Barely a week after guiding their countries through an epic World Cup semi-final, Marcello Lippi and Jürgen Klinsmann stepped down yesterday as coaches to Italy and Germany respectively.
Lippi's resignation, little over 48 hours after leading the Azzurri to their fourth world title, sparked feverish speculation about who should succeed him and provided a diversion from the match-fixing scandal that ran parallel to Italy's triumph in Germany.
By contrast, Klinsmann's departure, after the "exhausted" former Tottenham striker had steered an impressive German side to third place in the tournament, was accompanied by the announcement that he will be replaced by his assistant, Joachim Löw.
Lippi, 58, took over from Giovanni Trapattoni after Italy's abortive Euro 2004 campaign. The team lost only twice under him, to Iceland in his first game and to Slovenia. His run culminated in Sunday's 5-3 defeat of France on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the final in Berlin. The former Juventus coach considered his role as coach was over since he had achieved what he set out to do. In a statement he reflected on an "extraordinary professional and human experience" but did not reveal his future plans.
The vice-president of the Italian Football Federation, Giancarlo Abete, thanked Lippi for his "professionalism" and ability to lead the team "in the context of the great difficulties known to all". Abete said Lippi had told him during the group stages that he would be leaving at the end of his two-year contract, regardless of how Italy fared.
Lippi was reportedly weary of hearing his name mentioned in connection with the corruption case involving four leading Serie A clubs, including Juventus. While not under investigation himself, he was questioned by prosecutors over allegations that he was pressured into picking players from certain clubs. Before the finals, his son Davide, a sports agent, was questioned by magistrates in Rome about allegations of "illegal competition with threats and violence".
Among those whose credentials will come under scrutiny as Lippi's replacement are the former Milan player Roberto Donadoni, who is available after spells in charge of Lecce, Genoa and Livorno; Alberto Zaccheroni, the one-time Lazio, Internazionale and Milan coach; and Claudio Gentile, coach to Italy's Under-21s.
The decision will be entrusted to the Italian football commissioner, Guido Rossi, and Demetrio Albertini, who has a management role with the national squad. Albertini is a former Milan team-mate of Donadoni, who resigned at unfashionable Livorno after a clash with the club president midway through last season, when the Tuscan team lay sixth.
Klinsmann, 41, has also quit at the peak of his popularity. His success in moulding Germany into an attacking unit confounded the critics of his lack of coaching experience and decision to carry on living in the United States. After two years, 21 wins, seven draws and six defeats, he is heading back to California.
"I have a big wish to return to my family and normality," Klinsmann said, explaining that the decision would have been the same had Germany won the World Cup. "After these two years preparing for the tournament, and the finals themselves, I've spent so much energy that I don't feel capable of continuing. I'm exhausted and I'll be taking a six-month holiday."
The joint president of the German FA, Theo Zwanziger, said that Löw, a former VfB Stuttgart coach, represented "the only way forward". He added: "The successor had to guarantee the same philosophy; an attractive, exciting team."
A former Bundesliga midfielder with a reputation as a tactician, Löw's first competitive test comes on 2 September against the Republic of Ireland in a Euro 2008 qualifier in Stuttgart. "We're convinced we've established ourselves in the world game's top ranks again," said the 46-year-old known as Jogi. "It's a young team and can only improve."
Leo Beenhakker, who has been appointed coach to Poland after leading Trinidad & Tobago in their first World Cup finals, is succeeded by his deputy and fellow Dutchman, Wim Rijsbergen.
What has happened to the 32 coaches whose teams competed in the 2006 World Cup finals
Marcello Lippi (appointed 2004)
Resigned after leading Azzurri to World Cup glory
Raymond Domenech (2004)
Contract extended (length to be decided next month)
Jürgen Klinsmann (2004)
Resigned; replaced by assistant Joachim Löw
Luiz Felipe Scolari (2003)
Conflicting reports. Scolari claims he is close to signing
Jose Pekerman (2004)
Resignation to Argentinian FAhas not been accepted
Carlos Alberto Parreira (2003)
Future uncertain, expected to resign soon
Sven Goran Eriksson (2001)
Left by mutual consent
Oleg Blokhin (2003)
Guus Hiddink (2005)
Stepped down after World Cup, heading for Russia
Luis Fernando Suarez (2004)
Offered chance to stay until the end of the next year
Ratomir Dujkovic (2004)
Contracted until end of year, decision expected soon
Marco Van Basten (2004)
Safe. Under contract until 2008
Ricardo La Volpe (2002)
Quit to take up a managerial job in Europe
Luis Aragones (2004)
Still there, until August 2008
Lars Lagerback (2000)
Confirmed he will stand down after Euro 2008
Koebi Kuhn (2001)
Still there, contracted until August 2008
Luis Oliviera Goncalves (2003)
Safe, contracted until end of year
Costa Rica (GS)
Alexandre Guimares (2005)
Resigned, fearing for safety after poor performances
Zlatko Kranjcar (2004)
Keen to carry on to Euro 2008
Czech Republic (GS)
Karel Bruckner (2002)
Signed extension until 2008, including Euro 2008
Branko Ivankovic (2002)
Resigned; due to pressure from Iranian media
Ivory Coast (GS)
Henri Michel (2004)
Resigned after Ivory Coast's World Cup elimination
Has signed a two year deal at Fenerbahçe
Pawel Janas (2002)
Resigned before an official decision was made
Anibal Ruiz (2002)
Still there, though his future looks uncertain
Saudi Arabia (GS)
Marcos Paqueta (2005)
Still there, contracted until 2007
Serbia & Mont (GS)
Ilija Petkovic (2003)
Resigned after poor performances
South Korea (GS)
Dick Advocaat (2005)
Gone to Zenit St Petersburg for two and a half years
Otto Pfister (2006)
Still there, future uncertain
Trinidad & Tobago (GS)
Leo Beenhakker (2005)
Remains as technical advisor. Now Poland manager
Roger Lemerre (2002)
Still there, until 2008
Bruce Arena (1998)
Out of contract at end of year, yet to make final decision.Reuse content