MILAN • Gian Piero Ventura yesterday defended his track record as "one of the best in 40 years" despite failing to lead four-time champions Italy to the 2018 World Cup Finals.
"I lost only two games in two years," he told Italian television show Le Iene in a brief interview as he boarded a flight to Bari, following the 0-1 aggregate play-off loss to Sweden on Monday. "I apologised to Italians for this result. It's horrible to see a World Cup without Italy, but it's done now and I can't do anything about it."
The 69-year-old disagreed with the journalist interviewing him that his team had played "very badly" for the past two years, saying: "No, because my record is one of the best of the last 40 years."
The former Torino coach took over in July last year and oversaw nine wins, four draws and three defeats - a friendly against France in Bari (1-3), a World Cup qualifier to Spain in Madrid (0-3) and against Sweden in the World Cup first-leg play-off in Stockholm (0-1).
It has been estimated that the Azzurri's failure to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958 could cost the Italian economy €1 billion (S$1.6 billion) in lost sponsorships and business.
"It will be sad. But what can I do? Unfortunately it's done," said Ventura.
The Italian refused to resign after the 0-0 draw in the return leg in Milan. According to Sky Italia, he is holding out for a €700,000 pay-off.
Former Chelsea and Real Madrid manager Carlo Ancelotti has been touted by the Italian media as the favourite to replace Ventura. The 58-year-old is unemployed since he was sacked by German Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich in September. Chelsea's Antonio Conte, Juventus' Massimiliano Allegri and Zenit St Petersburg's Roberto Mancini are also potential successors.