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Marco is not man to take top job

WHAT it must be to be Marco Tardelli. Still earning his keep with football boots on after all these years. No wonder he has a ready smile for almost everyone he meets.

He has the life. The day job is far from onerous and he is paid a fine wedge of cash to maintain a presence in England as Trapattoni's proxy.

Nobody is sure what he does on a day-to-day basis, but he doesn't appear to be a man fond of long motorway journeys and his area of operation seems centred on Loftus Road.

Clearly, he doesn't feel that an outreach service is part of his gig and on the numerous occasions when Trapattoni found reason to take a public potshot at one or another of his players, Tardelli stayed where he was and left the talking to the gaffer.

So he obviously has time on his hands. Does he daydream often and remember that fist-pumping moment when he acquired iconic status or the 10 years he spent working with Trapattoni and won a roomful of trophies and medals? Or is he too busy enjoying la dolce vita in London to dwell on past memories?

Who knows? He's part of the furniture and while Trapattoni stays in the saddle, Tardelli will be in close attendance.

One thing can be said with great certainty. No manager ever had a more loyal or more protective No2 than Giovanni Trapattoni and unlike most assistants, he carries authority by virtue of his reputation and achievement.

He earns his corn for Trapattoni as the acceptable face of the system he has imposed on Ireland's footballers.

Marco cracks jokes, smiles and says very little when he stands on the windswept acre in Malahide and deputises for his boss.

If he has his own opinions, he keeps them to himself and the chances of him straying from the Trapattoni gospel are non-existent.

He has a steely side two. When Liam Brady was part of the crew and the subject of unwelcome attention from the media early in Trapattoni's tenure, it was Tardelli who stood glaring at the offending hacks until they shuffled uncomfortably.

But mostly, he's a genial presence around the squad and a more cuddly point of contact for players than Trapattoni.

Just over a year ago when Trapattoni's life, normally filled with certainty and football, was turned up side down by a couple of medical scares, Tardelli was spoken about as a possible successor.

The logic was that he knows the system Trapattoni has spent three years imprinting on Ireland's players as well as his boss, and he would be the natural and, it must be said, cheaper candidate should a vacancy arise.

As recently as April, Tardelli expressed interest in following Trapattoni's footsteps and, in doing so, signalled that, in an ideal world, Brazil in two years time would be the right moment for the master to pass the baton to the pupil.

Could Tardelli make the step up and strike out on his own? The history of No2s trying to move out of a great man's shadow and into their own spotlight is not good.


Let's face it, Tardelli has no real profile in Ireland and the semi-detached nature of his work means that Irish football fans have no reason to connect with him.

If he really wanted the job, he would be doing what all good politicians do and give the electorate plenty of face time.

But the truth is that we know virtually nothing about Tardelli's ability to manage a group of men. He shows plenty of passion and enthusiasm at the right moments but does he have any real coaching credentials?

He followed the golden path in Italy when he was fast-tracked into the international team coaching structure as U16 manager and then assistant to Cesare Maldini with the U21 side.

He was clearly being groomed but when he made the leap to club management, his career path stalled and it was only when he took over as Italy's U21 manager and won the 2000 European Championship that he showed signs that he might one day do off the field what he did so spectacularly on it.

But that was about the height of it. He won a contract as Inter boss on the strength of his U21 win but only lasted a year, and after a flurry of bad results he was sacked.

Renewing a working relationship with Trapattoni has given him a lifeline and if Ireland do overcome Estonia and make it to the Euro 2012 finals, he would have to be at least considered by the FAI.

Should Trapattoni's contract end with the European Championships, whether qualification is achieved or not, it can safely be assumed that Tardelli will pack up his tent and head for whatever exotic location allows Trapattoni to make a grand exit in Brazil.

He would leave behind barely a trace, just a memory of a smiling man with, after three years playing a part in Ireland's international management team, as little English as his boss.