Born: 18 June 1946 in San Canzian d’lsonzo (Italy)
Career as a player: 1964-1967: SPAL Ferrara. 1967-1969: Roma. 1969-1976: Juventus. 1976-1979: AC Milan.
Honours as a player: four Italian league titles (1972, 1973, 1975, 1979), two Italian cups (1969, 1977). Played in 1974 FIFA World Cup™ in West Germany. 32 international appearances for Italy.
Career as a coach: 1991-1996: AC Milan. 1996-1997: Real Madrid. 1997-1998: AC Milan. 1999-2004: Roma. 2004-2006: Juventus. 2006-2007: Real Madrid. Since December 2007:England.
Honours as a coach: Five Itaiian league titles (1992, 1993, 1994, 1996,2001), four Itaiian super cups(1992, 1993, 1994, 2001), two Spanish league titles (1997, 2007), UEFA
Champions League winner (1994) and European Super Cup
“A childhood dream has come true”
Fabio Capello has been England coach for almost a year now. The 62-year-old Italian discusses his first 12 months in charge and what the future holds.
FM: How would you sum up your first 12 months as England coach?
Fabio Capello: It’s all been very positive. The team has started its 2016 World Cup qualifying campaign in fine form, mainly due to the five warm-up matches that we played against Switzerland, USA, Trinidad and Tobago and
always been famous for. More important though, we have to get over this abs fear of playing at Wembley, where critic from the crowd has often paralysed the team in the recent years. I can remember the “lion’s roar” of Wembley, but recently that roar has turned into boos and moans because of the team’s disappointing performances and results. Our aim now is to continue on our run of victories as that will not only restore the players’ belief in their own abilities, but also the fans’ faith in the team. We will play more attractive football when we have more confidence.
Many fans are already demanding that England reach the semi-finals, at the very least, of the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ in South Africa …
Capello: I have never set myself targets like that because I am not someone who is happy with half-measures. I always play to win, as I proved at AC Milan, Real Madrid, Roma and Juventus. I want my players to have the same ambition. I always want to achieve as much as possible, and the English have to get back to that mentality too.
So where have you identified problems?
Capello: Unfortunately, only 40% of the players in the Premier League are English. By way of comparison, 64% of the players in Serie A arc Italian, 63% of the players in the Primera Division are Spanish, 53% of the players in the Bundesliga are German, and 57% of the players in Fiance’s Ligue 1 are French. That means that I have a smaller pool of players at my disposal, but fortunately, they are of excellent quality. It is just a shame that players like Jamie Carragher and Paul Scholes have retired from international duty — I could certainly have used their experience.
Yet on the other hand, you seem to be ready to do without David Beckham and Michael Owen, two of England’s leading lights in recent years …
Capello: I only ever call up the best players, or at least the players who are the most suited to the way I wish to play. Both Beckham, who I worked with for a year at Real Madrid, and Owen are wonderful professionals who could still play vital roles for England. I will never close the door to the national team on anyone, but you also have to remember that in modern football, only players who are in peak
physical condition can make the most of their technical abilities.
It also wasn’t easy for you to pick a captain, apparently …
Capello: I have chosen John Terry for that position, but Rio Ferdinand, his deputy, would also have been worthy of the honour. They play alongside each other in central defence, they are both leaders at their clubs, Chelsea and Manchester United respectively, they both have international experience and they are both born winners. I have always had captains with similar traits at centre-half, whether it was Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini, Fernando Hierro, Walter Samuel or Fabio Cannavaro -defenders who can always read the game, influence their team-mates and set an example both on and off the pitch.
What differences have you noticed between Italian, Spanish and English football?
Capello: In Italy, it is all about tactics and playing for a result, whereas in Spain, the focus is on technique and pace. In England, the game is based on aggression and non-stop action. You can see the biggest differences in the stands though. In England, you will find passion and safety. In Spain, it’s a huge family party. But in Italy, the Ultras terrorise everyone and everything, and sometimes they even tell the politicians and club bosses what to do. The “organised tifosi” have far too much power. It’s only an Italian phenomenon. In Italy, crowds try and stop away teams getting to the stadiums, so instead, they have to be driven straight to the dressing rooms in their team bus while being verbally abused and pelted with whatever people can lay their hands on.
Why did Spain win EURO 2008?
Capello: In the past, Spain used to play on their furia, their fury, but they have now rediscovered the beautiful game. The national team has benefited from the fact that virtually every club in Spain uses the same system, one that is based on possession, technique and quick passing movements. The Spanish now play quick passes to each other along the ground because they do not conform to the stereotype of the modern footballer – Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, David Silva and David Villa are not what you would call “supermen”. Winning the European Championship will have given this young team of players, who have many years ahead of them, even more self-confidence, and this new generation is no longer divided by ancient regional rivalries and conflicts. Before, the team was full of Castilians, Catalans and Basques, but now the players all feel Spanish. I’d just like to say one final thing though: the only game in which Spain didn’t score in 120 minutes was their quarter-final clash with Italy … who were, let us not forget, without Cannavaro, Gattuso and Pirlo.
What did EURO 2008 teach us in terms of tactics?
Capello: There’s hardly anything new to discover in football, but certain aspects can be reviewed and adapted to meet current trends. Every team, no matter what formation they use, actually have a system that I call the “9-1″ formation. By that I mean that nine players primarily have defensive duties, and up front there is one lone striker who is supported by his team-mates rushing up to join him in attack. The crucial difference often lies in the quality of the goalkeeper and the striker, with Spain’s Iker Casillas and Fernando Torres or Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon and Luca Toni fine examples. England also have good goalkeepers, but they always seem to have bad luck when they play for the national team and make mistakes in important matches.
So do you want to help England make progress in those areas?
Capello: Football always has to be a reflection of a country’s culture. I don’t want to change the characteristics and traits of English footballers, I just want to instil more discipline and teach them to work better as a team. Having said that, I do allow each player room to develop his own style within the role that I assign to him. I want to give England a little taste of Latin football from France, Italy, Greece and Spain, and even from Portugal and Croatia, as all of these countries have dominated the European Championship and World Cup in the last ten years, with the notable exception of the World Cup in 2002 when Brazil came out on top. English football has not just been about “kick and rush” or “put the ball in the box” for many years now. I want a compact English team. Whether we win or lose, the most important thing is that we have a team on the pitch and not just a group of players.
So that’s why The Football Association decided to employ a foreign coach?
Capello: Foreigners don’t just make up 60% of the players in the Premier League, the managers of the four leading clubs are also foreign: Brazil’s Luiz Felipe Scolari at Chelsea, Spain’s Rafael Benitez at Liverpool, France’s Arsene Wenger at Arsenal, and also, if you like, Scotland’s Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United. All four clubs have huge honours lists, but England haven’t won anything for nearly 50 years now. Nevertheless, it was important for me to have Ray Clemence and Stuart Pearce on my backroom staff, and I often have long discussions with Sir Trevor Brooking, The FA’s technical director.
Why did you choose England?
Capello: It was a childhood dream of mine. For me, the English have always been the teachers of our sport, the ones who took the game to the rest of the world. In 2000, Howard Wilkinson, who at the time was England’s interim coach, asked me whether I would be interested in taking over, but in the end The FA chose Sven-Goran Eriksson. It wouldn’t have been the right time for me anyway, hut now I am eager and determined to help England rediscover the spirit that they once had as the teachers of football. I simply cannot understand how England can drop as low, as we speak, as 15th in the FIFA World Ranking.
How is your English coming along? When you first took over, the media claimed that you only used swear words when talking to the players.
Capello: To be able to train a team, you have to know the football jargon of that particular country. My English is good now, and I’ll soon be fluent. Apart from Italian, I also speak Spanish well and 1 have a working knowledge of both French and German. Anyway, I am used to being criticised by the media and to doing my own thing, and it helps that I don’t read any newspapers whatsoever, regardless of whether my team wins or loses. I talk on a daily basis only to my colleagues, and not to the press or the TV, but I know that I
have the respect of the English media. I do not believe that being England coach is quite the “mission impossible” that it is always made out to be.
You have also ordered the English players to change their eating habits and some other routines …
Capello: That’s true. I have, for example, impressed upon them the advantages of a Mediterranean diet over ketchup and chips. I have also put some rules of conduct in place for when the national team meets up, from eating breakfast together to the use of mobile phones, which must be switched off from time to time. The players have been very cooperative, and that is a clear indication of the high level of professionalism at their clubs. Arsenal’s academy, for example, is the perfect example of how young players should be brought along at all European clubs.
You also discovered Theo Walcott, who caused a sensation by scoring a hat trick in England’s 4-1 away win over Croatia in the FIFA World Cup™ qualifiers …
Capello: Eriksson had told me only good things about Walcott. He had taken him to the World Cup in 2006, don’t forget, even though he didn’t play, so I called him up to the squad and I was immediately impressed with his dribbling skills, his pace and his range of passes. At Arsenal, he has a manager, Arsene Wenger, who can help him get even better. I have also seen a lot of good players in the England U-21 side, and that fills me with great hope for the future.
Who are the best players you have ever played with or coached?
Capello: With Italy, it was Gigi Riva and Dino Zoff. As a coach, I particularly admired Marco van Basten and Paolo Maldini for their talent, their professional attitude and their will to win.
Your contract runs until 2012, the year of the Olympic Games in London …
Capello: Yes. I will be 66 by then and I will have reached retirement age. Then I want to travel and visit all of the ancient cultures that fascinate me so much. But I would also like to make another of my dreams come true by taking part in the Olympic Games, something that 1
was denied as a player, and something that still fills me with regret. 1 think it’s only fair that Great Britain should have a football team in the Olympics, but it is up to others to decide how, and with which players.
Are you enjoying life in London?
Capello: I love it. My wife and I live in a Hat in Belgravia. My office is at FA headquarters in Soho Square, but I can’t wait until we move to Wembley, which will be our new home. I am also looking forward to the new National Football Centre in Burton in Staffordshire. There is also so much culture for me to explore in London. My favourite places are the Barbican Centre, Sotheby’s, the British Museum, the Tate Gallery and the Royal Albert Hall. There are also many excellent restaurants with cuisine from all around the world. Personally, I prefer Italian, Japanese or Oriental. There isn’t exactly a shortage of golf courses for me to work on my new hobby either, and the weather is no worse than it is in Milan or Turin. I was born and brought up in Friuli, so I feel at home with a little bit of cold, rain and fog.
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