Accepting a job to spend more time with your family is not always the greatest endorsement, but with Giovanni Trapattoni being unveiled as the new manager of the Republic of Ireland yesterday it undoubtedly amounted to an astonishing coup.
In employing the 68-year-old on a two-year contract the Irish have, to some extent, trumped England's appointment of Fabio Capello. Trapattoni, with seven Serie A titles, plus titles in Germany and Portugal, the European Cup, three Uefa Cups and a Cup Winners' Cup triumph, is even more decorated than his highly-feted compatriot. Importantly he also boasts four years in charge of the Italian national team, from 2000 to 2004, leading them to a World Cup and European Championships.
Trapattoni will be paid €2m (£1.5m) a year by the FAI, far in excess of the €450,000 paid to his predecessor Steve Staunton (although a further €250,000 went to Sir Bobby Robson), but then in terms of experience and achievement he can justify the salary. He is paid €1.4m net of tax at his present club Red Bull Salzburg and demanded parity with that as, according to sources, a "mark of respect".
He has now received that and the Irish will pour even more resources into recruiting his backroom team. Key among those is likely to be Liam Brady, who played for Trapattoni for two years at Juventus, winning two titles, and has been party to the negotiations having maintained a friendship with his former boss.
Trapattoni initially proposed taking Brady, 52, with him as assistant but it seems more likely that he will take up a part-time European-style general manager's role, helping with the organisation, which will allow him to remain in his present job, heading the highly-successful youth set-up at Arsenal. "I am hopeful that Arsène Wenger will let Liam do the job as well as his Arsenal commitment," Trapattoni said.
Trapattoni, who will divide his team between London and Milan, and obviously Dublin, has also discussed employing the former Italian defender Claudio Gentile. The 54-year-old played alongside Brady for Juve and was also Italy's under-21 coach under Trapattoni but is unsure if he wants the job. Fitness coach Fausto Rossi will arrive from Salzburg.
The appointment of Trapattoni is a vindication of the recruitment process undertaken following the sacking of the hapless Staunton last October after failing miserably to qualify for Euro 2008. A three-man panel – Don Givens, Don Howe and Ray Houghton – was tasked with finding a replacement but it's understood that the agent Jerome Anderson has also played a leading role.
He made the initial contact with Trapattoni around 10 days ago and the Italian then called Brady to canvass his opinion. His willingness to move back into international management is partly fuelled by a desire to step away from the day-to-day intensity of being a club manager. "The opportunity to manage the Irish team will give me a lot more time to spend with my family," Trapattoni said. "Yesterday my lawyers and the FAI came to an agreement."
The FAI board ratified the deal yesterday although Trapattoni will not take over until the end of the season, when he hopes to have secured back-to-back titles with Salzburg. Even though the Austrian season ends early because of Euro 2008, he may not be in place in time for the friendly against Serbia on May 24 having requested a brief break.
Trapattoni's main task – for which he will probably receive an extra €1m if successful – is to qualify for the 2010 World Cup. Despite miserable recent campaigns he was upbeat. "Ireland are not a second-rate team, they are supposed to be a first-rate team," he said. Ireland are in the same group as Italy and Trapattoni claimed they can win it. "Qualifying will be hard, and playing against the Italian team will make me proud, but it should be possible for Ireland to come first," he said.
If Trapattoni had refused Terry Venables would have been offered the job after Billy Davies was ruled out.
Clubs: Milan, Juventus, Internazionale, Bayern Munich, Cagliari, Fiorentina, Benfica, Stuttgart, Salzburg.
Won: 7 Scudettos plus titles in Germany, Portugal and Austria and all the major European trophies.
Italy manager: 2000-2004. Lost to South Korea in 2002 World Cup finals.