REPUBLIC of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni has turned down a lucrative contract bonus from the FAI for making a 2010 World Cup play-off — because he didn’t want to be rewarded for ‘losing’.
A close associate of the 69-year-old Italian confirmed last night that Trapattoni and assistant Marco Tardelli underlined their determination to succeed with Ireland by rejecting what is regarded as a standard contract extra for emerging as the best non-qualifier from Ireland’s tough World Cup qualifying group for South Africa.
Trapattoni will earn almost €3m in salary for his two-year contract with the FAI, and has other earning potential built into the deal, including a hefty bonus if Ireland qualify directly from a group containing Italy and Bulgaria for the finals in South Africa.
However while most international coaches insist on a bonus clause for making World Cup play-offs, Trapattoni and Tardelli stunned the FAI by telling them they were not interested in such a ‘reward’.
“Trap told the Irish he didn’t want to be rewarded for what he described as ‘losing’,” said a close friend of the new Republic manager. “The Irish officials met with him soon after his appointment to tie down the contract details, and were taken aback and delighted by Trap’s attitude. Tardelli agreed with the view that Ireland’s objective should be automatic qualification for South Africa.”
The FAI refused to be drawn on the issue last night, insisting they do not comment on individual contract details.
However, Trapattoni’s decision will only endear him further to an Irish football public that has quickly warmed to his passion on the sideline and dignity off it. The understated manner in which he dismissed Brian Kerr’s unfortunate criticism of Republic assistant, Liam Brady, last weekend, has also gone down extremely well in football circles.
The Republic hasn’t qualified directly for a major tournament since the 1994 World Cup in America, making the 2002 finals in Japan and South Korea via a play-off win against Iran. Indeed, our play-off record for major tournaments is enough to shake the confidence of most managers, though clearly not Trapattoni. Since losing 2-0 to Holland at Anfield in a Euro 96 play-off, the Republic went down 3-2 on aggregate to Belgium for the 1998 World Cup and lost a controversial Euro 2000 qualifier to Turkey on away goals. However Mick McCarthy succeeded in guiding Ireland past Iran and into the 2002 World Cup, with a 2-1 aggregate victory.
Trapattoni will attend a number of games at the European Championships in Switzerland and Austria, while all the time hoping for positive news on the return to the international fold of Steve Finnan, Stephen Ireland and Andy O’Brien.
Finnan’s return is regarded as almost certain, O’Brien’s less so, but the situation regarding Man City midfielder Ireland has been complicated by yesterday’s departure of Sven-Goran Eriksson from Eastlands. On several occasions, the Swede publicly encouraged Ireland to return to the international fold. “My door is open for them,’’ Trapattoni said last weekend. “I called one week ago and I said, ‘Now you know my number’. Now I wait.’ My feeling is that one or two said to me, ‘At the moment no, because I have a problem, but in the future, there is a possibility I will come back’”
Trapattoni’s final friendly before the serious business of World Cup 2008 kicks off is in Norway in August. The Republic’s first two qualifiers are on the road, in Georgia on September 6th and in Montenegro four days later.
Italy, Bulgaria and Cyprus make up Group 8.
Ireland’s Group 8 opponents
Italy, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Montenegro.
Sept 6 Georgia (a);
Sept 10 Montenegro (a);
Oct 15 Cyprus (h);
Feb 11 Georgia (h);
Mar 28 Bulgaria (h);
Apr 1 Italy (a);
June 6 Bulgaria (a);
Sept 5 Cyprus (a);
Oct 10th Italy (h);
Oct 14 Montenegro (h).
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