Ireland's recent travails have been enough to make Trapattoni's impressive record almost irrelevant, and his salary harder to justify
Giovanni Trapattoni is one of the most renowned managers in the history of football. The well-known statistics will never be erased, but they are certainly being disregarded while his Republic of Ireland line-up has made a painful start to the World Cup qualifiers. His record at club level of winning the European Cup, Cup-Winners' Cup and Uefa Cup is currently an irrelevance.
Trapattoni's recent results with Ireland have, for the moment, drained away his prestige and no one talks much of the win in Kazakhstan last month. He is reduced to insisting that he will not stand down should the 6-1 rout by Germany at Dublin's Aviva Stadium last week be followed by woe against the Faroe Islands in Torshavn on Tuesday. The problems began to gather when Ireland lost all three of their games at Euro 2012, but the encounter with Germany was far more traumatic.
"When you fail, it is no good being angry," said Trapattoni, making an attempt to brush away the ignominy. "You have to accept Germany were superior. I can talk about the little details – we conceded the first goal because we let a player run in behind. In the past, our players have not made these mistakes, but you can forget this and concede a goal. I can't be angry with my players. I have to recharge the batteries because we need their enthusiasm and their energy for the next game [in the Faroe Islands]."
It should be a help that the captain, Robbie Keane, is fit to return after an achilles problem, but the manager's reputation surely cannot be in ruins when some recall that it was an achievement merely to be at Euro 2012. The billionaire Denis O'Brien contributes to Trapattoni's salary and there are suggestions that he provides half of the estimated £1.2m. "He is worth every penny," the businessmen had said, despite the disappointments in the European Championship. Whatever O'Brien's current opinion may be, declarations of faith in Trapattoni are no longer made with quite such vigour elsewhere.
Playing for him did not seem addictive after Euro 2012, when the goalkeeper Shay Given and winger Damien Duff both chose to retire from the international scene. Considering they are 36 and 33 respectively, their decisions had a rational foundation, but Trapattoni can ill afford to lose anyone of such experience.
As it is, the manager is left scrambling. Scepticism is on the rise and the opinions of, for example, Eamon Dunphy, were bound to be caustic. "I think he's taking us for a ride, to be honest," the former player and now broadcaster said of Trapattoni. "He's getting a lot of money and there's very little work involved. When Mick McCarthy left the job he actually didn't take a pay-off. He walked and it was a very honourable thing to do.
"Trap will tell you and he told the press that he was doing a great job, that we've moved up the world rankings and, by implication, the players aren't good enough. He doesn't know enough about the players and he's the one getting the [salary] and he has to be at the matches, in my view."
A manager who has reached the age of 73 while still holding down a notable job must have powers of endurance even if he does not scurry around every conceivable club fixture.
At least, he will be entirely used to rumours after being immersed in them during the Serie A years. There has been talk of Owen Coyle replacing him, but the former international, a Glaswegian who collected one cap for Ireland, is available purely because he was dismissed by Bolton Wanderers after relegation from the Premier League led on to a sluggish start in the Championship.
Dislodging Trapattoni is not as simple as it might look, in any case. By all accounts, he no longer enjoys the unqualified support of the FAI, but, according to reports, sacking the manager would entail compensation of around £1.4m. That is a painful sum for the ruling body, particularly when the Irish economy is still far from recovery.
The idea that such considerations are Trapattoni's best hope of keeping the job for a little longer would be a humiliation to him. A mere win against the Faroe Islands cannot vindicate the manager, but it would allow him a quiet spell in which to regroup and assert his authority once again.