Milan, Italy | AFP | Gian Piero Ventura’s reign as Italy coach ended on Wednesday after a World Cup qualifying fiasco during which the four-time champions failed to reach next year’s finals in Russia.
The 69-year-old’s fate was sealed after a crisis meeting of the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) in Rome, with former Chelsea and Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti among the favourites to take over and rebuild the Azzurri.
Ventura had refused to resign despite a 1-0 aggregate play-off defeat to Sweden on Monday that saw Italy miss the World Cup for the first time since 1958.
“As of today Gian Piero Ventura is no longer the coach of the national team,” the FIGC said in a statement.
According to reports, Ventura will be paid his salary until the end of his contract in June 2018, which amounts to approximately 800,000 euros ($943,000).
But FIGC president Carlo Tavecchio will stay on despite mounting pressure on him to also resign after a defeat which has left a nation traumatised.
“The federation president (Tavecchio) informed participants at the (crisis) meeting… of the impossibility for him to resign,” a FIGC statement read, awaiting “a series of proposals” on how to fix Italian football.
Tavecchio later told journalists that a new coach would be named at a special meeting of the FIGC federal council which would take place next Monday.
“We are considering big names for the role of coach,” the 74-year-old promised.
Ancelotti is seen as the frontrunner, as the 58-year-old is free since being sacked by Bayern Munich at the end of September.
Italian Ancelotti has won three Champions League crowns, and league titles in Italy, England, Germany and France, and would provide the high profile required after the Ventura fiasco.
A return by Chelsea manager Antonio Conte, Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri and former Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini are also being considered.
– Rebuilding –
But opposition to Tavecchio remains despite promises to rebuild Italian football from grassroots level upwards with Damiano Tommasi, the head of the Italian Players’ Union, storming out of the FIGC meeting after Tavecchio refused to quit.
“There doesn’t appear to be the mood for change,” the former Roma midfielder told journalists. “Tavecchio has decided not to resign and continue with his office.
“The others haven’t taken a position and said they’d decide in the future.
“We need credible elections, with new people; we won’t solve the problems of Italian football by sacking the coach.
“If not, we’ll keep stirring the same soup which has proved indigestible to so many.”
Ventura, meanwhile, had defended his leadership as “one of the best records in 40 years” despite failing to lead the 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006 winners to their 19th World Cup.
“I lost only two games in two years,” he had told Italian television.
In fact, since the former Torino coach took over in July 2016, Italy have lost three matches — against France in Bari (3-1), Spain in Madrid (3-0) and Sweden in the World Cup first-leg play-off in Solna (1-0) — winning nine and drawing four.
Ventura was given the Italy job in the wake of Euro 2016 after five excellent years at Torino, whom he took from Serie B in 2011 to the Europa League round of 16 in 2015.
But having never managed one of Serie A’s big hitters during a 41-year career, he was an uninspiring replacement for Conte, a three-time Serie A winner who dragged two-time champions Italy to the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.