Even at 72 Giovanni Trapattoni has lost none of the bite you would expect. The most successful manager in the history of Serie A and one of the games all time greats seems to be enjoying the twilight of his career in Ireland, to such an extent that now he wants to lead the Irish to Brazil for the 2014 World Cup where he feels he may have some unfinished “business.”
Il Trap made it known, while speaking to the Irish media at the Clarion Hotel in Dublin following Ireland’s 3-2 defeat to Uruguay, that he wants to carry on his initial good work after his contract ends after Euro 2012.
“If they want me, I am available, if they not want, I can look about other possibilities,” he said before adding; “Obviously, I would be proud to continue because the next World Cup is in Brazil. Brazil is Brazil, eh. To go to Brazil as the manager, it would be a good moment.”
More than a good moment, it would be a great moment for the celebrated manager to bow out of the game. Should he stay on as Ireland manager for Brazil 2014 he would be 75 and easily the oldest manager in the game.
You don’t have to dig very deep to find his motivation though.
In 2002, when Trapattoni guided his home nation Italy to the Last-16 of the World Cup they were controversially eliminated by South Korea after extra time. The now famous game saw the Italian’s reduced to 10-men when Francesco Totti was adjudged to have dived to win a penalty when action replay’s proved that the striker was fouled and then to make matters worse Italy also had a valid goal chalked off for a non-existent offside.
That goal was the fifth legitimate goal that Italy had seen disallowed at the competition.
The chief architect of that particular incident, Ecuadorian referee Byron Moreno was arrested last year on drug possession charges and then sentenced to six months in prison. Needless to say he did not gain much sympathy from Il Trap.
Then in late 2009 Ireland was famously dumped out of the World Cup in South Africa 2010 at the playoff stage after the famed “Hand of Gaul” by Thierry Henry.
So one can easily see why Giovanni Trapattoni would want to lead a team to another competition. He feels his luck is about to change and that he deserves “payback.”
“Adidas is French,” he said in explaining his theory on why France progressed over Ireland.
“These competitions are very, very important for business. I know there is a lot of interest in this tournament [the World Cup], whether it is from the media, whether it is sponsors, whether it is business, whether it is money … there are other interests. There is too much interest. A colleague said to me after the Henry handball, ‘Giovanni, you know football…’
“When I was the Italian manager in Korea … it was not France but it was similar. If you want, I can show you the DVD of the Korean match at the World Cup. The referee from the Italy-Korea game was in prison, was he not?”
“I achieved good results at club level with strong teams,” Trapattoni said, “but also with Uefa and Fifa … I have paid my dues and I am due something back. I am waiting for something back because of the experiences I have had.”
Given this statement from the usually mindful Trapattoni it is fair to say that he wants to lead his team to South America.
There will be a couple of stumbling blocks in the way though.
As it stands Trapattoni gets paid €1.7 million a year by the FAI making him the highest paid official at the association but crucially €850k of that is paid by businessman Denis O’Brien who has signalled that he may be unwilling to keep the arrangement going after 2012.
Would Trap be willing to take a major pay cut? His statement of early intent would suggest so.
Perhaps, the largest question mark against Trapattoni is his health. He is not getting any younger and Brazil 2014 might be a bridge too far for any 75-year-old no matter how fit, healthy, or motivated.
The other elephant in the room for the FAI is the growing disenchantment from the public with Trapattoni’s tactics. Many feel that Ireland is too negative under the Italian and that he restricts their creative tendencies with his tactical set-up.
However, within the last year or so better technical players have become available to Trapattoni and the early word on the street is that Ireland has some very special players on the verges of making a break through at their Premiership clubs.
Most of the talk centres around the three 19-year-old Conors.
Conor Henderson is gaining much attention and praise at Arsenal and made his debut at the club this season. Conor Clifford at Chelsea and the USA born Conor Doyle at Derby are also making great strides and much is expected of the trio, Chelsea U-19 captain Clifford in particular. Add to the mix, Seamus Coleman (Everton), Ciaran Clarke (Aston Villa), James McCarthy (Wigan for how much longer?) and the ever improving Shane Long (Reading) and a very young nucleus of players for Brazil 2014 is starting to take shape.
Trapattoni has already brought Ireland to a new level in terms of professionalism and organisation, now begins the next step of the project where he integrates creativity and that little bit of flair that every team needs.
“I think, with this group, I achieved some very good results with a strong team. So maybe with UEFA… and FIFA… and the FIFA President (Sepp Blatter), I’m due a bit of credit, a bit of luck. Some payback.”