Not many famous managers in world football would have their Milan office in the back of a friend's muffler garage.
Not many people can say they man-marked Pele' out of a game.
Not many other managers have won domestic titles in 4 different European Leagues.
Not many managers sprinkle holy water on the touchline to ward off "negativity."
No other Italian manager born on 17 March has ever coached Ireland.
But not many managers in world football are like Giovanni Trapattoni of the Republic of Ireland.
"il Trap," as he is affectionately known, has been in professional football for 50 of his 70 years. And he is still going strong as he leads the Republic against his former team in a crunch match Saturday at Croke Park (2000 local and 1900 GMT) in Dublin. He is the first Italian manager to face his former team. Last April, he drew, 1 x 1, in their World Cup qualifier in Bari.
His Management Record: Championships in Four Different Countries
- AC Milan: Where he also starred as a player winning the European Cup on two occasions.
- Juventus: Won the European Cup in 1985 at Heysel against Liverpool. Also won 2 UEFA Cups, a Cup Winners Cup, along with six Serie A titles.
- Internazionale Milano: Won the UEFA Cup and one Serie A title.
- Bayern Muncheon: Won the Bundesliga Championship in 1997 in his second stint at the club.
- Cagliari of Sardinia: Fired before they were relegated to Serie B in 1996.
- The Italian National Team: From 2000 to 2004. His winning percentage was 57% from 44 games. During his playing career, he was capped 14 times for the Azzurri.
- Benfica: Won the Portuguese SuperLiga Championship in 2005.
- Stuttgart: Fired in 2006 after a 20 game reign.
- Red Bull Salzburg: Won the Austrian Bundesliga Championship in 2007.
Italy has a 4 point advantage. Even if the Republic defeats Italy on Saturday, the Azzurri can qualify top of the table with a home draw against Cyprus.
Ireland's final qualifier will be against Montenegro. Presently, they are 5 points ahead of Bulgaria for the second spot that will allow them to enter a play-off in November. Speaking about FIFA's decision to seed teams, Mister Trapattoni didn't mince his words:
"Quattro o cinque anni fa i grandi club europei volevano creare la Superlega, ma poi lasciarono perdere", ha dichiarato il mister. "Capirono che poteva rappresentare la morte del calcio. Ora la situazione è simile. Ci devono essere gli stessi diritti per tutte le nazionali. Pensavamo che il sorteggio fosse senza teste di serie. Ma il business è business. I grandi team comandano in questo caso".
"Four or five years ago, the big European clubs wanted to create a Super League, but then they let it go. They understood that it would mean the death of soccer. Now the situation is similar. There ought to be the same rights for all nations. We thought that the draw would be without seeds. But business is business. The big sides dictate in this case."Italian source: La Gazzetta dello Sport, 7 October 2009.
For a look at my article about their first meeting in April:
Italy 1 x Republic of Ireland 1
My Chance Meeting with Mr. Trapattoni
Many years ago, I saw Mister Trapattoni up close and personal here in Washington, D.C. Juventus was playing a friendly, and the team met with then Vice President Bush. I happened to be close to the White House, and saw the entire Juventus team.
Trap was the first one off the bus... ;-)
My Chance Meeting With Juventus FC