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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Feb 13, 2008

Billionaire fan part-paying Trapattoni's wages

A billionaire businessman has emerged as the patron of Irish football after offering cash to secure the services of legendary Italian coach Giovanni Trapattoni.

Cork-born entrepreneur Denis O'Brien confirmed the charitable contribution, widely seen as the key in ensuring the Football Association of Ireland could sign Trapattoni, one of Europe's most successful coaches.

Mr O'Brien, who made his billions in mobile phones and media, has offered to cover half the cost of the new managerial team.

It could run into the millions if Trapattoni signs a four-year deal rumoured to worth in the region of £1.4million a year.

But a modest O'Brien said it was money well spent and declined to take all the credit.

'I'm a great believer if you hire the right people you get the right results,' he said.

O'Brien wrote to FAI chief executive John Delaney last October offering the cash after Steve Staunton left the manager's job following a string of miserable performances.

A three-man committee set up to headhunt a new coach were told about the hand-out and given as long as they needed to secure the experienced, and potentially expensive, manager.

'I think there's maybe 10 people involved in this. I think all the credit should go to John Delaney and the committee and I think the FAI,' he said.

'The criticism they have received over the last three months was very, very hard but they stuck to their guns and now they've the right man.'

O'Brien said he came up with the idea after talking to former Formula One team owner Eddie Jordan about the need for a top-class manager. He insisted the offer was no-strings attached.

Irish Taoiseach and ardent football fan Bertie Ahern was on the airwaves within seconds of the formal announcement by the FAI.

And in a follow-up statement Mr Ahern praised the FAI and heralded the Trapattoni era.

'His many successes and style of management have been responsible for him carving out a deserved reputation as one of the great managers in modern football,' the Taoiseach said.

'Trapattoni's achievements are numerous and are up there on a par with all-time great managers such as (Sir Matt) Busby, (Jock) Stein and (Bob) Paisley.

'I want to congratulate the FAI on this appointment. I wish Mr Trapattoni and the Boys in Green every success.'

O'Brien is one of Ireland's leading entrepreneurs with extensive international telecoms, radio, property, aircraft leasing and leisure interests.

He founded ESAT Telecom and built it up through the mid-90s until its sale to British Telecom for £1.78million in 2001 and now runs mobile phone giant Digicel which has four million customers in 22 countries.

He established the Communicorp Group, which manages a portfolio of media and broadcasting-related companies both in Ireland and in seven European markets.

In 2000 he established The O'Brien Foundation to identify and assist projects in Ireland and internationally which aim to alleviate disadvantaged communities.

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