Trapattoni reflects as he meets his Italian past
Giovanni Trapattoni will be facing his past in more ways than one when his Ireland squad meets his native Italy on Monday at the European Championship.
Eight years ago, Trapattoni led the Azzurri, and some of the players he coached at the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004 are still with Italy. Going even further back, current Italy coach Cesare Prandelli played for Trapattoni at Juventus 30 years ago.
Perhaps that's why Trapattoni fell into a reflective mood Sunday, when asked if there was any extra motivation facing Italy.
''I've had great results in both Italy and abroad,'' Trapattoni said. ''I haven't returned to Italy by my own choice. In Italy, they want everything immediately.''
The last time the 73-year-old Trapattoni coached an Italian team was at Euro 2004. Since then, the silver-haired maestro has extended his quixotic career with stops at Benfica in Portugal, Stuttgart in Germany and Salzburg in Austria, before landing at Ireland four years ago.
''I had offers to return, but I preferred to stay where my professionalism was appreciated, but there's no reason to seek revenge,'' Trapattoni said. ''In Italy, my time was finished and I wanted to leave good memories.''
Trapattoni is considered the most successful Italian club manager in history, having won six Serie A titles with Juventus.
''He'll always be a Mr. to me. I grew up with him,'' Prandelli said. ''From a personal point of view, he's always respected everyone. His strength is that he has always put himself up for discussion. He has an incredible will not to give up and continue being competitive. He's an extraordinary person to me.''
Prandelli played under Trapattoni at Juventus from 1979 to 1985, and Trapattoni's Ireland assistant Marco Tardelli was his teammate then.
With Ireland already eliminated, Trapattoni was grilled by the Italian media over the Azzurri's fate and their wild forwards Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli. Having opened with two draws, Italy needs to beat Ireland and hope for help from Spain and Croatia to advance.
''He just told me he's tired about defending me and talking about my problems,'' Prandelli said. ''He has his own problems to worry about. But it was great to hug him and Marco, and a pleasure to see them before such a big match.''
Current UEFA president Michel Platini also played for Trapattoni at Juventus, and it's obvious that Trapattoni takes great pride in the careers of his former charges.
''(Prandelli) has done a great job with changing the players and giving the squad a sense of professionalism and respect,'' Trapattoni said. ''And with Cassano and Balotelli, he has shown wiseness and personality. So I'm proud of a kid that I always appreciated as a player and now as a coach.''
Just don't ask Trapattoni to put himself in Prandelli's shoes.
''When you know someone well, it's tough to give them advice, especially when you don't know what type of problems he's dealing with,'' Trapattoni said. ''It would be extremely impolite to talk about what I don't know.''