Is Walter Zenga Ready If Rafael Benitez Fails?

James RiggioContributor ISeptember 10, 2010

CATANIA, ITALY - MAY 24:  Walter Zenga Coach of Catania during the Serie A match between Catania and Napoli at the Stadio Massimino on May 24, 2009 in Catania, Italy. (Photo by New Press/Getty Images)
New Press/Getty Images

It is too early to predict how well Rafael Benitez’s managerial career with Inter Milan will go. If early indications stick to form, it doesn’t appear very good.

In his debut, Benitez’s side lost the European Super Cup to Atletico Madrid 2-0, and three days later opened the Serie A season with a scoreless draw against Bologna, which is believed to be one of the top candidates to be relegated at the end of the season.

If Inter’s struggles continue, even a coach of Benitez’s caliber could face the ax. Marcello Lippi, who went on to help Italy win the 2006 World Cup, was fired by Inter just one week into the 2000-01 season. Also Inter is defending three trophies and cannot avoid an embarrassment.

But in hiring a coach in midseason, one of the most difficult parts is finding someone who is available. Generally that can be a problem as most of the top quality coaches are employed elsewhere.

Manuel Pellegrini, who coached Real Madrid last season, is a name that was brought up with the Inter job in the summer before Benitez was selected for the role. Pellegrini is available. It is uncertain if Pellegrini is interested in the job, however.

But there is one person who would bend over backwards for the job, it is former longtime Inter goalkeeper Walter Zenga. Zenga, who was Italy’s starting goalkeeper at the 1990 World Cup,  is currently coaching Al-Nasr in Saudia Arabia.

But if the position were to open, chances are Zenga would take the first flight back to Milano to speak with President Massimo Moratti to lobby for the job.

“I played for Inter, and if they asked me to coach the side, I would not say no," Zenga said to Italian newspaper Tuttosport just two months ago.

Zenga went on to say that he was not ready for the job.

His coaching career has not been as glamorous as Pellegrinis. Nor does it even come close the qualifications some of Inter’s past coaches have taken the position with.

Much of Zenga’s coaching career has been spent in Eastern Europe, where the level of competition cannot be compared with that of Serie A or any of the other four major leagues on the continent.

Ironically, his first coaching job was in 1999 when he briefly coached the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer.

Zenga does have some Serie A experience, though.

In April 2008 he took over a Catania side that was on the brink of relegation and led the Sicilian club to salvation in Serie A. The club offered him an extension and he led the small-market club to yet another salvation during the 2008-2009 season.

But just as the 2008-09 season was ending, Zenga announced he would not return the following season.

Not long after, Zenga announced he was signing a three-year deal with Catania’s rival, Palermo, located on the opposite side of Sicily.

The Palermo job was viewed as a step up as the side was more equipped financially and had several top level players. But Zenga lasted just 13 league matches before chairman Maurizio Zamparini came in relieved him of his duties.

After being out of work for about six months, Zenga accepted the Al-Nassr job in May.

How long Zenga will stay in Saudi Arabia remains to be seen.

But if there is one that is certain, Zenga is an Inter fan favorite and some have even lobbied for him to one day take over as manager.

“There is still time for everything,” Zenga told Tuttosport. “I am a professional and have a contract with Al-Nasr currently.”

But sometimes timing is everything and if given the opportunity, Zenga would have difficulty saying no.