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Lippi salutes players

by James Mulligan

BERLIN — Marcello Lippi is no stranger to success, but winning soccer’s biggest prize topped all his previous triumphs, the Italian coach said Sunday.

The ex-Juventus coach won five Italian League titles, the European Cup and the Intercontinental Cup during two trophy-laden spells with the Turin club.

But Italy’s penalty shootout win over France in the World Cup final was the icing on the cake for the 58-year-old coach, who heaped praise on his players.

“It is the greatest satisfaction that any coach or footballer can feel,” Lippi said after being asked what it felt like getting his hands on the coveted World Cup Trophy.

“I have to say thanks to the players,” said Lippi. “This is the most satisfying moment of my life. We are very happy.”

“I dedicate the victory to my family. The players have heart, character and personality,” he added.

The silver-haired Paul Newman look-alike took over as national team coach in 2004 and has transferred his success as a club manager with Juventus onto the grandest stage of them all.

The proud coach wasn’t slow in pointing out his achievements.

“How many coaches have won a world title at club level and also at national team level?” Lippi said. “I don’t know. I’ve won the Champions League and lots of Italian League titles, but I’ve never felt anything like this. It is a completely different feeling.”

Lippi deflected questions about his future after the match, telling reporters to ask him another question.

“Let’s enjoy this great moment,” he said.

The Italian’s contract with the country’s Football Association is up at the end of this month, and there is rampant speculation in the English press that Manchester United wants him to work as a coach alongside manager Alex Ferguson.

Both Lippi and the club have denied the reports.

Lippi’s coaching career took off at unfashionable Napoli in the early 1990s before a successful five-year spell at Juventus, leading the Old Lady to three league titles, one Italian Cup, one Champions League triumph and the Intercontinental Cup.

He had a frustrating two-year spell at Inter Milan before returning for further success at Juventus, leading the team to two more league titles.