One of the most successful managers of all time, Fabio Capello has the unique distinction of winning the domestic league title with every single club he has coached in his entire career. Rated amongst the best coaches of all time, Fabio Capello has been the coach of almost all the biggest teams in Italy and Real Madrid in Spain.
An accomplished player during his time, Capello has instilled the winning spirit that drove him as a player as well.
Capello began playing football, at the youth level, for a local club side Pieris, from his home town. He was noticed by AC Milan but despite their interest, he chose to sign for SPAL 1907, for 2 million Lire. In his second season, his influence in midfield was prominent as SPAL 1907 went on to win the Italian Youth Championships.
In March, 1964, Capello made his debut for the SPAL first team, struggling to cope with the Italian Serie A. Playing just four games that season, Capello showed his class despite SPAL getting relegated.
Capello was a regular member of the first team in his third season at the club. He helped his team get promoted to Serie A, straight back after one season in Serie B. In 1965-66, Capello was again the midfield general and key penalty taker for SPAL as the club avoided relegation thanks to their future Italian international.
Despite an injury ridden season, Capello was called up to the Italian Under-23 team, along wth teammate, Edy Reja.
In 1967, Capello moved to AS Roma, his first move to a big club. Immediately, he had a huge impact on the fortunes of the Roman club, helping the team to first place after 8 games in the season. Capello had a keen eye for goal as well, scoring the winner in an epic 10-9 win over rivals Juventus.
His injury, to the left knee, came back and Capello was out for the remainder of the season. Roma avoided relegation by 5 points, that season, and Helenio Herrera came in the following year as coach.
Under Herrera, Capello excelled, playing in the Catenaccio style of football. He scored six goals as Roma went on to win the Coppa Italia title.
In 1969-70, Capello moved to Juventus and became a real star. He would marshall the midfield for a strong Juventus side that went on to win the Scudetto thrice, with Capello in the squad. He then moved to AC Milan to end his playing career in 1980. Before that however, Capello helped Milan win the 1979 Serie A title as well.
For the Italian national team, Capello became a mainstay during the 70s. Playing 32 times for the national team, Capello scored a memorable goal that helped Italy beat England, at Wembley, for the first time in their history.
Coach Capello Capello retired as a football player and became a pundit on TV. In 1987, an out of sorts AC Milan appointed Capello as the caretaker manager, before Arrigo Sacchi took over in 1988, creating one of the greatest football teams of all time. After Nils Leidholm was fired in 1986-87, Capello led Milan for five games, helping the team qualify for the UEFA Cup in the process.
The Milan Walk
Arrigo Sacchi had begun a reconstruction job that had worked like clockwork. Milan were at the peak of their European dominance with Sacchi leading them to two European Championship titles in 4 seasons. After Sacchi, Capello came into the fray, having worked with the Milan structure since his caretaker-stint.
For the next five years, Capello and Milan created magic. Having written a research article on “The Zonal Marking System”, during his days as a coaching student, Capello put his learnings into good use. For the next five years, Milan were almost unbeatable under Capello, getting them the name – the Invincibles.
With Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Frank Rijkaard, Franco Baresi, Paolo Maldini and Marcel Desailly in his side, Capello led Milan to four Serie A titles in five seasons. Milan were unbeaten for 58 games, between May 1991 and March 1993. Facing Johan Cruyff’s star-studded Barcelona, Capello took Milan to the UEFA Champions League title, routing the favourites 4-nil in the finals.
Capello had quickly earned a reputation to be a winner and a disciplinarian at that. He was known to shut his players down, if they didn’t heed his word, and no one was an exception. His famous clashes with Paolo Di Canio led to the flamboyant player being shipped out to Glasgow Celtic.
Capello moved on, after 6 years at Milan, to Real Madrid. Facing the dilemma of playing with Predrag Miatovic, Raul and Davor Suker, Capello decided to go against his natural defensive style and played all three strikers together. While Capello only lasted in Madrid for a single season, he managed to beat FC Barcelona to the league title by 2 points.
However, his key contribution was to bring in players like Suker, Mijatovic, Roberto Carlos and Clarence Seedorf, all of whom were instrumental in the club’s league and European dominance over the next few seasons.
Back to Milan
Capello returned to AC Milan but didn’t stay for the entire season. In a team riddled with aging players and stars that didn’t gel at all, Capello was left frustrated. The wards just couldn’t do the job and Capello was sent off, for the first time in his managerial career, against Juventus when he protested against the referee in a 1-4 loss.
Capello left the club and Milan finished 10th in the table. Many, including those who had played under Capello in his first stint at the club, claimed that the coach was not at his usual disciplined-best, this time ‘round. Capello, however, helped build the side which went on to win the title the next season, without him at the helm.
All Roads Lead to Roma
Capello took a short break from the game, following his Milan debacle. During his break, he told a reporter that he would just “sit on a bench and think about football”. He became a commentator as well, before moving on to coach Roma.
Capello’s first move was to try and get Ruud van Nistelrooij to come to Rome, joining Marco Delvecchio at the helm of the attack. An injury to Nistelrooij again blocked his move and Roma only managed 6th place, made worse by the fact that arch rivals Lazio ended up winning the title.
In 2001, Capello brought Walter Samuel to Rome and that helped him strengthen the backline. Gabriel Batistuta’s exploits in the front helped Roma win the title despite a poor start to the season. The start was so bad that fans came to the club’s training ground and ransacked the players’ and coach’s cars standing outside. Capello refused to resign and led the team all the way to the title, aided by some sensational performances by the Brazilian, Emerson, in the middle of the park.
2002 was all about Roma and Juventus. After staving off pre-season rumours about joining Manchester United, Capello went about dealing with the encounter that was turning ugly. Capello criticized the Moggi family in their dealings with players’ agents. Roma only managed second place, behind Juventus, by a single point. They went out in the group stage after a draw with Arsenal and lost the Coppa Italia to AC Milan in the finals.
Capello was being mistreated by fans, displaying banners, asking for his resignation. He still continued with Roma for another season, playing more attractive football that led to wins over Juventus and Inter Milan. In the final stretch, Roma seriously lost pace of league leaders AC Milan and ended up in second place, but 11 points adrift.
The Old Lady
Despite his past differences with Juventus and Luciano Moggi, its owner, Capello left for Turin in 2004. Roma was debt ridden and Capello helped lighten the load by signing Emerson from Roma. With the Roma fans feeling betrayed, Capello moved to Juventus and set about creating a winning team. Over the next two seasons, Juventus and Capello won two consecutive league titles.
However, the Calciopoli scandal erupted. Juventus was stripped off both its titles, for matchfixing, and relegated to Serie B. While some of the big names left the club, players like Gigi Buffon, Alessandro Delpiero and Pavel Nedved stayed loyal. Capello himself left the club and moved to Real Madrid with Emerson and Fabio Cannavaro.
When Capello arrived, Real Madrid were in their longest trophy-less run in history. His defensive playing style didn’t help as supporters turned against him instantly. Capello replied to these taunts by stating that “those days are over” and that Real Madrid need to win first, and not play beautifully. Capello drew the ire of the media and fans for not playing David Beckham after an, almost, public fallout with the English winger. He also kept an unfit Ronaldo out of the first team while Antonio Cassano’s fued, from the Roma days, continued. In March, Real Madrid were eliminated from the UEFA Champions League, drawing more criticism for Capello. With Madrid languishing at fourth place in the table, Barcelona looked like running away with the title again. With injuries piling up, Capello brought Beckham back on and the former England captain played his role to perfection. Madrid started piling up the wins and ended the season stronger than Barcelona, who were themselves struggling with controversies between Frank Rijkaard and some of the players.
On the final day of the season, with Real Madrid leading Barcelona by a point, Capello brought the trophy home with a 3-1 win over RCD Mallorca. Capello’s decision to bring on Jose Antonio Reyes for David Beckham changed the game. The team, which was down 0-1 before the substitution, came back to win 3-1 with two from Reyes.
Capello had managed to thwart the all-overpowering Barcelona side but was mistreated by Real Madrid at the end. During his post-season holiday, Capello received a call from the Real Madrid management stating his services were not needed anymore. They told him that even though he had won the title, at Real Madrid, they needed “something more than just a win”. Capello, a firm believer in team football and not individualistic talent or free flowing movement, was out of a job.
The Tainted England Job
England failed to qualify for the UEFA European Championships in 2008 and that meant that Steve McClaren was on his way out. Along with Jose Mourinho, Marcello Lippi and Martin O’Neill, Capello’s name was also thrown into the ring.
Mourinho ruled himself out and Capello soon became the favourite. He received a lot of support from Alex Fergusson, Arsene Wenger and Rafael Benitez, the biggest names in English club management at the time. Capello eventually became the England manager after a long drawn out scenario of ‘yes’, ‘no’ and ‘maybe’.
Capello signed for England and announced that it would be his last managerial job in football.
Capello kept up his stern stance with players, even stripping John Terry of the captaincy for having been involved in a scandal.
Capello was right on the button, when it came to England. He forced players to give more for their country, leading them to 9 wins out of 10 games in the FIFA World Cup Qualifying. Some of the key features of his role were to bring David Beckham back into the England squad as well as rotate the captaincy amonst some of his players. Steven Gerard, Frank Lampard, Rio Ferdinand and even David Beckham, all became captains at some point of time.
England went to the 2010 World Cup with a win over Germany in Berlin, the first time in 35 years that Germany had lost a game there.
After a goalkeeping error, something that has hounded England for years, came back to haunt Capello in their first game against USA in the group stage of the World Cup, the England manager went for a change. A nil-nil draw against Algeria drew criticism but Capello was quick to blame the Jabulani ball that was “impossible to control”. Capello saw England through to the Round of 16 with a win over Slovenia, going on to face Germany.
Despite their recent result, the Germans were right on top of things and after going down 0-2, England fought back.
A goal by Lampard was stated to have not crossed over the line, leaving England trailing 1-2 at half-time. Germany ended up 1-4 winners.
At the end of the World Cup, heavy negotiations led to Capello signing an extension of his contract that would take him to the end of the 2012 European Championships.
Till date, England remains the only team that Capello has yet to win a single title with.
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