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Ireland's workaholic coach unlikely out for long

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MILAN, Aug 11 (Reuters) -- Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni has been around soccer too long to let a spell in hospital affect his long-term plans.

The 71-year-old Italian is a workaholic and would much rather be in the cut and thrust of international football than donning his retirement slippers. The long list of clubs he has managed and his equally lengthy array of trophies demonstrate his bounding spirit. He will miss Wednesday's friendly with Argentina while he has minor surgery for abdominal pain, but assistant Marco Tardelli, who takes over temporarily, made it clear who was really in charge and how 'Trap' would soon bounce back.

"I've spoken to Giovanni and he's already given me the formation," Tardelli joked to journalists. "He's a very strong person." The knocks Trapattoni has received in international soccer alone are enough to show how resilient he can be.

Italy were disappointing under his stewardship at the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004, but less than 12 months later he was delivering Benfica's first Portuguese championship in 11 years. The pain of Ireland not qualifying for this year's World Cup in South Africa after the handball by Thierry Henry which helped France through in November's playoff could have knocked the wind out of a lesser man. Not Trapattoni. He vowed to stick with his equally dogged Irish team and this time try for Euro 2012 qualification.

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Six Serie A titles as coach of Juventus between 1977 and 1986 was an immense achievement and he is duly regarded as the most successful Italian manager of all time, especially after winning the European Cup, UEFA Cup and Cup Winners' Cup, too. Other championships with Inter Milan, Bayern Munich and Salzburg mark him out as a true fighter while most football fans will always remember him for an amazing rant while at Bayern, which showed his continuing passion for the game.

"I'm a coach, not an idiot. And these players, two or three of these players, were weak like an empty bottle," he told a stunned news conference in 1998 in very broken German, waving his hands about and smacking the table. "These players complain more than they play. You know why Italian teams don't buy these players? Because they have seen the games."