Cesare Prandelli, the Fiorentina coach, has agreed a four-year contract to become Italy coach after the World Cup, ending a saga that had threatened to cast a shadow over the team's defence of the title. Marcello Lippi had never publicly said he was leaving after the tournament and conflicting signals from the 2006 World Cup winning manager and Giancarlo Abete, the Italian football federation president, only added to the confusion.
Abete wanted a solution before the team flew off to South Africa and has now found his man. "Prandelli will be officially presented as Italy's coach after the World Cup," a federation spokesman said. The 52-year-old has been front-runner for the Italy job for months after guiding the Florence club to the last 16 of the Champions League last season against expectations. Lippi, who stepped down after their 2006 World Cup triumph before returning to the job after a poor Euro 2008 under Roberto Donadoni, welcomed the appointment.
"The federation has found the right person. I had said to Abete at Christmas that I would do my two years and then stop," he told reporters. Abete had said any replacement for Lippi would be Italian, but his options were limited given Chelsea's Carlo Ancelotti, Manchester City's Roberto Mancini and Roma's Claudio Ranieri, who had all previously expressed interest in the job, have only just completed their first seasons with their clubs.
Fiorentina acknowledged earlier this month that Prandelli was likely to take the Italy job and have held talks with Sinisa Mihajlovic, who quit as Catania manager last week. Italy are preparing for the World Cup and South Africa's harsh altitude at a training camp in the Italian Alpine ski resort of Sestriere. The world champions are in Group F in South Africa along with Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia.