Italy coach fired as FA chief resists calls to step down
By ANDREW DAMPF
Nov. 15, 2017
ROME (AP) — Two days after Italy failed to qualify for the World Cup, the head of the country's football federation fired national coach Gian Piero Ventura — while ignoring angry calls to quit his own job.
Ventura left in disgrace Wednesday, widely criticized for his tactical decisions that left Italy out of football's biggest competition for the first time in six decades.
"I spoke with Ventura today and told him that his services are no longer needed," federation president Carlo Tavecchio said in a brief statement to reporters, adding that he would propose a series of reforms to improve the country's most popular sport.
Four-time champion Italy lost a playoff to Sweden, 1-0 on aggregate, on Monday.
Ventura's contract was recently extended to 2020 but the deal included a stipulation that it could be voided in case of a failed qualification.
Carlo Ancelotti, who was fired by Bayern Munich in September, was being mentioned by Italian media as a likely replacement but no new coach was immediately named.
"We also thought about some important coaches and we'll try to possibly sign one of them," Tavecchio said.
Damiano Tommasi, president of the Italian players association, abandoned a summit called to assess the failed qualification once he understood that Tavecchio would not step down.
"We believe we've got to start the rebuilding process with elections," Tommasi said. "It doesn't seem like there's any desire to restart from zero.
"The problems of Italian football can't be resolved with just the firing of the national team coach," added Tommasi, who played for Italy and helped Roma win the 2001 Serie A title. "Otherwise we'll continue to re-mix the same minestrone that has caused indigestion for so many of us."
Tavecchio said he called a board meeting for Monday to present his reforms, adding that they will affect the domestic leagues.
Ventura was hired last year when Antonio Conte left the national team to coach Chelsea after the European Championship.
The 69-year-old Ventura was a journeyman coach who had never managed a major club.
He previously coached Udinese, Cagliari, Napoli, Messina, Hellas Verona, Pisa, Bari and Torino.
Ventura's attachment to two forwards he coached at Torino, Ciro Immobile and Andrea Belotti, and his refusal to try a three-striker formation, led him to continually leave Napoli winger Lorenzo Insigne on the bench.
Considered Italy's most talented player of the moment, Insigne was inexplicably asked to come on for Marco Verratti in a central midfield position late in the opening leg against Sweden.
Ventura leaves with a record of nine wins, four draws and three losses.
Ancelotti, who coached Juventus and AC Milan before going abroad to win titles with Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, Real Madrid and Bayern, has the big-club resume that Ventura lacked. But it remains to be seen if he'll be willing to coach the national team, or if he still prefers the daily activities of a club.
Other options include installing a caretaker and luring back Conte, or perhaps Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri or Zenit St. Petersburg's Roberto Mancini once the club season ends.
"Ancelotti is definitely a great coach and a great person. He would be a great choice," said Italian coaches association president Renzo Ulivieri, who participated in the summit. "But other considerations need to be made. We need to talk with him and look around. It's early to talk about coaches."
Tavecchio's status was also brought into question by Italian Olympic Committee president Giovanni Malago on Tuesday.
"It's up to the boss to take responsibility but if I were him I would resign," Malago, who oversees all sports in the country, said Tuesday.
There is a precedent since both Giancarlo Abete, the previous federation president, and coach Cesare Prandelli each resigned immediately after Italy was eliminated in the first round of the 2014 World Cup.
Tavecchio was first voted to succeed Abete in 2014 despite a racist comment during his election campaign.
UEFA banned Tavecchio for six months after he made a reference to bananas when discussing the presence of foreign players in Italy.
Tavecchio was re-elected to another four-year term in March.
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Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/asdampf