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Money no obstacle to Mancini’s Italy ambitions

Florence (Italy) (AFP) – Roberto Mancini said Tuesday he had no problem severing his multi-million euro contract with Zenit Saint Petersburg to jump at the chance to coach the struggling Italian national team.

The former Italy international had two years left on his lucrative three-year deal with the Russian club, bankrolled by energy giant Gazprom, worth an estimated 13 million euros ($15.4m).

But he heard the national call after Italy’s failure to make the World Cup finals for the first time in six decades.

“It’s a beautiful thing to represent the national side in a time of difficulty,” Mancini said at the team’s training camp at Coverciano outside Florence. 

“Money isn’t everything and I want to do things that I like,” continued the 53-year-old who will nevertheless earn an estimated two million euros ($2.3 million) per year plus bonuses based on success with Italy.

His two-year Italy contract will take him up to Euro 2020. If successful, it will be automatically extended until June 2022, ahead of the World Cup in Qatar.

“I think being an Italian manager is always difficult and now even moreso because we didn’t go to the World Cup in Russia. 

“But I’m excited, it’s not trivial to become coach of the national team. I was made to feel they wanted me 100 percent.”

Mancini, who hails from Jesi on Italy’s Adriatic coast, said it was also emotional returning to Coverciano where he played football as a teenager.

“I set foot for the first time in Coverciano in 1978 with the under 14s. Thanks to my parents, I think they can be proud and to all the coaches I have had.” 

“The national team is the maximum aspiration for all the coaches.”

Both his sons 25-year-old Andrea, and Filippo, 27, were also footballers and played for the Inter Milan and Manchester City youth sides.

– ‘Bring Italy back’ –

Mancini, a former Lazio and Sampdoria forward, never became a regular with Italy over a 10-year international career that gleaned just four goals in 36 caps.

He reached the semi-finals of Euro 1988, and was in the squad that finished third in the 1990 World Cup on home soil.

He recalled: “As a player I think I was the only one to have worked with national coaches (Enzo) Bearzot, (Azeglio) Vicini and (Arrigo) Sacchi. 

“The relationship with the national team was not very lucky but I have been here in Coverciano for many years and we came close to winning a World Cup and a European Championship. 

“I want to bring Italy back where it deserves, on the roof of Europe and the world, we have not won a European championships for many years, this will be the first objective.

“I hope to be a coach who brings Italy back to the victory of an important trophy.”

Italy — world champions in 1934, 1938, 1982 and 2006 — have won the European title just once in 1968.

Mancini coached Fiorentina, Lazio, Inter Milan, Manchester City, and Galatasaray to titles.

Italy next plays Saudi Arabia in a friendly on May 28, ahead of games against France and the Netherlands.

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