Gianluca Vialli is public favourite No 1 to take over as new boss of Italy ifÿ today’sÿ showdown meeting goes badly for under-pressure Giovanni Trapattoni.

Vialli, former Chelsea and Watford manager, has been keeping a low profile since his Vicarage Road exit, concentrating on creating a personal football museum back in his home town of Cremona. But a string of top coaches and officials have recommended him for the top coaching job in Italy after the Azzurri’sdisastrous start to the Euro 2004.

Italy were held 1-1 at home by Yugoslavia then slumped 2-1 to Wales in Cardiff. That defeat, following hard on the controversial golden goal flop against co-hosts South Korea in the World Cup second round, has left veteran boss Trapattoni poised on a knife-edge.

Superstars such as Christian Vieri and Alessandro Del Piero have questioned Trapattoni’s defensive tactics and a string of players have used minor injuries as excuses not to pull on the blue shirt. Stay-aways include goalkeeper Francesco Antonioli, one of the heroes of Roma’s shock Champions League win away to Real Madrid in midweek.

Trapattoni is due to meet Italian federation president Franco Carraro and deputy Giancarlo Abete on Monday. He will either step down then or there or be given the chance to stagger on until after Italy’s friendly against Turkey – England’s Euro rivals – in Pescara on November 20.

The ‘send for Vialli’ movement has been gathering momentum ever since Cardiff. Supporters include the influential Juventus chief executive Antonio Giraudo and Roberto Mancini, coach of Lazio.

Mancini, Vialli’s long-time attacking partner with Sampdoria, said: “Italy need a new start with a manager from a younger generation who has international experience and can bring in fresh ideas. Vialli fills all those criteria. It just seems so obvious.”

If the Trapattoni uncertainty drags on one outsider for his job could be Sven-Goran Eriksson. The departure of his greatest fan, Adam Crozier, as chief executive of the Football Association is being seen in Italy as a possible welcome opportunity for Eriksson to return to Rome.

Eriksson has said Crozier’s departure does not affect his England role. But his career includes two controversial ‘better offer’ incidents – once when he took up a contract with Benfica after being poised to take over Fiorentina then when he left Blackburn in the lurch to join Lazio.
By Keir Radnedge