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By ESPN Staff

Italy coach Lippi plays down link with Juve job

Italy coach Marcello Lippi has played down speculation that he will return to Juventus after next year's World Cup, saying he would like to remain in charge of the national team.

"I'm only thinking about the World Cup," the 61-year-old said in lecture to Roman university students.

"My dream is to continue after 2010, as long as (Italian football federation chief Giancarlo) Abete doesn't get rid of me before."

Speculation that the World Cup-winning coach would return to the Turin club, possibly as sporting director, was fuelled when Lippi was recently spotted having lunch with Juve chief executive Jean Claude Blanc.

Lippi, who had two successful stints in Turin between 1994 and 1999 and 2001 and 2004, said the meeting was about Juve's Brazilian-born forward Amauri, who may opt to play for the Azzurri when he gets an Italian passport.

Juventus also tried to lure Lippi back during a two-year spell of inactivity between him stepping down as Italy coach following the 2006 World Cup victory and returning to replace Roberto Donadoni last year.

The club have again had to deny media speculation that coach Claudio Ranieri risks losing his job.

Fans have called for Ranieri to go, with second place in Serie A behind runaway leaders Inter Milan now looking the best his side can hope for after they were knocked out of the Italian Cup by Lazio on Wednesday.

"All I can do is repeat for the umpteenth time that Ranieri will be Juve coach next season too," sporting director Alessio Secco was quoted as saying by Saturday's La Gazzetta dello Sport.

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