Sunday 18 February 2018

Trapattoni turns up the heat in bid for new deal

And so the dance continues.

While Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni confirmed that no official talks have commenced with his boss, FAI chief executive John Delaney, concerning a putative two-year contract extension, the talks about talks rage on.

And on. At this stage, admittedly, more of a soft-shoe shuffle than a whirling waltz.

With his team no nearer confirming their qualification for a major tournament than the last time the smart 72-year-old spoke on the topic, chiefly because Ireland haven't kicked a ball in anger since he last spoke 16 days ago, the heat keeps rising.

And it is the Italian who keeps turning up the dial.

However, Delaney, never averse to whipping off his tie when the occasion demands, will not let the heat get to him. He is barely breaking sweat. Quite right, too.

Qualification for next summer's European Championships remains the priority for the FAI and, as it should be, also the primary goal of the expensively assembled management team.

In mitigation, Trapattoni confirmed that talks were not his immediate aim either; rather the final two qualifying games in the fascinating Euro 2012 qualifying campaign.

Still, he reiterated his belief that his patience is not entirely elastic.


He also went to some lengths to allude to Ireland's world ranking as a negotiating tool in any contract talks, not to mention a neat emotional ploy that warned of the difficulties in starting from scratch with a new manager should the FAI decide to say "Ciao".

Pointedly, he refused to accept that failure to achieve his chief remit -- qualifying for a major championship -- should preclude him from continuing in the post for a third campaign.

Trapattoni's logic is that this current campaign has been shaped by two missed penalties -- Robbie Keane's in Slovakia last October, and a Macedonian miss from the spot against Russia within minutes on the very same evening.

"I think we have done a good job," said Trapattoni at the Abbottstown press conference room.

"We have improved. We have a good squad. I wish to let the FAI be quiet.

"The table could be so much different. That is football. Sometimes it's not even 90 minutes, two penalties changed the situation. That is football.

"It was only a mistake and I will not blame the players, but we always make mistakes in football. And unless you are Jesus Christ, you will make mistakes in your jobs as well.

"I believe we deserve ... but John decides. Our position in ranking when we first arrived was, I think, 39" -- here, Marco Tardelli, showing the deftness of his playing days, intercepted to remind his manager that it was actually 41.

As an aside, Trapattoni would later dismiss Andorra's world ranking at 203 as a mere statistic, labelling the mountainous superpower as "dangerous".

Numbers can mean whatever one wants, clearly.

"Now we are 29 in the world. I think we improve the team, we look at other players. The team can now can play without one or two players because there are enough replacements. It is not our decision."

Trapattoni, now warming to his theme -- and to be fair, few were in the mood for beginning an existential debate about Andy Keogh -- then reminded his audience that stability is another key imperative.

"Every change is a little difficult because the new manager has to learn the team and the players," he said.

"When we are on the right way, why break it? It may take a little while for the new manager to start from scratch.

"I have changed four or five teams, achieved good results because we stay. At Inter, Portugal, in Germany also, results with stability.

"When I came here first, I was asked what can we change at Ireland. I said only the little details, the little experiences. Because Ireland was a good team. And that is how they have achieved the results.

"I hope we can continue. There is more opportunity for the future. We have changed the older players slowly, you can't change all five or six at once. And there are younger players coming through, who understand our mentality.

"When you get to my age, remember what I say now. When I was young, I see old managers and I thought I had great ideas. But after 30 years, I understand all situations are much more different. Not because I have been here 30 years but because I have used my experience. Thank God my mind is still working.

"So we can continue. If it's not possible, okay. 'Bye, bye' and we can go to another country."

Of course, he may not have the choice, should Ireland slip up either in the final pair of regulation qualifying games -- Ireland can still finish anywhere between first and fourth in this capricious group -- or, more conceivably, should Ireland succumb in the play-offs.

"Maybe, I don't know. They can wait or not wait. It's important to clarify the situation. We can't wait for the last day. There have been rumours around that something can come to us. Maybe we couldn't wait to see what might happen."

As ever, clear as mud with Signor Trap.

Delaney has deliberately pitched his profile closer to his supporters than his manager in recent pronouncements.

He has declared he will remain with the disenfranchised fans in Barcelona next month, rather than cheer on his team in Andorra's biggest shed.

Not that Trapattoni is bothered.

"What can I say? If I say we love our president, I do the sweet-talking when I have to.

"He hasn't been with us at any time over the last three years, in the dressing-room or on the pitch.

"So if I'm superstitious let him stay where he wants. He's never with us."

If results don't tot up next month, Trapattoni may need Delaney more than he thinks.

Irish Independent

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