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Title-winning former Napoli coach Spalletti given Italy job after Mancini resignation

Luciano Spalletti Luciano Spalletti - The Canadian Press

MILAN (AP) — Luciano Spalletti was named as the new Italy coach on Friday, just three months after he left Napoli saying he needed a break.

Spalletti replaced Roberto Mancini, who surprisingly resigned on Sunday after a mixed tenure that included winning the European Championship in 2021 and failing to qualify for the World Cup the following year.

Spalletti had always been the frontrunner. His attacking tactics garnered plaudits from all over Europe as he led Napoli to a first Serie A in more than three decades last season. The Italian soccer federation announced it came to an agreement with him.

The FIGC said Spalletti will start his new job on Sept. 1 ahead of the Euro 2024 qualifiers against North Macedonia and Ukraine scheduled for Sept. 9 and 12, respectively.

It did not give the length of the contract with 64-year-old Spalletti but Italian media reported his deal ran until after the 2026 World Cup.

“We welcome Spalletti,” FIGC president Gabriele Gravina said. “The national team needed a great coach and I am very happy that he has accepted the role of being in charge of the Azzurri.

“His enthusiasm and his competence will be fundamental for the challenges that await Italy in the upcoming months.”

The federation also said in its short statement that Spalletti’s official presentation will take place when Italy meets up for next month’s qualifiers.

Spalletti left Napoli after steering it to its first league title in 33 years. He said at the time that he was taking a sabbatical year and added he could be open to coaching a national team after his year off.

Mancini’s resignation provided an opportunity earlier than expected.

However, when Spalletti left Napoli he signed a document that included a clause of three million euros ($3.3 million) to be paid if he returned to work within a year of his contract.

Federation lawyers maintain it is a sort of non-compete clause and counts only for clubs that are rivals to Napoli. But Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis has remained equally firm that it also applied to the national team.

“I asked for guarantees that (Spalletti) would respect this sabbatical, including a penalty in the event of his commitment wavering,” De Laurentiis said in a recent statement. “(The FIGC) should not be put off by having to pay one million euros per year on the coach’s behalf to free him from his contractual obligations (a commitment not only to Napoli, but also to the club’s millions of fans). This is all incoherent.

“Admittedly, three million euros is not a lot to Napoli and even less to me, but the question in this case is not about the ‘almighty dollar,’ but a matter of principle instead.”


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