ROME (AP) — Cesare Prandelli's recent contract extension as Italy coach is a testament to his team philosophy, moral values and winning tactics.
After all, it's not often that the Italian football federation guarantees a future for its coach before a World Cup. The 56-year-old Prandelli seized upon the opportunity in March by agreeing to another two more years then signed the new deal in late May.
"The people who control the national team are well-meaning people and they have gotten over the obstacle of relying only on results by offering this extension," Prandelli said. "It's gratifying and it fills me with pride."
By the same token, Prandelli has restored pride to Italy's colors since replacing Marcello Lippi after Italy's embarrassing first-round exit from the 2010 World Cup. He guided Italy to the final of the 2012 European Championship and to third place at last year's Confederations Cup.
If he stays until his contract expires after Euro 2016, Prandelli would become the first Italy coach to last more than five years since Enzo Bearzot, who led the Azzurri from 1975-86 and guided the team to the 1982 World Cup title.
Besides his tactical revolution — bringing the Azzurri into the modern era of attacking football — Prandelli has instilled an unwavering code of ethics to keep players' behavior in check. A red card or suspension in domestic league play can now mean exclusion from the national team — no matter who the player is. Off-the-field disruptions can also result in missed call ups.
The likes of Mario Balotelli, Daniele De Rossi, Mattia Destro and Pablo Osvaldo have each missed matches or training camps due to ethics violations. "These kids have got to learn that when they play for their clubs they are still representing Italy," Prandelli said.
That Prandelli has earned so much respect is all the more impressive considering his modest credentials as a club coach. After a successful playing career as a midfielder with a Juventus side that won multiple domestic and European trophies, Prandelli worked his way up the coaching ladder in the lower divisions with clubs like Hellas Verona and Venezia before reaching prominence with Parma from 2002-04.
He was named Roma coach in 2004 but resigned before the season started to be with his ill wife, who died of breast cancer in 2007. Prandelli coached Fiorentina from 2005-10, leading the club to the knockout round of the Champions League in his final season.
Still, his only coaching title remains the 1999 Serie B title with Verona. But that hasn't stopped the master technician from thinking large. "I have a dream of winning the World Cup by using seven different formations in seven matches," Prandelli memorably said last year.
Follow Andrew Dampf at http://twitter.com/asdampf