Brazil legend feels Capello has it all to do in 2010
As you may have read in the news in recent days, Carlos Alberto, captain of the legendary 1970 Brazil team, spent last weekend in the UK. In a hospital in Leeds, to be precise, having surgery on a knee that last went under the knife in 1971, the year after he scored one of the greatest goals of all-time to clinch his country's 4-1 win over Italy in the World Cup final.
He had made the trip to West Yorkshire to visit his grandchildren, who are both studying at Leeds Metropolitan University, as well as paying a visit to Garforth Town owner Simon Clifford, the founder of the Brazilian Soccer Schools system that first brought the 65-year-old to Leeds.
His visit coincided with a sudden recurrence of the knee injury that kept him out of the 1974 World Cup and he was forced to watch Brazil's friendly with England in Qatar from a hospital bed at Leeds General Infirmary. He said the hospital staff helped make his situation more comfortable but, as a member of arguably the greatest team of all-time, he was uncomfortable watching England's second-string lumber to a 1-0 defeat.
"I thought there was a clear difference in technical ability," he told ESPN Soccernet. "The second touch from the England players was often a tackle as their first touch was poor.
"Although the game was a friendly, England wanted to win, as does any team playing Brazil - we are the number one-ranked team and the five-time World Cup winners - but they had 11 men behind the ball and offered very little up front."
Gareth Barry and Wayne Rooney were the only first-choice players available to Fabio Capello in Qatar, with the latter captaining the side for the first time. There were mixed reports about how he handled the occasion, but Carlos Alberto believes Rooney again showed why he is so highly-regarded in the game.
"One England player who really impresses me is Rooney," he said. "He would fit into the Brazilian team as he is fantastic physically, but he has an even better mentality - he's a natural born winner. On Saturday, he was dropping deep to try to start attacks, desperate for his team to win."
Nonetheless, the 1-0 scoreline against Brazil was more than a little flattering, with Luís Fabiano missing a penalty, Ben Foster lucky to escape a red card and Lúcio hitting the post. The heat of the Middle East was clearly a factor, though, as well as the absence of nine regular first-team players including Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and John Terry.
Yet Carlos Alberto is not among those who believe England are genuine contenders to lift the trophy in South Africa. Everyone from Kaká to Dino Zoff and even Capello has suggested that they are capable, but Carlos Alberto feels the limited number of top-class players will make it an impossible task.
"As well as Fabio Capello has done with England, they don't have the strength in depth that you need to win major silverware," he said. "He has done a great job but they still lack a player who can carve open a defence with the ball at his feet.
"At the 2002 World Cup, with Brazil down to ten men, England had a chance to go forward and attack, but they resorted to long balls and those were dealt with by the Brazilian defence."
"It all comes down to young players and how you develop them," he said. "Players must be able to control, pass and dribble, and these are problems that can't be remedied quickly. It needs a long-term plan and to develop such things at a very young age, something that England, as well as many other countries, lacks."
There is some good news. Carlos Alberto visited Simon Clifford in Leeds to hold talks about taking his Brazilian Soccer Schools programme back to his homeland. Clifford brought the futebol de salão system to these shores in 1998 and, if one of Brazil's finest ever players feels there is a need to re-educate youngsters in his homeland using the same approach, England must be doing something right, at least.