Less than a day after Cesare Prandelli had named his 32-man preliminary squad and he was already being questioned about his future at the end of the European Championship. “I have a contract until 2014 and I want to respect it,” he stated from Italy’s Coverciano training base. “However, while on the bench at Euro 2012, I’ll be under examination. Like all Coaches, my fate will depend on results.”
That particular reality of football management should send a shiver down the spines of all those who hold the Italian national team in their heart. If there is one Azzurro who the country can’t afford to fail in Poland and Ukraine then that has to be Prandelli himself. That’s evident when you sit down and consider who could actually replace him should his contract be terminated before the summer is over.
That’s not to say that Italy have no great tacticians in Serie A or beyond, but those at the top of a hypothetical FIGC wish-list would be verging on the impossible to net. The likes of Antonio Conte, Massimiliano Allegri, Luciano Spalletti, Roberto Mancini and Carlo Ancelotti, for example, are unlikely to be released by their present club sides.
Fabio Capello is obviously available, but he wouldn’t come cheap and he’s already stated that the Italy job holds no interest for him. That is likely to be even more the case now given that he’s tasted international management with England. Contacting Don Fabio, despite his achievements, would also be a backwards step when it comes to the kind of football he employs and what Prandelli has been working on for the last 24 months.
Udinese’s Francesco Guidolin would be a possible contender, but he’s unproven at the very highest level. He’s also recently highlighted how he sometimes struggles with the stresses and anxiety of leading a club like the Stadio Friuli outfit – how would he cope under the media spotlight at the head of the Italian national side?
With such limited options, you would expect the Federation to go old school and look to appoint from within and promote from the Under-21 set-up. Although the FIGC haven’t gone down that route since Cesare Maldini replaced Arrigo Sacchi in December 1996, on the back of him winning three European titles with the Azzurrini, such a move would have to be within the realms of possibility given the current coaching landscape.
Ferrara, though, is still relatively inexperienced even if his stint with the Italian U-21 side so far has been strong. The problem is that he’s widely remembered for being dismissed at Juventus. In 31 games on the Old Lady’s bench, he won 15, drew five and lost 11. Although the squad he had to work with in Turin was unbalanced, Ferrara would undoubtedly still be a gamble.
It is faced with this backdrop that it would make sense to keep faith with Prandelli, at all costs, no matter what happens over the next five weeks. While it is easy to pick fault with some of the players he selected in his 32-man and then 23-man squads for Euro 2012, he has at least attempted to revive Italy’s fortunes with an ultimately clear footballing philosophy after a confused and experimental start to his reign.
While Italy’s success at World Cup 2006 was constructed on the back of Marcello Lippi’s ability to create a united group, Prandelli’s team have – for the first time since Azeglio Vicini’s stint in charge up to the 1990 World Cup – regularly played an entertaining, purposeful and effective kind of football. La Nazionale, at long last, actually look comfortable on the ball.
With no guaranteed mega stars on the peninsula horizon, Italy must persist on the present path if they are to seriously challenge at World Cup 2014. With stronger nations than the Azzurri at the European Championship, Euro 2012 will probably be a stepping stone to eventually reaffirming the team’s reputation on a global stage in Brazil after the embarrassment of South Africa. Prandelli intimated that himself by taking a closer look at youngsters such as Marco Verratti, Ezequiel Schelotto and Mattia Destro last week. They’ll probably have a part to play in the future and preferably under the tutelage of Cesare Prandelli.