Enzo Bearzot, who coached Italy to their first World Cup triumph in 44 years in 1982, died in Milan yesterday, aged 83, after being ill for several years.
Bearzot became Italy coach in 1975 and led the team at the 1978, 1982 and 1986 World Cups.
At the 1982 tournament in Spain, Italy beat West Germany 3-1 in the final after defeating Argentina and Brazil in the second round and Poland in the semi-finals. It was Italy's third World Cup title following success in 1934 and 1938. Italy won a fourth in 2006.
Italian Prime Minister and AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi paid tribute to Bearzot. "I share your heartfelt sorrow for the death of Enzo Bearzot, the unforgettable coach of the Italian national team," he said in a statement. "With his skills he united the group of players who won Italy's third World Cup in Spain in 1982."
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli said Bearzot set the standard for all of his successors.
"Italian football has lost someone responsible for one of the greatest and most emotional moments in its history," he said. "Above all though we have lost a football maestro who, by the way he used his philosophies to shape his team, is someone that all Italian coaches will look to emulate." Paolo Rossi returned from a two-year ban for his part in a match-fixing scandal to finish the 1982 tournament as leading goalscorer with six. "Enzo Bearzot was one of Italy's greatest ever Italians," said Rossi. "He was like a father to me and without him I would never have achieved what I did."
Bearzot was born in Aiello on 27 September, 1927 and played in midfield for Inter Milan, Catania and Torino and was capped once for Italy. He was coach of Italy Under-23s from 1969 until 1975, and assisted coach Ferrucio Valcareggi at the 1970 and 1974 World Cups.
Under Bearzot, Italy finished fourth at the 1978 World Cup and 1980 European Championships. After failing to qualify for the 1984 European Championships, Bearzot was criticised for placing too much faith in the stars of the 1982 victory for the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. With players such as Marco Tardelli, Bruno Conti and Gaetano Scirea past their best, the defending champions lost to France in the last 16.
Bearzot resigned following the defeat having coached Italy for 104 matches, including 51 wins and 28 draws.
As Italy's most beloved coach, he returned to the Italian FA in 2002 as president of its technical sector, a post he held until 2005. He is survived by his wife Luisa, son Glauco and daughter Cinzia.