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Italian soccer is on the brink of disaster

 By Mina Rzouki

Who's next to manage Italy: Ancelotti, Conte, Allegri, Mancini or Ranieri?

Shaka Hislop shares his thoughts on whether Carlo Ancelotti is the right man to bring Italy back to their former glory.

As Italy continue to mourn and process the national team's failure to qualify for the World Cup, Wednesday's news at least offered a little respite from the sadness. Gian Piero Ventura, described as the most inept coach to have been put in charge of the Azzurri, has finally been sacked.

Italy regressed under the tutelage of a coach who neither understood tactics nor the mere task of deploying players in their rightful position, which was rather embarrassing for a country famed for producing exquisite and winning tacticians. With Ventura sacked, Carlo Tavecchio and the Italian Football Federation insist that "important names" are being considered for the job.

So just who is on that shortlist?

The most decorated: Carlo Ancelotti

Despite what Bayern Munich players might think, Ancelotti is one of the greatest tacticians to have graced the game. A man who understands how to win big games, how to perfect formations and how to adapt to the opponent, few can tactically outwit the former Real Madrid maestro who won three Champions League trophies.

Yet despite his pedigree, Ancelotti is perhaps not a man who can work with a side devoid of veterans, deep intellect or experience at the highest level. He neither has the patience nor the desire to motivate and prepare; as a result, he usually only excels when he is in charge of professionals and winners who require no close mentoring but can think for themselves and absorb his tactical instructions quickly. He's the man to bring when you want to progress a good side, when you have a group of good players who don't require preparation work but rather tactical ingenuity to ensure sustained balance, magic and trophies.

Considering that four of the team's legends retired and Italy are in need of a man who can make the most of the next generation -- one that may need more seasoning than their predecessors -- Ancelotti may suffer to produce as he knows how.

The tactician: Massimiliano Allegri

Allegri has expressed the desire to coach the national team at one point in his career and certainly boasts the intellect and experience to take on such a role. He took Antonio Conte's successful Juventus team and bettered it, demonstrating his superior intelligence to win matches against the best sides in Europe simply by outwitting the opponent, showing great versatility and understanding of the game's dynamics.

More than that, Allegri is a man who can teach the young and improve the veterans, placing them into a system that will not only highlight their individual strengths but ensure collective power and balance.

However, while Allegri may understand formations and the science of sport, he has not always succeeded in navigating tough games on a psychological level. Criticised for failing in crucial matches, usually at the final hurdle -- such as Juve's two Champions League finals -- Allegri has yet to convince his critics that he has the courage in himself as well as his team to do whatever it takes to lift the most coveted trophy.

Another aspect to consider is that Allegri is a notoriously slow starter and requires time to work with his players to get the best out of them. That sort of time simply doesn't exist for the coach of a national team.

The sentimental choice: Antonio Conte

Italy would love him back.

Few coaches can produce quick results quite as well as Antonio Conte. A man who needs little to no time to produce a solid side than can start winning, Conte is one of the most organised coaches Italy has produced in recent years. He will study his players, the opponent and the potential risks to produce a perfectly prepared side aware of every detail.

A good tactician but a better motivator, Conte cannot better the individuals within a side but he can produce a collective that exceeds expectations -- all that's required from a national team coach. He simply doesn't need to teach, but take the fans and the players on an emotional journey where they will fight and die together in the name of Italian football.

He may never understand the science of the game in the same way Ancelotti or Allegri can, or adapt to the tactical demands of a game as well as they do, but few coaches have proved to be as good at motivating a group of players and organising them simply and neatly into a solid unit quite like Conte.

One need only remember what he achieved with a mediocre squad at Euro 2016.

Italy fans would love if Conte came back to coach the national team given how he turns teams into winners.

The keenest: Roberto Mancini

Mancini is neither Italy's most highly rated tactician nor their greatest motivator, but he is a good compromise in that he is adept at both. An authoritarian who demands perfection and closely studies his players and the opponents, he can organise, motivate and produce fairly quickly.

Experienced at the top level having won in England, Italy and Turkey, few are as determined as the former Inter coach to take over the reins of the Azzurri and produce the results that would satisfy his ambitions and ego. It is simply the job he has dreamed of for many years; as such, he's not a bad option. After all, Mancini boasts a great work ethic and is capable of promoting a winning mentality, while he's also given space to youngsters before, offering them the opportunity to impress.

But is he capable of taking Italy to an exciting new level? Can he outwit a Spanish side full of technical beauty, or beat Germany's organisation in the same way the others listed above might? Probably not, but he is a reliable option who has enough confidence in his abilities to ensure that Italy won't surrender to fear in the important moments.

The compromise: Claudio Ranieri

"The Tinkerman" will always be praised and complimented for having won an unlikely Premier League title with Leicester City. It proved he was no longer the runner-up but actually a winner, as Ranieri showed that his clever organisation and the ability to extract the most out of a collective was enough to earn himself the status of a legend.

Having worked with Juventus, Chelsea and Roma (to name a few), he boasts both the experience and tactical expertise to earn consideration while his current side Nantes, are producing admirable results albeit playing in a far from exciting style.

A man who can build and organise, Ranieri isn't a bad option considering the side he will inherit has few egos but rather a lot of youngsters eager to prove their credentials instead. Creating a hopeful atmosphere and producing results quickly in the beginning is something he has always managed. However, problems tend to arise a year into the job when he starts tinkering too much, which inevitably leads to his players losing faith in his ability to guide them forward.

If he can keep things simple, show courage in the important games and retain the faith of those called up, then he presents a reasonable option but question marks remain over his ability to last the distance.

Mina Rzouki covers Juventus and the Italian national team for ESPN FC. Follow her on Twitter: @Minarzouki.


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