Despite the signings of Jon Dahl Tomasson from AC Milan and Club Atlético de Madrid's Jesper Grønkjær, many would claim that VfB Stuttgart's biggest capture of the summer was former Italian national coach Giovanni Trapattoni.
Trapattoni joined Stuttgart from SL Benfica and can boast an impressive array of trophies including German, Italian and Portuguese titles so it was a huge surprise that, well into his 60s, he decided to take up yet another position. "I spoke to my wife and she realised that I would be unhappy giving up coaching, so she allowed me to accept the job," he said.
After arriving back in Germany, Trapattoni soon began revamping the Stuttgart squad that had finished the 2004/05 season disappointingly, missing out on a UEFA Champions League place on the final day and prompting the club to part company with Trapattoni's predecessor, Matthias Sammer.
The Italian impressed early on as he guided the UEFA Cup hopefuls to the German League Cup final, defeating former club FC Bayern München along the way. However, the side's promising start was not matched in the Bundesliga, as they drew their opening match 1-1 at newly-promoted MSV Duisburg, before losing 3-2 at home against 1. FC Köln, another side that had won promotion in the summer.
The players aren't showing the confidence I want to see yet. We are also lacking concentration and summer signings such as Tomasson and Grønkjær simply aren't fully fit yet. We need a few more weeks to be at out best," explained Trapattoni.
The German press, however, believed the omission of captain Zvonimir Soldo was the key factor, claiming the club lacked leadership on the field. But Trapattoni countered: "I respect Zvonimir Soldo and I know how important he is. He is like a father to the other players, but I was signed to make changes."
Nevertheless, the side's poor performances eventually forced his hand and Saturday's 1-1 draw at Werder Bremen saw Soldo restored to the starting lineup, and the Croatian international repaid Trapattoni with a dedicated display at the heart of the defence. "It was great to have Zvonimir back in the side," said defender Markus Babbel. "He is very important for the team."
Unafraid to hold his hands up, Trapattoni echoed Babbel's sentiments, proving, at the ripe old age of 66, that a coach can still learn new lessons. "Soldo showed how important he is for the team," said the extrovert Italian. "He gives the young players stability and confidence."
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