Giovanni Trapattoni is one of the most celebrated managers in football history. One of only a handful of managers to win league titles in 4 European countries. He is also one of few managers to win all the UEFA club trophies and a few other to boot. However, none of this makes up for the fact that his time as manager of the Republic of Ireland should have finished some time ago.
There is an argument that says Trapattoni has done well to get the most out of a very limited group of players. Il Trap makes his teams organised, hard to beat and greater than the sum of its parts. However, there is a counter-argument and some statistical evidence that says the jig is up.
In order to play the Trapattoni way, you have to have a cohesive unit. Something that should suit Ireland fine; a bunch of hard working, fight-to-the-end journeymen. Except, Il Trap is not doing a lot to inspire his charges. He nearly never goes to club games to scout players and his spoken English is famously poor , as a result he rarely communicates at any great length with Irish players. Finally, and most damningly of all, he has fallen out with an inordinate number of Irish footballers. There’s not a particularly large pool to choose from, so holding a grudge against upwards of 10 of them suggests the problem is with you and not them ( I wonder could you pick a starting XI from Irish players who Trap won’t pick?).
Trapattoni and his supporters will tell you that he was a handball away from qualifying for South Africa 2010 (he was actually a handball away from a penalty shootout), and he got Ireland to the Euros for the first time since 1988, but his main opposition in doing so was Slovakia, Macedonia and Estonia, so really he was about par for the course. Under his tutelage, Ireland have improved their FIFA rankings, but you know what I think of FIFA rankings. Qualifying Ireland for this tournament did raise his stock somewhat, but Ireland returned with the joint-worst ever performance by any team at the European Championships. Since then, he bumbled over the line 1-2 in Kazakhstan and then suffered their worst ever home defeat 1-6 against Germany. Wins against the ‘might’ of Oman and The Faroe Islands hardly make up for that.
So why are the Football Association of Ireland sticking with him? More than likely, it’s because he has 2 more years to run on his $2m a year contract. Complicating matters is the fact that half of this salary is bankrolled by Irish billionaire Denis O’Brien, and I get the feeling that no-one is sure if he would be willing to pony up half of a severance package or not.
So who would come in if Trapattoni left? If you were insisting on an Irish manager, you could do a lot worse than former manager Mick McCarthy – arguably the last manager to get Ireland to play nice football. His level of ability seems to suit good Championship to mediocre Premier League players, which would fit in with Ireland just fine. If you wanted to look further afield (and further into the realms of fantasy) then Alan Curbishley, Harry Redknapp and Rafa Benitez are all currently tending their gardens at home.
It would be a shame if a great manager and decent man’s final legacy was a decimated Irish side, so I hope Trap proves me wrong, but he may well feel he has nothing left to prove, could do without the hassle, and may go before he’s pushed.
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