||ESPNsoccernet: Euro 2012
Thursday, February 9, 2012
No backward glances from Capello
John Brewin, Senior Editor
As an Italian reaching for the rubber dinghy of escape, Fabio Capello is not quite Captain Francesco Schettino. Capello leaves a ship that is listing but by no means sunk. With a place at Euro 2012 secured, world champions Spain defeated and then Sweden vanquished for the first time since 1969, Capello can rightly claim a recent modicum of success. And overall, his achievements far outstrip that of predecessor and faux-Dutchman Steve McClaren.
But Capello is unlikely to care. Unlike Captain Schettino, this is no longer his problem. And he has probably been past caring for a while. He may miss the antique shops of London where he is said to have spent plenty of time, but he will barely cast a backwards glance at the rest. The final John Terry affair, at least of Capello's time here, saw the Football Association clamber across his autocratic modus operandi and make a key decision against his wishes. They provided him with an exit clause.
Resigning on a point of principle will allow Capello, never less than self-possessed, a sense of vindication. A carrion press pack - who turned against him amid the stultifying boredom of Rustenberg as Terry, in particular, briefed against Capello - will be dismissed with the usual grunt of derision and now will register as a mere bad memory.
The Sunday afternoon interview with RAI TV revealed an unfamiliar Capello to those who have been in his presence during his England tenure. Animated, and offering an opinion, it was not just a language barrier that was the difference. A glimpse of passion provided at last, but perhaps it was only supplied when an exit was spotted.
Capello's disinterest in football journalists stretches to the beginning of his career in the game. After an initial and brief charm offensive in his early days with England, his only contact with press came during regulation conferences where broken English and the presence of a translator made matters disjointed at best. Such a state of affairs suited Capello's private nature, but it served only to antagonise those for whom quotes and reaction is bread and butter. Outside of matches, Franco Baldini, whose relocation to Rome last summer further isolated his close friend, was the point of contact, and supplier of stories. Nobody, but nobody, got Capello on the end of a telephone line.
Baldini, trusted implicitly since the pair began to work together at Roma in 1999, was the mouthpiece, able to speak for Capello and offer his opinions as Don Fabio's own. Pierfilippo Capello, the son whose wedding his father missed to oversee victory against Spain, acted as lawyer and agent. Together, the pair provided ballast against Capello having to get too close to any journalist.
What now? Rumours of Anzhi Makhachkala in the Russian Premier League persist. There, Capello may be able to enjoy a similar working life to Samuel Eto'o, who is allowed to live in either Milan or Barcelona before training in Moscow, only ever pitching up in Dagestan to play. Such an existence would suit Capello, who may perhaps mistakenly have seen the England job as a lucrative semi-retirement. Having mined the art galleries of London, Moscow can now offer similar delights.
Closer to his own home, Claudio Ranieri may be shifting uncomfortably as Inter Milan flounder far short of stated targets. Italian football regulation does not allow clubs to poach coaches from each other but a Capello without current portfolio is a danger to any embattled boss. Inter would complete the set for Capello of major Italian clubs, and Massimo Moratti will be mindful that the former Milan, Roma and Juventus coach has won a league title at every club he has ever managed.
If Capello has a main regret, it is that England delivered a blot to that previously unblemished record. Throughout his career, success was often supplied without popularity, for which Capello has never offered apologies. England saw him caught out on that score. He failed to recognise - or, more properly, even care - that the England job is a populist, political role. The rehiring of Terry as captain was folly in light of what had happened in South Africa, and a new collision course was set from the moment words were exchanged with Anton Ferdinand at Loftus Road.
FA chairman David Bernstein has shown a strong hand. Having taken on FIFA in a sacrificial stand last summer, he has impressed with the type of decisiveness that Capello was once known for. Last Friday's Terry decision was the correct one, and the allowing of Capello to walk was similarly brave, when previous regimes were all too weak in the face of demands from highly remunerated staff.
This summer, Bernstein and likely Harry Redknapp will preside over the England camp in Krakow, the historic centre of culture chosen by Capello himself as a base despite the trip to Donetsk providing a similar distance to a flight back to London. Such logistical problems will be theirs now. Capello has departed as a stranger, just as he arrived. And that will suit him just fine.