OVER 150 journalists and photographers milled into the RDS Concert Hall yesterday for Giovanni Trapattoni’s first meet-and-greet but interest in the veteran manager’s latest job has been much more sedate in his native Italy.
Only two Italian media organisations sent representatives to yesterday’s unveiling and although the lack of any notification from the FAI may have had something to do with that, the low numbers are indicative of how Trap has long vacated centre-stage in his nation’s eyes. Even the presence of Ireland in Italy’s qualifying group for the next European Championships wasn’t enough to convince most sports editors to dispatch a correspondent to keep an eye on events in Dublin.
“We are curious, certainly,” said Gazzetta della Sport’s Fabio Licari who was joined only by a camera crew from state broadcaster RAI. “It will be strange to see Trapattoni compete against Italian football.
“Lippi is our World Cup-winning coach, (England manager Fabio) Capello is important too but Trapattoni is our history. Trapattoni has won everywhere as a coach for the last 30 years. It is like playing against ourselves.”
It is four years since Trapattoni stepped down as Italy’s national team manager, his one and only experience in international football being the one real failure in his long and distinguished 33-year coaching career.
Spells have followed with clubs in Portugal. Germany and Austria since then but the feeling is that his disappointments with the Azzurri may have left him with an itch that required scratching. Hence his return to the international game.
“We are very surprised by this decision,” said Licari. “Not because Trapattoni is not a good coach but because he was Italian manager from 2000 to 2004 and this was the worst period of his career in not getting to semi-finals or quarter-finals ofEuropeans and World Cup.
“Some people thought his career was over but he is the biggest man in Italian football. He wants always to fight and win. This could be a good challenge for him and Ireland. He got good results in Austria and Portugal. Maybe he can bring some Italian metal to the Ireland defence.”
Matters of a defensive nature were quite prominent all afternoon, as a matter of fact. Hardly surprising really when the new manager is a man who burnished his reputation in a land and an era when the phrase ‘catenaccio’ was all the rage.
“His idea is a defensive idea but he played always with offensive players too. With Juventus he played with Rossi, Boniek, Platini and Bettega all in the same team. From what we know, Anglo-Saxon and Irish teams have some problems in defence. They are fast and good in offense but not so much in defence. If Trapattoni is able to teach them how to be more Italian in defence, that would be important.”
Finally, the most important question of all – does the recipe of Trapattoni and Ireland offer the promise of qualification for the World Cup in South Africa in 2010? “Why not? Ireland has a good history and tradition. Some good players too. They have had some bad moments recently but I spoke with Marco Tardelli and he told me there are some good young Irish players.
“Italy are favourites to qualify but Ireland can be second. I trust in Trapattoni and his will to teach football. You will be happy with him.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved