Born: 17 March 1939 in Cusano Milanino (Italy)
Career as a player: 1953-1970: AC Milan. 1970-1971: Varese.
Honours as a player: Italian league championship (1962, 1968), Italian cup (1967), European Cup (1963, 1969), Cup Winners’ Cup (1968), Intercontinental Cup (1969). 17 caps for Italy, 1 goal.
Career as a coach: 1972-1976: AC Milan (youth coach from 1972-1974). 1976-1986: Juventus. 1986-1991: Inter Milan. 1991-1994: juventus. 1994-1995: Bayern Munich. 1995: Cagliari. 1996-1998: Bayern Munich. 1998-2000: Fiorentina. 2000-2004: Italy. 2004-2005: Benfica. 2005-2006: Stuttgart. 2006-2008: Red Bull Salzburg. Since May 2008: Republic of Ireland.
Honours as a coach: Italian league championship (1977, 1978, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1986, 1989), Italian cup (1979, 1983), Italian super cup (1989), German league championship (1997), German cup (1998), German super cup (1997), Portuguese league championship (2005), Austrian league championship (2007), European Cup (1985), Cup Winners’Cup (1984), UEFA Cup (1977, 1991, 1993), UEFA Super Cup (1985), Intercontinental Cup (1985).
Solidarity, Sweat And Loyalty
He is one of the most successful football coaches of all time and has won titles in his native Italy as well as Portugal, Germany and Austria. Giovanni Trapattoni took over as coach of the Republic of Ireland in May 2008 and aims to guide them to the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
There was certainly a touch of sadness in Italy about the end of Giovanni Trapattoni’s reign as national team coach following EURO 2004. Not because of his sporting achievements with the national team, which had been modest, but because the maestros outbursts provided top-class entertainment, particularly compared to his successors, Marcello Lippi and Roberto Donadoni.
“The Koreans run like Chinese cyclists,” warned “Trap” on one occasion. Another time, he offered up the following philosophy: “If you ask me whether I prefer Luisella or Antonella, I’d definitely take Luisella. Maybe I have to make do with Antonella — but if the result is the same, Antonella or Luisella would be fine.” His meaning might not have been very clear, but an amusing scene was always guaranteed.
But that was not good enough for the Azzurri’s 60 million other national team coaches. “Anyone who wants to be a coach in Italy has to be a complete masochist,” Italy goalkeeper Gianluigi BufFon once said. After an indifferent 2002 FIFA World Cup™ campaign and exiting EURO 2004 at the group stage, Trapattoni had enough of masochism and endless controversy and left Italy, where he has not worked since. “I love my homeland and I have won many battles in my career. In the end I got a few good offers from Italy, but I will never work there again,” he said with wounded pride.
However, he had no reason to fear that he would be out of the game for long. Following spells in Portugal, Germany and Austria, “Trap” has now pitched up in Ireland, where he was officially presented as national coach at the beginning of May. And never mind that his wife Paola only grudgingly puts up with his traipsing around Europe. “I sometimes get a right earful from her. But at 69 I cannot and will not stop, I still have too much to give back to football,” he says with conviction. You can sense it as his eyes light up while he is talking and he suddenly jumps up to demonstrate tactics with his hands and feet.
“Some say that I am old-fashioned. I have to laugh at that. I bring innovation to all of my teams. People know that they can demand success from Trapattoni and that they will get 100 per cent 24 hours a day.”
This is dogma that Trapattoni learned from his youth. “My father worked in a factory, arrived home and then slaved away in the field so that we had something to eat. The poor guy ruined his back, but no one could stop him,” recalls Trapattoni.
“No matter what kind of journey life takes you on, a huge part of you is always formed at the first station,” Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson once said fittingly.
Trapattoni grew up in Cusano Milanino in the early 1940s just as industries started to mushroom in this small town in the province of Milan. Family, solidarity, sweat and above all, loyalty – these were the town’s guiding principles. Then there was football, which the young Trapattoni would start playing as soon as he was out of school for the day.
This did not please his father Francesco at all: “Stop dreaming,” he would complain to his son. “These days you need knowledge to succeed. Look at me, what kind of a life is that? We may not be short of bread, but you have to get on in life. You won’t get anywhere with a ball.”
Giovanni also worked in a factory near the school for four hours a day, six days a week. Then he would cycle ten kilometres to the station from where he would catch the train to watch his idols at AC Milan practise. Some years later, in 1958, he pulled on the red and black shirt himself and made his debut in a Coppa Italia match against Monza – with a 38.5°C fever. “I didn’t tell anyone, I would have been crazy to pass up that chance.”
Trapattoni’s career at Milan lasted until 1971 and included two league championships, two European Cups and one Intercontinental Cup. Both as a player and subsequently as a coach, Trapattoni was branded with the values of hard work, commitment, honesty and fairness. Exceptional players must work for the team, not the other way round.
Trapattoni won the Italian league championship in 1976-77, his first year at Juventus. He remained there for a further five seasons, winning another league championship and two UEFA Cups. “He was the ideal coach, the man who laid the foundations for success,” says former Juventus goalkeeper Dino ZofF. The late Juventus owner Gianni Agnelli once paid the following tribute to “Trap”: “He always wanted to win, but above all he loved the great footballers such as Hamrin, Platini, Maradona, Baggio – regardless of whether they wore our shirt or the opponent’s. Trapattoni was a master at assessing the person and the personality inside a footballer.”
Nevertheless, many still accuse him of playing destructive, defensive football. It is a label that he accepts with a shrug of his shoulders and a stream of metaphors. “I have been stung by eight scorpions in my life, I have the antidote in my blood. It is not the label that is important but the contents of the bottle,” is his response. “And besides, I don’t like defeats, in which I wallow like a half-naked child in the snow. I have often varied my tactics — for example, I have never forbidden Lothar Matthaus from going forward.”
“He is phenomenally professional,” admits Matthaus. Trapattoni then led an Inter side containing Matthaus to the 1989 Serie A title, a feat known as the “record championship” in Italy. Under the two points for a victory system, no Serie A team had ever amassed as many points – 58 – as “Trap”‘s side.
Furthermore, his total of 23 titles at club level is not indicative of a catenaccio style of football. These achievements make Trapattoni one of the most successful coaches in history. Like the Austrian Ernst Happel, he has won the league championship in four different countries: Italy, Portugal (with Benfica), Austria (with Red Bull Salzburg) and of course Germany with Bayern Munich.
At Bayern he needed two attempts to land the league title and will always be remembered for his famous “Ich habe fertig” outburst in broken German when he felt that he had been left in the lurch and betrayed by the most important people in his circle – the players. “The players are the coach’s apostles; points and tables are the critics’ apostles,” is Trapattoni’s credo. He is a meticulous worker who is also capable of self-mockery and learning. “When you are in another country and don’t know yet how people think, eat or tick, you are sometimes like an elephant in a china shop. You have to learn from your experiences and be able to laugh at yourself.”
He is certainly far from finished. He is now attempting to bring Ireland out of their current slump and guide them to qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. He is assisted by his former apostles at Juventus, Marco Tardelli and Liam Brady, who advised Trapattoni to accept the job.
“I am sometimes very impulsive,” said “Trap” at his unveiling. “I say what I think, but I think 100 per cent.” Perhaps that is what makes him so loved by the fans. On his first walk around Dublin, he was already recognised by numerous passers-by, who gave him a hearty welcome and wished him all the best.
“I have had amazingly good luck in my life, for which I must thank my wife and my family every day,” he says. “I am also grateful to football, which has provided me with so many experiences. Life is really like a novel.”
One day he would like to tell his story in writing. “But not until my career is over – so definitely not before my 80th birthday.”