March 22, 2007
Fabio Capello: Anthology of a Champion
Part II: The Coach
Fabio Capello is undoubtedly one of the most famous Italian coaches in the world. Charismatic and agonistically charged like very few professionals in this field. For many he is the prototype of sergente di ferro (Italian for iron sergeant) very capable of transmitting any team his winning mentality. Very solid - Capello has always been portrayed as such.
After a successful life in the field he decided to approach soccer from another angle. His coaching career started with the Milan youngsters, from 1985 until 1991, but also dedicated his spare time to hockey and marketing. He was a true Fininvest man.
In 1991 the great opportunity arrived for him, as the dawning star Arrigo Sacchi retired Capello was assigned the A.C. Milan bench, therefore directing the dream team – with names such as Ruud Gullit, Marco Van Basten and Frank Rijkaard (the three Dutchmen) and pillar Franco Baresi. Out of five championships with the rossoneri he bagged four; along with three Super Cups, a Champions League and a European Super Cup.Capello was a motivated and ductile coach during those rossoneri years. He adapted the play according to the disposition of players he was in control of: for one year he opted for an offensive game, the following one his main concern was not allowing goals; it was all according to the quality of men he coached that specific year. His character was effective but not always an easy one. He couldn't sometimes reason with some of his important players – Edgar Davids was an example of that special temper that later on marked Capello as a tough to deal with kind of coach.
The Dutch was sold by Capello in 1996-97 and found in Juventus the perfect place to shine. In 1996 Capello left Milan after winning a scudetto, in the midst of controlling and succeeding with two talents such as Roberto Baggio and Dejan Sacicevic: Berlusconi then thought that the magic Milan accomplishment during those years would have been remembered more as Capello's success rather than his. It was Fabio's time to branch out of Italy. He reached Madrid and in the first year he conquered Spain with his Galacticos. The Spaniards loved him, but with Washington Tabarez's double failure back in Italy, Capello got a call from A.C. Milan he could not refuse - unfortunately that was another catastrophe for the rossoneri and Fabio decided to take a year off coaching. He became a commentator with European eyes all over him.
It was 1999 when Franco Sensi, AS Roma's Patron, decided to open up a winning cycle for the giallorossi and guaranteed Fabio Capello a bench after two years spent with Zdenek Zeman in comand. Roma fans found themselves in an ambiguous love for the new coach. One side felt safe with his coaching abilities while the other missed the olden ways brought by Zeman. Unfortunatelly after a spectacular start Roma could not follow the lead and ended up falling back in 6th place in Serie A - way too far from rival and winning team Lazio. The Zeman-nostalgic fans fumed not only because they saw laziali win what should have been their scudetto but also because Capello had a hard relationship with Curva Sud's idle Vincenzo Montella. In June 2000 the pieces missing in Roma's squad finally fell into place. The Argentinean defender Walter Samuel, the Brazilian center-mid Emerson and the super bomber Gabriel Omar Batistuta joined the team and it was a whole new Roma. Capello was finally ready to step it up and on June 17th, 2001 Serie A crowned the giallorossi on their third scudetto.
Finally Capello was not under Zeman's shadow anymore. He was the decade's best coach as out of eight tournaments he was able to win six with A.C.Milan, Real Madrid and A.S. Roma. To top it all on August 19th 2001 he won against Fiorentina in a 3-0 Super Coppa final. A well faught 2004 championship brought Capello to make his career move - he decided to leave the capitolino group but not before expressing his graditude for a spectacular time with the giallorossi organization. Roma fans tragically saw yet another winning ‘mister' say goodbye to their idols, but were also disappointed to hear he had found in Juventus his next challange after previously declaring to never wanting to be part of the Torino based club. Due to a very abundant compensation Capello broke his promise and his decision was well rewarded with Juventus' 28th Scudetto that year. In July 2006, with Juventus in the midst of the aforementioned match-fixing scandal, Capello resigned as their manager. Press reports strongly linked him with a move back to Real Madrid; new club president Ramon Calderon publicly stated his desire for Capello's return to the club. On July 5th, 2006, the official Real Madrid website announced the incorporation on Fabio Capello.
Capello was criticized by Juventus captain Alessandro Del Piero, as Fabio Cannavaro and Emerson also left for Real Madrid. Capello quickly drew the disdain of Real Madrid's ardent supporters because of his defensive playing style. In interviews, Capello attacked those critics by saying that the beauty of attacking plays is old. He said that results are much more important than playing beautifully. He also added that "those days are over". At Real Madrid, Capello had another high key falling out. This time with hotly tipped young star, and fellow country man Antonio Cassano, the two had disputes in the past while at AS Roma. Capello had not played Cassano for over a month at Real Madrid and the young striker reportedly shouted out at him "Have you got no shame? I fought for you in Rome and this is how you repay me".
This lead to the young Italian being suspended by the club. Capello was also heckled by fans during the weeks that he benched David Beckham, after Beckham's signing in January to the LA Galaxy. It was widely speculated – when Capello finally did allow Beckham to play and he scored a goal for the struggling club - that this move actually may have saved the head coach's job. On Tuesday, February 20th of 2007, Real Madrid was forced to deny rumors that Capello would be leaving after that day's match. Despite everything around Fabio Capello going array in Spain, with 27 games in the Liga and 11 more to go, he is currently fighting for first place with his Galacticos which are sitting only 5 points south of Barcelona and Siviglia. Might this still be Capello's 8th championship?