MILAN (AFP) – Roberto Mancini dropped a big hint yesterday he will stay on as Italy coach despite the Azzurri failing to qualify for the World Cup for a second successive time.
The European champions were stunned by North Macedonia in Thursday’s qualification play-off semi-final for this year’s tournament in Qatar, sparking talk he could resign in the aftermath of perhaps Italy’s worst-ever defeat.
However, although he wouldn’t openly confirm that he would stay at the helm, yesterday Mancini spoke about the team and the future using the first-person plural “noi”, or “we”.
“I’ve spoken with the (Italian Football Federation) president (Gabriele Gravina) in the last few days, I think we’re on the same page on pretty much everything,” Mancini told reporters ahead of Italy’s friendly with Turkey in Konya today.
“We will speak about it again in the coming days, we’ll see each other again after this match. Then we’ll take our time to talk about what can be improved for the future. That’s it.”
Names including 2006 World Cup-winning captain Fabio Cannavaro and Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti were touted after Italy’s 1-0 defeat in Palermo last week.
Mancini, who took over in May 2018 after Italy failed to reach that’s year’s World Cup, has a contract which runs until the 2026 tournament co-hosted by Canada, Mexico and the United States.
After Thursday’s defeat team captain Giorgio Chiellini and Gravina both said they wanted Mancini to continue, and the 57-year-old all-but made a public bid to stay on as boss.
When asked what would push him to remain in his post, Mancini smiled and made very clear his enthusiasm for managing a team which he is convinced would have been a contender in Qatar had they qualified.
“I’m still young, my aim is to win a European Championship and a World Cup, and for the World Cup we will need to wait a bit,” he said.
“I like my job, I think I can still have fun and do something special with the boys.”
He was backed up on this occasion by Leonardo Bonucci, who was unavailable for the match with North Macedonia but has been at the heart of a team which up to the Euro 2020 final had played enjoyable football and broken winning streak and matches unbeaten records.
“I think what the coach has given us in these past three years was unique. He created a depth of feeling between the team, staff and management that we’ve rarely experienced at (national training centre) Coverciano,” Juventus defender Bonucci said.
“Anyone who has been involved on the pitch, the dressing room or had anything to do with the coach wants only to carry on with him.”