Giovanni Trapattoni has voiced his darkest fears about corruption in international football as he suggested that he would like to stay on as the Republic of Ireland's manager until the Brazil World Cup in 2014 to settle old scores.
The 72-year-old Italian's priority is to take Ireland to the Euro 2012 finals and, at the halfway point of the qualifying campaign, he has the team joint top of Group B with Russia and Slovakia. He is optimistic that, if his players can stay fit, they will advance as group winners.
Trapattoni's €1.7m-a-year contract (£1.5m) will expire after the current campaign but the lure of Brazil and another tilt at the World Cup may prove impossible to resist, particularly as he feels that the tournament owes him something.
He was the Italy manager at the 2002 finals, when the team were controversially eliminated in the last 16 by the co-hosts South Korea. The referee in that game, Ecuador's Byron Moreno, achieved infamy for his decision to send off Francesco Totti for an alleged dive and to oversee the disallowing for offside of a seemingly legitimate Italy goal by Damiano Tommasi. Italy had a total of five goals contentiously ruled out over the course of the tournament.
Trapattoni was again undermined by forces beyond his control when France beat his Ireland team in the play-off for the 2010 World Cup, courtesy of Thierry Henry's infamous "Hand of Gaul" assist. Trapattoni can come across as the conspiracy theorist and he noted, pointedly, that France, at the time, were sponsored by Adidas.
"Adidas is French," he said. "These competitions are very, very important for business. I know there is a lot of interest in this tournament [the World Cup], whether it is from the media, whether it is sponsors, whether it is business, whether it is money … there are other interests. There is too much interest. A colleague said to me after the Henry handball, 'Giovanni, you know football.'
"When I was the Italian manager in Korea … it was not France but it was similar. If you want, I can show you the DVD of the Korean match at the World Cup. The referee from the Italy-Korea game was in prison, was he not?" Moreno was arrested last September for allegedly attempting to smuggle six kilograms of heroin into the United States.
"I achieved good results at club level with strong teams," Trapattoni said, "but also with Uefa and Fifa … I have paid my dues and I am due something back. I am waiting for something back because of the experiences I have had."
The draw for World Cup qualification is in July and Trapattoni would relish leading Ireland in Brazil. "Obviously, I would be proud to continue because the next World Cup is in Brazil," he said. "Brazil is Pelé and, psychologically, it is a feeling you have about the game there. I know Pelé from years ago and I had good experiences against Brazil as a player and manager.
"Stay on in the job? Sure, why not? Why not? I am available. I don't have to start again because now we have many options on the pitch. I think we have improved the team with the young players."
Trapattoni's next challenge is to plot a way past Macedonia in Skopje on 4 June, having beaten them 2-1 in Dublin on Saturday. It seems certain that he will revert to his tried and trusted players, despite the striker Shane Long, for example, pressing his case for inclusion in the 3-2 friendly defeat against Uruguay on Tuesday.
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