Winning Is A Must For Italy
Born: 12 April 1948 in Viareggio (Italy) Nationality: Italian
Career as a player: 1963-1969: Stella Rossa Viareggio. 1969: Sampdoria. 1969-1970: Savona 1907 FBC. 1970-1980: Sampdoria. 1980-1982: AC Pistoiese. Career as a coach: 1982-1985: Sampdoria (youth coach). 1985-1986: US Pontedera. 1986-1987: AC Siena. 1987-1988: AC Pistoiese. 1988-1989: US Carrarese. 1989-1991: AC Cesena. 1991-1992: AS Lucchese-Libertas. 1992-1993: Atalanta. 1993-1994: Napoli. 1994-1999: Juventus. 1999-2000: Inter Milan. 2001-2004: Juventus. 2004-2006: Italian national coach. Since July 2008: Italian national coach. Honours as a coach: 1995: Italian league championship, Italian cup, Italian super cup. 1996: UEFA Champions League, UEFA Super Cup and Toyota Cup, World’s Best Club Coach. 1997; Italian league championship, Italian super cup. 1998: Italian league championship, World’s Best Club Coach. 2002: Italian league championship, Italian super cup. 2003: Italian league championship, Italian super cup. 2006: FIFA World Cup™, World’s Best National Coach. As at 25 July 2008
Marcello Lippi took Italy to FIFA World Cup glory in 2006 before resigning his post. The trophy-laden coach is now back at the helm, aiming for another triumph with the Squadra azzurra. However, the 60-year-old knows that it will not be easy.
FM: You’ve taken up the reigns of the Italian national team again at 60 after a two-year hiatus from the game. Why?
Marcello Lippi: There were two reasons. Firstly, Italy’s less-than-impressive performance at EURO 2008, which cost Roberto Donadoni his job, and secondly, my memories of the 2006 World Cup. The victory in Germany was a fantastic achievement for the players and me. It took two years of hard graft to make that moment possible. We grew into a mentally strong and compact team in which every player would walk through fire for the other. There was an unbelievable togetherness. I want to draw on that great .success and build another fantastic team.
But before we can start to dream about defending our title, we first have to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
Italy is a football nation like Germany. Brazil and Argentina, for whom winning is a must. My job is to press this message home to the players.
Why did you resign two years ago?
Lippi: The decision wasn’t totally of my own accord. After my son Davides involvement in the calciopoli football scandal, the media were on my back. They twisted my words and made a meal of everything. Fortunately, the situation has returned to normal in the meantime. During the ongoing court case, each party has been able to give its version of events, so hopefully this will help bring the truth to light. However, I actually made the announcement that I was going to resign after the tournament, regardless of the outcome, before our final World Cup group match against the Czech Republic, I’ve received many offers from large clubs and national teams in the last two years, but I’ve turned down all of them. I just couldn’t imagine taking over another team again so soon after resigning. I felt an obligation towards the Italian football association, which had given me the opportunity to experience this momentous triumph. I owed the association a lot and wanted to pay back some of the debt if the opportunity arose. That’s why I didn’t take on any other jobs in the intervening two years.
What have you been doing since the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ final?
Lippi: I’ve travelled all over the world and given presenrations, both at football associations and at 23 Italian universities. There was particular interest in my presentations on team leadership, Audiences wanted to know how to lead players individually and collectively and how to defuse conflicts between people, Italy has the reputation of being a group of individualists. However, my national team impressed at home and abroad with its closeness, sense of togedierness and readiness to make sacrifices for one another. I’ve also watched a huge numbet of matches at all levels during the last two years, both in the stadium and on television. I’ve kept on the ball and also furthered my education. 1 therefore have very clear expectations of my players. I expect them to show humility, determination and enthusiasm in the next two years. We’ll need all of those virtues if we want to defend our title. First, though, we have to succeed in quali5′ing for the 2010 World Cup, which will be extremely difficult. Bulgaria, the Republic of Ireland, Georgia, Cyprus and Montenegro will push us to the limit. We can’t afford any complacency, otherwise we’ll be knocked out.
How will your new national team look?
Lippi: It will be a mixture of the past, present and future. Many of the experienced players, such as Buffon, Zambrotta, Grosso, Cannavaro, De Rossi, Pirlo, Gattuso, Camoranesi, Toni and Gilardino will still be cornerstones of the team in two years’ time, and rhere’ll also be a place for the newcomers called up to the squad by my predecessor Donadoni, such as Barzagli, Chiellini, Gamberini, Aquilani, Montoiivo, Quagliarella, Di Narale and Cassano. Bur one thing’s for sure, I’m not going to stick with the 2006 World Cup winners purely out of gratitude, nor am I going to dismiss them out of hand. I’ll precisely analyse all of the players who catch my eye. The way I see it, the national team is open to all players between 18 and 40. For me, a player’s age is not a barrier, he simply has to be the best. The national team represents a country’s football, because in most European leagues clubs are made up almost exclusively of foreign players. The Italian football academy is one of the best, as our youth teams show time and time again. So my national team will certainly draw on the strengths of the Italian football tradition.
What are these strengths?
Lippi: Outstanding commitment, effective defensive organisation, speed, attacking flair and, as I said, excellent morale and tactical unity. There is only one way to achieve all of this – through work, work and more work. With that in mind, I’m delighted that Italy will be raking parr in the FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa next year, as this will give us time to prepare together in a relaxed manner. Fortunately, we can continue to rely on Gianluigi Buffon, the world’s best goalkeeper, but we’ll have to improve the organisation between our defence and midfield. As for up-front, I’m keeping all of my options open. We could conceivably play with one striker and two wingers, one striker and two attacking midfielders or two strikers and one attacking midfielder. The players have to be tactically flexible and able to change their positions easily, thus allowing us to take opponents unawares and nullify them. My team will definitely play to win, that is, in a brave, attack-minded fashion – just as it did in the World Cup semi-final against Germany. That was my best match as national team coach – we had four attackers on the field in extra time.
So you have no plans to copy the style of European champions Spain?
Lippi: The style of a national team reflects the way its clubs play. The hallmarks of Luis Aragones’ team, like those of the major Spanish clubs, were technique, speed and dribbling. What’s more, the omens weren’t good beforehand. Spain had barely won any titles in the past, and Aragones had come in for a great deal of criticism. However, the team worked hard and ultimately benefited from the many talented youngsters in its ranks, who’d gained lots of international experience with their clubs. However, they might well have been eliminated in the quarter-final. Italy were their equal and were only beaten on penalties. Donadoni did an excellent job during his two years as coach, but at the EURO he didn’t have the little bit of luck that’s needed. Italy’s national team is like a cheese that’s gone a little mouldy, but that doesn’t mean it’s gone bad. When you’ve removed the mould, a delicacy emerges.
Some people are demanding the return of Francesco Totti and Alessandro Nesta, others a call-up for the Brazilian-born players Amauri and Taddei …
Lippi: Totti and Nesta left the national team of their own free will. I respect their decision because they both contributed an unbelievable amount to the team for a decade. I’d like to see those players who face huge mental and physical demands with their clubs take some time out from the national team rather than quit the national team altogether. In that way, we wouldn’t be shutting the door on anyone. As far as naturalisation is concerned, Camorancsi (Italy), Senna (Spain) and Deco (Portugal) have shown how valuable naturalised players can be. But applying for the citizenship of another country has to be an affair of the heart. It should never be a calculated move, whereby a player thinks “If I don’t have a chance with Brazil, I’ll look for another team – Italy should never be a second choice for any player.
Polls suggest that not everyone in Italy is happy about your return. Do you want to follow in
the footsteps of Vittorio Pozzo in 1934 and 1938 by becoming a two-time FIFA World Cup™ winner?
Lippi: Pozzo had nothing to do with my decision. At the end of the day, victory is only the icing on the cake. I attach much greater importance to the two years of preparation – this work gives me immense satisfaction. I’ve encountered a lot of affection and appreciation in Italy in the last few months. Of course, many people were surprised by my decision, believing I could only lose out of it. My friends also thought that way at first. But I came back because I love football, Italy and the national team with all my heart. I’ve barely changed in the last two years -I’ve only put on two kilos! So I’m looking forward to the new challenge. After all, the job of Italian national coach is the best job imaginable. It’s not an easy one to give up. Ihat’s why my resignation two years ago hit me so hard. However, deep down 1 perhaps realised that fate always gives a second chance to the best.