• Italian insists Ireland are well placed to qualify for World Cup
Giovanni Trapattoni has been left to sweat at home in Italy as the Football Association of Ireland considers whether to sack him, with the expectation being that they will seek to end his tenure as the national team manager.
The Italian flew to Milan on Wednesday morning, rather than return to Dublin with his players the previous night after the World Cup qualifying victory over the Faroe Islands in Torshavn. Trapattoni usually conducts a debrief with the media on the day after matches but he said that he needed to travel straight to Italy because his elderly sister is in hospital.
Trapattoni, who officially took charge of the Republic of Ireland in May 2008, has not had a dialogue with anybody from the FAI in recent days and he must now wait for a phone call from the chief executive, John Delaney, to learn whether he is to be retained for the home friendly against Greece on 14 November. Ireland are scheduled to face Poland at home in another friendly on 6 February before the vital qualification double-header against Sweden (away) and Austria (home) in late March.
The silence from the FAI on Trapattoni's future has been ominous. It became an issue after his team's dismal performance at the Euro 2012 finals in the summer, when they lost all three of their group ties, and has become even more so in light of the inauspicious start to the World Cup campaign. Ireland needed late goals to sneak to a fortuitous 2-1 away win over Kazakhstan in September while the 4-1 victory against the Faroes followed the 6-1 loss to Germany in Dublin last Friday; the heaviest home defeat in Irish football history.
Delaney refused to comment or give any assurances regarding Trapattoni in Torshavn and he will discuss how best to proceed with his fellow members of the FAI's 10-man board.
Some of them believe that Trapattoni, despite his positive work in the qualification campaigns for the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, has reached the end of the line, losing his ability to get the most from the team in the big matches and, as such, he must be replaced.
The issue of Trapattoni's severance, together with his assistant Marco Tardelli and the fitness coach Fausto Rossi, will be pressing for the cash-conscious FAI. Trapattoni accepted a pay cut to chime with austerity measures across Ireland but he still earns €1.3m a year. His contract will expire when Ireland's World Cup campaign ends, be that in October of next year when his team plays their final qualifier against Kazakhstan at home, or after their exit from the finals in Brazil in the summer of 2014.
Trapattoni has made it plain that he does not want to leave his post and so it would be impossible for the FAI to claim any sort of mutual consent over his departure. The 73-year-old would not go without a full pay-off and he would doubtless argue that his contract ought to be respected until the World Cup finals as he believes that, with six points from an available nine and having lost only to the qualification group's best team, he remains on course.
Fifty percent of Trapattoni's salary is paid by Denis O'Brien and the Irish businessman would most likely be asked to help to fund any pay-off. The FAI are doing the sums and they will take into account the possibility of making damaging losses in the Greece and Poland friendlies if the paying public, who have become increasingly turned off by Trapattoni's tactics, stay away.
The story has come to set old-school managerial pragmatism against the yearning for more swashbuckling and entertaining football. "We no lose" has been one of Trapattoni's mantras. But many supporters want to see the team go all-out for the win, especially against the bigger nations. It is a blight on Trapattoni's record that his Ireland side has never beaten higher-ranked opposition in a competitive fixture.
Trapattoni continues to cite his results as the justification for his methods. He only narrowly failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup after the controversial play-off defeat at the hand of Thierry Henry and France while he achieved his target when he took Ireland to Euro 2012. Even now, he argues that the team is well-placed for Brazil 2014.
But plenty of people have not been deceived by the wins over Kazakhstan and the Faroes. They see a squad in decline which, in five turbulent months, has even been stripped of its resilience, as was confirmed by the scale of the capitulation against Germany. They question Trapattoni's man-management, after the way that he has alienated a clutch of players and they are convinced that a change is needed. Trapattoni is no longer the master of his destiny.