of Prosecco Doc Imoco Conegliano to the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s Club World Championship title, and the national team of Türkiye to the women’s VNL gold. And that is on top of numerous other trophies in the 42-year-old Italian coach’s collection, also including Imoco’s domestic golden treble in Italy last club season.

Just last month, with Türkiye’s new addition Melissa Vargas leading the way, the team claimed their first VNL trophy. Upon her debut with the team, the Cuban-born opposite also earned the Most Valuable Player award. But there certainly was another remarkable debut and that was that of coach Santarelli, who steered the Turkish squad to this historic success in his very first competition at the helm of the team.

Shortly after that, while taking a well-deserved vacation on the beach, Daniele Santarelli was happy to answer FIVB.com’s questions.

Congratulations on winning the VNL 2023! Did you expect such a big success in your very first competition at the helm of Türkiye?

“Thank you so much! For sure, this is one of my dreams, to start this way. I could not imagine not only the victory, but also how we played, because for me we played some very good volleyball and this is what every coach wants for his team. I think the abilities of this team were very important and I believe in my decision to move from the national team of Serbia to the national team of Türkiye. What I told the girls was that we would always try to fight for the trophy. This is my mentality: I never just participate in a competition, but I want to try to win every competition every time. I think this was also a dream for my federation and my players and I’m happy that we followed this dream together.”

What was the key to this success? It wasn’t just Vargas, was it?

“No. Vargas gave us a lot for sure. Vargas is one of the best opposites in the world and, for sure, she is very important... But first of all, it was the attitude. I think the attitude of the team was really important, because we had a goal in front of us. We followed this goal and we pushed ourselves to the limit of our strong skills... For sure, there were some moments during the competition when we did not play our best volleyball, but I tried to change the players a lot in finding the best starting six. And I think Vargas was the cherry on top of the cake, but we all built this dream together, in teamwork. For example, our break points don’t depend on one player only. Vargas is a striker, but we also work very well with the block, with the serve, we fight a lot in every kind of defence, and this is an aptitude of the team, not only of one player.”

Daniele Santarelli and Melissa Vargas during a VNL match

Santarelli and Vargas during a VNL match

You are a reigning world champion with your previous team Serbia, you are a reigning club world champion with Imoco, and now you are a reigning VNL champion with Türkiye, not to mention the golden treble in Italy... Is there any doubt who is the best coach in the world right now?

“No, no... Thank you, really, but I consider myself, first of all, to be a lucky man and a lucky coach, because I have the opportunity to work with the best players in the world and it was simple to win with these kinds of teams. What I do for my teams is try to give my best. I always send my positive energy to the players. I try to follow my dreams (because I have a lot of dreams) and I want the players around me to follow the dreams with me. The key is that I am a lucky man with a dream that my players, my federation and my staff follow together with me. The Serbian federation, the Turkish federation, my club Imoco, they all try to be among the best teams in the world, so we’ve had the same goals.”

What is the secret behind your ongoing success as a coach?

“I think to be a good person, an honest person and an honest coach... I communicate with my players and I tell them exactly what I think, I never try to create problems, I always try to listen to my players, I try to understand if they have some problems, I support them, because they are part of my life, like family, and I give them my best. And I’m a hard worker, for sure. I am so lucky with my staff, the people around me, right now Italian and Turkish guys, who work together and create a very special atmosphere and a very special feeling in the team. Very good people and very good workers! So I don’t think it is about me. It is about what we are doing together.”

Coach Daniele Santarelli and staff together, ready for the game!

Coach and staff together, ready for the game!

Now that you've won the VNL with Türkiye, how does that change your outlook for the next competitions this summer?

“When I began, I thought, OK, this summer we have three important goals and first is the VNL. And when everybody started asking me about the Olympic qualifications, I told them that for me they were the third competition this summer. The first was the VNL. So we needed to concentrate our minds, we needed to push for this competition and worked only for this competition. Of course, there is the possibility to create something for the future in my mind, but I said to myself we needed to improve step by step and work for the first trophy. And if we began in a good way and got the first trophy, then maybe we would be ready for the second trophy, which is the European Championship. And now my mind is only on the European Championship (after these few days of rest, of course). I think it will be a hard competition, if I consider the level of European teams like Serbia, Poland, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands (I hope I am not forgetting anybody). It may be even tougher than the VNL, because in the VNL we could be a surprise for everyone, but now we are no longer a surprise and every opponent will give their best to try to beat us.”

Is there anything else you’d like to say in conclusion?

“I want to thank the federation because they believe in me and help me a lot. I want to thank the amazing Turkish fans, because I received a lot of support from them during the entire competition, and now even more. I am happy that they are happy, but now we have to work together with the federation and the players and fight for the next goal, knowing that it will always be tougher.”

  • Watch Volleyball Nations League 2023 replays on VBTV