Ranieri won’t rule out possibility of coaching Italy

Nantes boss Claudio Ranieri said he would think about coaching Italy after the four-time world champions “hit rock bottom” following their failure to qualify for Russia next year.

Italy are looking for a new coach after sacking Gian Piero Ventura, who was at the helm as the country sensationally missed out on a World Cup berth for the first time since 1958.

Carlo Ancelotti has emerged as the favourite to pick up the pieces following Italy’s 1-0 aggregate play-off defeat to Sweden, but countryman and Premier League-winning manager Ranieri would be willing to answer the nation’s call.

“Would I be the Italy coach? I would have to think about it, but it doesn’t only depend on me, as I have a contract with Nantes and a president who I would have to talk to,” the 66-year-old told Sky Sport Italia .

“I read names like Max Allegri, Antonio Conte and Carlo Ancelotti. I say that right now they need to think carefully about what to do next. Whoever they get from that list will be excellent.

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“I think that in Italy the situation of the coach is almost secondary, because we have hit rock bottom and need things to change. There are interesting young players and we will get back on our feet.

“Italy hadn’t missed the World Cup for 60 years, but at times you need to hit rock bottom to get back on your feet.”

Ranieri’s Nantes are fifth in Ligue 1 following Saturday’s 4-1 rout at French giants Paris Saint-Germain.


Sarri defends sacked Ventura over Insigne’s Italy snub

Maurizio Sarri understands why Giampiero Ventura opted to ignore the claims of his forward Lorenzo Insigne as Italy missed out on World Cup qualification by losing their play-off against Sweden.

In a 2-1 home win against AC Milan on Saturday, Insigne looked in the mood to show Ventura – dismissed after Italy missed out on a World Cup place for the first time in 60 years – he was wrong to be left as an unused substitute in the second leg.

The forward raced on to a lofted through ball from fellow Italy international Jorginho to open the scoring and set up a victory that sent Napoli four points clear at the top of Serie A.

But Sarri said Ventura’s system did not have an obvious place for wide forward Insigne, who had been used in central midfield when he came off the bench in Italy’s decisive 1-0 first leg loss at the Friends Arena.

“I would not leave Insigne out, but each coach is the result of his experiences and Ventura always played with two up front,” Sarri toldMediaset Premium after Napoli strengthened their Scudetto claims. 

“I did not like the way the media tore Ventura apart, because when there is a loss like that, the blame is to be shared around, never just apportioned to one man.”

Insigne, for his part, insisted he did not resent Ventura for leaving him on the sidelines after scoring his fifth goal in his last five appearances against Milan.

“I don’t like to cause controversy,” Insigne told Mediaset Premium. “He considered those [substitutes] to be the right men to reach the World Cup and I accept the decisions of the coach.

“I am sad because Italy are not going to the World Cup, not because I didn’t play.”

Sarri’s success at Napoli has inevitably led to rumours he could be a possible successor to Ventura.

But the 58-year-old followed Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri and Inter’s Luciano Spalletti in rejecting speculation linking him with the post, while accepting Napoli were not at their best against Milan.

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“At the moment I am enjoying training these players and working every day on the field,” Sarri added. “We’re doing well and hope to achieve something at the end of it.

“It wasn’t our sharpest performance, yet looking overall we allowed hardly anything and created eight clear scoring opportunities, so that’s good in the circumstances.
“Our tempo dropped in the second half and we sat too deep, but despite that, we didn’t allow many real chances. Almost everyone was off on international duty, so our fitness levels could not have been perfect.

“I am sorry we conceded a goal in stoppage time from distance, because it would have been nice to keep a clean sheet.”


‘He is the best’ – Spalletti tips Ancelotti for vacant Italy job

Luciano Spalletti has ruled himself out of the running to become Italy’s next head coach and backed Carlo Ancelotti for the role.

The Azzurri are searching for a new man to take charge after Gian Piero Ventura was sacked following the national team’s failure to qualify for next year’s World Cup.

Italy will not be present at Russia 2018 after losing out in a two-legged play-off to Sweden, meaning the four-time world champions will miss an edition of the tournament for the first time since 1958.

The experienced Spalletti is not interested in the job at this stage of his managerial career – but he believes Ancelotti, who is out of work after being sacked by Bayern Munich earlier this season, would be the ideal man to fill the vacancy.

“I want and have to work well for Inter,” the 58-year-old told Inter’s official website ahead of Sunday’s home Serie A game against Atalanta.

“For the future, I could see Ancelotti doing well, he has the charisma and experience, while everyone is aware of his work. You need to aim for the best and he is the best.”

While the inquest into Italy’s shortcomings will run deeper than just identifying the right candidate to take charge, Spalletti has warned against making major changes in the aftermath of one disappointing qualification campaign.

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“The Azzurri must not hide from the disappointment linked to the national team, on the contrary they need a reaction,” he said.

“We must not have weaknesses in terms of character. We must react.

“Our footballing style has value and there is no need to copy other models. You only need to look at our past.”


Simeone backs under-fire Griezmann ‘to the death’

Diego Simeone pledged to support Antoine Griezmann after the out-of-sorts forward was whistled by Atletico Madrid fans during the 0-0 draw with rivals Real Madrid on Saturday.

Griezmann has looked a shadow of his former self this season and was again anonymous in the derby stalemate at Wanda Metropolitano.

The France international has shouldered much of the blame for Atletico’s scoring woes – netting only twice in 10 league games – and was greeted by jeers from the home supporters during his 76th-minute substitution.

Simeone refused to criticise the attacker, although he did hint that the 26-year-old may be moving toward the exit door.

“I have been taught that those who are in my family, I am with them to the death. And I will not change now,” Simeone said after the match.

“Things within your family are resolved within the family.

“I’m with my family, while they are still there.”

Simeone was full of praise for his side’s start amid a charged atmosphere, but admits that anxiety has a tendency to creep into their game if they do not score early.

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“The first 30 minutes were very good,” he said.

“It is true that the team has anxiety. We are at a time when we do not have the easy goal, but I will take the first 30 minutes.

“We played a good game against a very strong opponent. We could have won and we have could have lost and that is the beauty of the game.”


Montella: To get to the top level we need patience

Vincenzo Montella claimed the most difficult part of the season is behind AC Milan after his side were beaten 2-1 at leaders Napoli in Serie A on Saturday.

Milan rarely threatened to cause an upset at the Stadio San Paolo, suffering a sixth Serie A defeat of the campaign after Lorenzo Insigne and Piotr Zielinski scored either side of half-time to set up the victory, although Alessio Romagnoli scored a memorable injury-time consolation.

Montella’s side had won their two previous away league games to ease the pressure on the coach, but again came up short when faced with one of Serie A’s elites.

Regardless of Milan looking a long way way off challenging for their target of Champions League qualification, despite huge levels of spending in the transfer market, Montella is determined to remain upbeat.

“I thank the club for giving me this support and confidence,” Montella said. “I struggle to look at the table, but from now on we’ll have a simpler fixture list and hopefully this type of performance will see us in good stead.

“Our last two defeats were against Juventus and Napoli, so of course they are ahead of us, but despite the results, we were in the games. We showed character, we are growing and it’s a growth process.

“As I said, I am proud of the performances against Napoli, Juve, Roma and Inter [four defeats from four], because to get to their level we need patience.

“We play every three days, so there is not much time to train. We need results straight away and there is work to be done. We must be more clinical in the final third and have the goalmouth in our minds.”

But Montella, who lost key attacker Suso to injury shortly before the interval, accepted it is frustrating to see Milan fall short by small margins in matches against their Serie A rivals.

“We weren’t incisive enough in the final third, but we caused Napoli a lot of problems,” Montella said. “I am happy with the performance, the same amount as the anger I feel at losing when playing so well.

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“I praise the performance, as we showed great character and our passing moves were improving too. When you lose badly, it’s upsetting, and when you lose and deserved more, then that’s upsetting too.

“Napoli have so much quality in attack and so many options to combine that if you get pinned back, you do risk conceding a goal. I preferred to attack them, as five in defence would have been too negative. I took a gamble. We also lost Suso before half-time and that forced more changes.

“I am truly optimistic, I don’t know why. I feel we have already overcome the worst period of our season – and I see those in front going at a pace they cannot possibly maintain.”