x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Al Nasr's Walter Zenga plays down pressure and Inter Milan move rumour

A possible return to his former Serie A side is among the speculation surrounding the Pro League coach's future, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

DUBAI // Walter Zenga is not losing any sleep over rumours of his possible exit from Al Nasr at the end of the season, claiming he is immune to such pressures.

Zenga's contract with Nasr runs until the end of the 2013/14 season, but speculation about his future has been rife since the arrival of former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson as technical director at the club in January.

The team's waning fortunes in recent months and their performance in the Asian Champions League, where they have lost all four matches, have also contributed to the rumours mills, but Zenga is unshaken.

"Rumours have always been there in football," the Italian goalkeeping legend said after Nasr's 1-0 win at Al Wahda on Sunday. "They have haunted me since I started coaching. But if I cannot live with it, I should start looking for a different profession or sit at home.

"Pressure is nothing new to me and I have faced a lot of it, both as a goalkeeper in my playing days and then as a coach. The goalkeeper and the coach get most of the criticism in football, they are under the most pressure and there is always some rumour around them.

"The nature of our job requires us to deal with this pressure in every game, pressure from the media and the fans. If I cannot do that, then I should look for another job."

Since his arrival at Nasr in January 2011, Zenga has helped turned around their fortunes. They finished third in 2010/11 and were runners-up to Al Ain last season. Currently, they are fourth in the Pro League, and given his success with the team, the Italian believes he deserves to keep his job.

"I think I have been able to change the Nasr team for the better since I came here," Zenga said. "They have reached their best level in many years. But if the club officials want to bring in a new coach, that is their business. It's a not a problem for me, but my contract with Nasr is until 2014."

If Zenga and Nasr do part ways this summer, he might just land his dream job at Italian giants Inter Milan.

Media reports in his home country claim Zenga is a front-runner to replace Andrea Stramaccioni at the struggling Serie A club, who are currently languishing at seventh in the Italian league.

On Sunday, following Inter's 2-0 loss at Cagliari, Italian website Calcioquotidiano said Zenga is the "only man" who could lift Inter out of their current slump and urged club president Massimo Moratti to make the call.

Zenga spent 12 seasons as a player at Inter, and on more than one occasion, the 52 year old expressed his dream of returning to his former club as coach.

"If Inter were to call, I am free to leave," he told Gazzetta dello Sport last year.

"It's no secret that it is my dream to be coach of Inter and complete the circle, returning to my club to train the squad.

"I chose the hardest route to get there, going around the world without help, learning to make do and adapt to the players I found. The Nerazzurri are always in my heart, though."

arizvi@thenational.ae

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