Ex-Japan coach Zaccheroni mulls retirement
Alberto Zaccheroni, who stepped down as Japan coach following their World Cup exit, said retirement was "an option" as he left the country to return to his native Italy on Tuesday.
"I feel very extremely sad to leave," the 61-year-old told reporters at Tokyo's Haneda airport. "It's been an amazing four years. I haven't lost my passion for football, but retiring is also an option."
Zaccheroni, whose Blue Samurai took just one point from games against Ivory Coast, Greece and Colombia in Brazil, was given a surprise airport send-off by Japan captain Makoto Hasebe and defender Atsuto Uchida.
"That's a yellow card," joked Zaccheroni, taken aback. "But I'm really happy."
The former Juventus and AC Milan manager added: "I want to take a little break and spend time with my family and then see what the future holds.
"I've made a lot of close relationships at the Japan Football Association (JFA), with the coaches and players. I will keep the memories of these four years in my heart."
Zaccheroni is set to be replaced by Javier Aguirre, who guided his native Mexico to the last 16 of the 2002 and 2010 World Cups.
The JFA have had to significantly increase their initial offer to the 55-year-old after the team's flop in Brazil, where they lost 2-1 to Ivory Coast, were held to a goalless draw by 10-man Greece and were thrashed 4-1 by Colombia.
Aguirre will earn an estimated $2.45 million a year, more than twice Zaccheroni's salary.
Japan's exit was symptomatic of Asia's woes at the World Cup as 2002 semi-finalists South Korea, Australia and Iran all crashed out in the group stages.
Zaccheroni replaced Takeshi Okada after Japan reached the knockout stage of the last World Cup four years ago, their second time in the last 16 and first on foreign soil.
The Italian finished with a record of 30 wins, 12 draws and 13 defeats in 55 games in charge of Japan but faced criticism of his selection and tactics at the World Cup.