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Veteran Ventura named as next Italy coach

Giampiero Ventura in Turin, October 31, 2015. REUTERS/Giorgio Perottino
Giampiero Ventura in Turin, October 31, 2015. REUTERS/Giorgio Perottino

ROME (Reuters) - Giampiero Ventura, a 68-year-old who has never won a major title and spent much of his career in the lower divisions, was named on Tuesday as the next Italy coach to replace Antonio Conte after Euro 2016.

Ventura, who will be in charge up to and including the 2018 World Cup in Russia, was described as a "master of football" by Italian federation (FIGC) chief Carlo Tavecchio as his appointment was confirmed.

"I chose Ventura because he is a master of football and has taught many other coaches his innovative methods," said Tavecchio on the FIGC's website (www.figc.it).

"He has launched the careers of so many players in the national team, he has huge experience in training youngsters and I think he has a healthy sense of belonging."

Conte, who has battled leading clubs over the release of players during his two years in charge and complained about the length of time between games, is leaving after the European Championship to take over at English Premier League club Chelsea.

Ventura has enjoyed a long, steady coaching career in Italy although, apart from one season at Napoli, he has never worked at any of the biggest clubs such as Inter Milan, AC Milan or Juventus.

The clubs he has coached include Sampdoria, Lecce, Cagliari, Venezia, Pisa, Bari, Verona, Messina, Udinese and Spezia. He has never won Serie A or the Italian Cup, although he led Lecce to the third tier Serie C title in 1996.

However, he has gained widespread respect following a five-year spell with Torino when he led them out of Serie B and to several respectable finishes in the middle and upper half of Serie A.

He quit Torino by mutual agreement at the end of this season.

The announcement was muted in Italy where the national side, four-times world champions, have lost prestige in recent years, especially following group stage exits at the last two World Cups.

Italy have struggled to produce top players recently and the best-known in their current squad are 38-year-old goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and 31-year-old central defender Giorgio Chiellini.

(Reporting by Brian Homewood, editing by Ed Osmond/Toby Davis)

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