Having spent his entire playing and coaching career in Italy, Marcello Lippi is an exception among the ranks of national team coaches. However, there are few tacticians who boast a more complete background, given the Tuscan-born supremo's experience working with youngsters, in the lower divisions, in Serie A and at major international tournaments.
Though he never reached the senior national team as a player, with the closest he came being two appearances for the Nazionale's B side, Lippi can still point to a decade of top-flight football as a libero for Genoa outfit Sampdoria. And after hanging up his boots in 1982, it was in Samp's youth set-up that he took his first steps on the coaching ladder, going on to make his bow as a Serie A coach with Cesena six years later.
The 1993/94 campaign was a landmark for Lippi as a first-division coach, with the strategist presiding over one of Napoli's best seasons post-Maradona and helping the club qualify for the UEFA Cup despite their mounting financial problems.
The call then came from Turin giants Juventus, who saw in him the ideal man to guide a team including the likes of Gianluca Vialli, Ciro Ferrara and Roberto Baggio. Indeed, his first season (1994/95) ended in a Scudetto success, with the coach collecting a total of three Scudetti, one Italian Cup, two Italian Super Cups, one UEFA Champions League (plus two further finals appearances), a UEFA Super Cup and a Intercontinental (Toyota) Cup before joining Inter Milan in 1999.
After an unremarkable spell with the Nerazzurri, Lippi rejoined Juve ahead of the 2001/02 campaign and immediately led the Vecchia Signora to consecutive Serie A titles. His second coming at the Bianconeri also included two Italian Super Cups and an appearance in the 2003 Champions League final, where they were beaten by AC Milan.
Appointed Italian national-team coach on 16 July 2004, the 29th man to hold the post, Lippi led the Azzurri to a fourth FIFA World Cup™ crown at Germany 2006. The win on German soil underlined Lippi's charisma, ability to get the very best out of his players and tactical nous, which included successfully deploying three forwards and an attacking midfielder in the later stages of the semi-final win over the host nation.
After stepping away from the job on 12 July 2006, having accrued an overall record of 17 wins, ten draws and just two defeats (45 goals scored, 19 conceded), Lippi said "I feel my mission at the head of the national team is complete". He subsequently turned down the overtures of a host of club and national sides, instead focusing on giving conferences across Italy and working as a television consultant.
Following Italy's exit from UEFA EURO 2008 at the quarter-final stage under Roberto Donadoni, Lippi heeded his country's call when reappointed on 26 June 2008. Lippi even ran up a grand total of 31 games without a loss to equal the international coaching record held by Spain's Javier Clemente and Argentina's Alfio Basile.
After being ingloriously knocked out in the first round of the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, Italy easily qualified for South Africa 2010 on top of their group. Just like in 2006...