Marcello Lippi has taken on the toughest task in his successful coaching career by returning on the Italy bench where he'll try to win again the World Cup he lifted in 2006. He replaces Roberto Donadoni.
Lippi returns to Italy to find the team he built into world champs turned into Euro chumps
Two years have gone by since Italy won their fourth cup in a penalty shoot-out against France, after which Lippi resigned amidst allegations of small-scale involvement in a fixing scandal that shook the nation's most popular sport at the time.
His young successor Roberto Donadoni was constantly haunted by rumors of Lippi's return, which happened as expected hours after he was sacked on Thursday for missing the minimum result of a semi-final berth at Euro 2008.
The immediate rehiring of Lippi confirmed the conviction that Donadoni was, as La Repubblica's Fabrizio Bocca wrote, "an interval between Lippi I and Lippi II."
Ghost of Lipps always haunted Donodoni
Donadoni makes way for his predecessor
"People have talked about Lippi for the past two years. What should I say?" the laconic Donadoni said, noting that his sacking was the result of a missed penalty in a shoot-out quarter-final lost Sunday against Spain.
Lippi welcomed the news saying he was "very, very happy and very motivated." He postponed further comments until the official presentation set for Tuesday in Rome.
During his two sabbatical years he said he turned down several offers from major clubs, often holding lectures on group management, commentating games on television and spending time fishing with his friends in the native seaside Tuscany town of Viareggio.
His return on the Azzurri's bench is the second in the history of the Italian football federation (FIGC).
Vittorio Pozzo had three stints between 1912 and 1948 and is an illustrious precedent for Lippi as he won two consecutive World Cups in 1934 and 1938.
Lippi charged with retaining the World Cup
Lippi is said to be over-joyed at his return
Lippi's first game will be a friendly against Austria on Aug. 20, a tune-up for a Sept. 6 World Cup qualifier away to Cyprus.
The path to the World Cup hosted by South Africa in 2010 appears to be fairly simple for the Azzurri as they are in a group with Ireland (coached by Lippi's predecessor Giovanni Trapattoni), Bulgaria, Georgia, Montenegro and Cyprus.
Beside the 2006 World Cup, Lippi won major trophies in two stints at Juventus, which he steered to five Serie A titles and, in 1996, the Champions League and the Intercontinental Cup.