x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Gentile is good move for Libya

Ties between Italy and Libya have always been strong, even in football. Just ask Juventus, where Gentile was a tough defender.

Claudio Gentile, a World Cup winner as a player and a European championship winner as Italy's Under 21 manager, is finalising details to become head coach of Libya, who, heroically, have qualified for the next African Cup of Nations despite the violent civil uprising. Gentile, 58, knows the place. He was born in Tripoli.

Ties between Italy and Libya have always been strong, even in football. Just ask Juventus, where Gentile was a tough defender, and the club in whom Lafico, a Libyan sovereign fund established by the government of the late Muammar Qaddafi, hold a 7.5 per cent stake.

That investment is to come under scrutiny as Qaddafi-linked assets are investigated by a new Libyan regime. Juve have reason to be embarrassed by the association. But they used not to be. Qaddafi's son, Al-Saadi, once sat on the board.

Al-Saadi, who sought sanctuary in Niger earlier this year, was once a footballer, and made cameo appearances for Perugia and Udinese in a bizarre period when those clubs were effectively paid to have him in their squad. He wasn't a bad player, but nor was he "a bit like Rivaldo," as he once said, or of Serie A standard. The same Al-Saadi indulged by Italian clubs had gained a nasty reputation as head of the Libyan FA - while in the national squad. One ex-Libya coach, Francesco Scoglio, claimed he lost his job for dropping Al-Saadi.

The hope is that Gentile, who said he would consider the post only "once Colonel Gaddafi is ousted," might offer a more positive Italian contribution to the new Libya.