By Massimo Gonnella
Following the trauma of Italy's premature exit from UEFA EURO 2004™, you may have thought that the last place that Giovanni Trapattoni would consider moving to after standing down as Azzurri coach would be Portugal. However, such expectations did not stop the 65-year-old taking the job at SL Benfica.
After four years in charge of the national team, the former Juventus FC and FC Internazionale coach was tempted into taking his second overseas posting, following a brief spell at FC Bayern München in the early 1990s, to return to the day-to-day coaching duties he claimed to have missed.
"I still wanted to go back to the roots, to what has always been my great passion: I have always loved football," he told uefa.com. "I was made this offer, there have been others, but this is a very famous club and I did not have any hesitations in accepting the job."
"With a club you have the players with you all the time, you can work with them and form a team, you can improve things," he added. "With the national team you normally only have very few days to work with them, to transmit your ideas, your will, your philosophy."
Camacho to Madrid
Trapattoni's predecessor at Benfica, José Antonio Camacho, was sufficiently successful in his post to be handed the reins at Real Madrid CF, but still the Lisbon giants did not challenge FC Porto for the Portuguese title. However, with coach José Mourinho and the cream of the side that won the UEFA Champions League last season having left, Porto may be a less fearsome prospect in 2004/05.
That may be a significant factor for the veteran Italian coach as Benfica look for their first league title since 1993/94. And certainly the prospect of carving out a winning team with limited resources is on which appeals to Trapattoni's sense of adventure.
Here in Portugal the football world is a bit different, football is still real," he said. "Economic factors are still a bit less important, and you can build something reasonably cheaply. This team has a lot of technical skill, but lacks experience and the tactical malice which wins titles."
To make things a little more interesting for Trapattoni in domestic football, Porto have also appointed an Italian coach, former AC Chievo Verona boss Luigi del Neri, in the summer. However, perhaps of more importance to the club will be reaching the group stages of the UEFA Champions League.
"Like all the other teams, we want to reach this objective, even though we have to start in the third qualifying round," said Trapattoni. "If we are lucky in the draw I believe that the team, once the internationals are back to complete the squad, can compete at international level and obtain some good results."
Certainly, after only couple of weeks in charge, Trapattoni is talking more in terms of hope than expectation, but with the Benfica players who played at EURO 2004™ about to rejoin the team, the coach will soon have a fuller picture of the weapons at his command.
I would not want to set the bar too high and try to compete with Porto for the league title," he said. "However, with what I already know about the team and the national team players joining soon, I am sure that we have the necessary skills, which, paired with the right spirit, will and ambition, will allow us to hope for some very good results."
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