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Sunday 19 November 2017

Trapattoni: Change of heart

If they want me I’m available insists Trapattoni as he reveals he wants to lead Ireland to 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Giovanni Trapattoni hopes to stay on as Ireland manager scotching suggestions that he could step aside and allow Marco Tardelli to take over.
Giovanni Trapattoni hopes to stay on as Ireland manager scotching suggestions that he could step aside and allow Marco Tardelli to take over.
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

For once, there was no ambiguity in Giovanni Trapattoni's message. The intention was clear.

He has decided that he wants to continue as Ireland manager until the World Cup in Brazil in 2014. If he is asked to stay, the offer will be accepted.

"If they want me, I am available," said the 72-year-old in the Clarion Airport Hotel yesterday morning, as he prepared to jet back to Italy after a busy week of activity that concluded with encouragement in defeat to Uruguay on Tuesday. "If they not want, I can look about other possibilities."

The FAI will have noted his words. Trapattoni has been asked before about his ambition beyond the end of the current European Championship qualifying campaign, when his contract expires. Generally, the response has been positive enough. His employers have also publicly said that they have an open mind with respect to the future.

Yet, in the wake of the 72-year-old's health scare in January, his second within the space of six months, the vibe was that when this campaign ended, Trapattoni would step aside. His assistant, Marco Tardelli, has already been touted as a possible successor by Liam Brady.


However, energised by the events of the past week, the Irish boss has evidently decided that he is ready to go again for another campaign.

Unquestionably, his contract will be a source of debate this summer. In a change of protocol, the World Cup qualifying draw has been brought forward to July. For the European teams, it's a novel situation.

Generally, the draw would take place at the beginning of next year, giving those nations who have missed out on Euro 2012 something to look forward to, often with new managers in place after the conclusion of the previous campaign.

This time it will be different. Trapattoni will be the Irish manager when the balls are plucked out of the drum in Rio and will therefore be asked to weigh up the opposition and offer his opinions. When that matter arises, it is possible that he still won't know if he'll be in charge for that task.

Of course, it's easy to appreciate the FAI's position. Realistically, they can't judge Trapattoni on his performances in his second campaign in charge until the business end is reached in the autumn, with the visit of Slovakia and a trip to Russia. If they offer a new deal before then, and it all goes up in smoke in Moscow, then they will be slated.

After all, this is a cash-strapped association and he is the highest-paid employee at €1.7m a year, although half of that is provided by Denis O'Brien. There are other factors at play here, which will all come into the mix as the months tick by.

Trapattoni will be 75 when the 2014 finals in Brazil come around and he spoke almost dreamily about the prospect of going there, perhaps envisaging a trip to the spiritual home of football as his ideal swansong.

"Obviously, I would be proud to continue because the next World Cup is in Brazil," he said. "Brazil is Brazil, eh. To go to Brazil as the manager, it would be a good moment."

After the pain of Paris, the Italian declared that his job with Ireland was only half done. Now, halfway into the second campaign, he seems to believe that he is still has just as much to look forward to with this team.

The fielding of a makeshift side on Tuesday, with a sprinkling of youth, has offered some vision for life beyond the goal of progressing to Poland and Ukraine next year. In fact, he cited this summer's planned trip to the United States, where Ireland will play two matches, as an exercise that could perform a similar function as the jaunt to the Algarve which kicked off his tenure.

"If the FAI is happy, and they believe in our project, I think we can do a good job," he said. "A project began one year ago to change the team. We have shown that some players who didn't play a year ago have improved, like Shane Long.

"I think we can improve. Maybe this summer, we go to America and the senior players will not come. We had two days before the game on Tuesday to try a new system. If we have 10 days, or two weeks, to show them their jobs, it can be a good exercise.

"I will promote this option. It may be difficult for English teams to let players go at the end of the long season, but we have to show it would be an opportunity to play Italy or Mexico or countries like that with this group."

Given the impact of Thierry Henry's handball and his chequered experience with Italy in Japan and Korea in 2002, Trapattoni was asked if there was a sense of unfinished business around the greatest tournament of them all.

Humorously, he picked up on the word 'business' and started talking about corruption in FIFA, with paranoia having set in from those scarring experiences.

He spoke a little about UEFA chief Michel Platini, while choosing not to refer to Sepp Blatter by name. Just the "FIFA president." Then he mentioned Byron Moreno, the Ecuadorian referee who was in charge when South Korea shocked Italy in 2002 courtesy of some dubious decisions.

"The referee is in prison," he said, a reference to Moreno's subsequent arrest for heroin smuggling.

"The competitions are very important for business," he went on. "When I was Italy manager in Korea, well, I should give you the DVD. This was the World Cup. And France. I know they had a lot of interest in the tournament. Be it media, be it business, be it money.

"But I think, with this group, I achieved some very good results with a strong team. So maybe with UEFA and FIFA, I'm due a bit of credit, a bit of luck. Some payback."

His chances of atonement will depend on whether the FAI is willing to splash out.

Irish Independent

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