And so it came to pass that, as first predicted on Back Page Football, Don Fabio Capello was paid off and let go by the Russian FA. In one of the most pathetic and shortsighted events in recent Russian football history, which is saying quite a lot, the Italian strolls off into the sunset with almost ten million euros, with deferred payment of his final 2 years.
This was the figure directly told to me by a member of the RFS Executive who signed off on the payment. On Tuesday night I was supposed to have a phone interview with a local radio station which was cancelled at the last second. So I decided to take a trolleybus (not that kind of trolley) home for a change of pace and sitting on the meandering electro-bus the call came to get to the studio.
I made a quick call to the aforementioned contact and he told me the full amount, plus the detail that Fabio will probably immediately return to work. The Italian has already signed a pre-agreement, he said, with his new employers and due to not fulfilling his contract correctly, the RFS lost out on a windfall payment that would have fixed their finances.
Even as it stood, they would have been able to receive a substantial lump to release him, if they had only paid him for the last few months, but they didn’t. Now they are looking to get Leonid Slutsky (CSKA’s coach) or more likely Stanislav Cherchesov (until a few days ago Dinamo’s coach)as, in the words of the Executive, “he does what he’s told and won’t pick out our eyes.” The pick out our eyes bit I should explain, it’s from the Russian saying “A raven never picks out another raven’s eye”. Basically he’s going to take orders well and not rock the boat – within the RFS and Russian football. Plus he’s the ideal jobbing coach and will coast a heap less than Slutsky.
While Fabio made a fuss about not being allowed to reshape Russian football so as to make its structures more effective and poured scorn on many of the harebrained schemes thought up over too much vodka and ultra processed pig meat, going local will make sure such schemes will continue to be floated and, god forbid, see the light of day. We need to be ready for “Team 2018”, limits on foreigners, the Gazprom Super League and on and on.
When the Italian simply requested to organise regional coach-the-coaches sessions, he was told there was no money and no interest. While both excuses have elements of truth, there is also a great reluctance within the RFS to want to change anything. Too many stand to lose too much if football is properly reformed or becomes consequential in Russia. Better instead to leave the fans, coaches, administrators and players high and dry. This is a better choice.
Of course there were doubters when the man arrived. Who was he? Who had he coached? In the studio we giggled on air when reading quotes from leading football figures when the Italian was mooted – “Who has he coached, England? What have they won?” and “He doesn’t know anything about Russian football. Where has he coached outside of Italy? What has he done to get this job?”
Both these came on the same TV show with the talking heads jabbering side-by-side. Yes, where has he coached, what has he done. Of course he won nothing with England; the Premier League and English media made sure his time there was painted as a disaster. But in Italy with Milan (x3), Roma and Juventus. In Spain with Real Madrid (x2). Where did he coach? Only 2 of the top-4 leagues in Europe.
We discussed the previous media favourite to take over from Fabio, Valeri Karpin. The former Spartak Moscow General Director and Head Coach who had a terrible time in Mallorca and is currently having an image rehabilitation in the FNL with newly promoted Spartak Moscow third string side, Torpedo Armavir.
The same club who only accepted their licence at the last moment due to a guarantee from their main investor, a certain Spartak shareholder, to not leave the second tier with only 19 clubs. This after Zenit’s reserve team (second in the third tier West last season) were called up to fill in the Torpedo Moscow blank. Valeri is a gentleman and freethinker, but in charge of the national team? He’d last two games before being forced out.
It is true that when Fabio arrived in Russia his best was probably behind him, the same could be said when he arrived in England. He was a star of the 1990s and 2000s, but didn’t have the full backing of the RFS. He had to overhaul an aging side that was still dining (and drinking as in the case of the 2009 play-off fiasco) out on making the semi-finals of a weak Euro 2008. Yet there was little in the way of ready-made talent coming through from the Russian youth system.
He took over from a succession of ten managers who’d ranged from slavish to compliant in ascending order. The Dutch duo of Guus Hiddink and Dick Advocaat had done what they were told, but added some tactics and self-belief, without control of the players and clubs. The Italian came in to drive the team forward and got them to the World Cup in Brazil against the odds and has made them competitive. Anyone from football or with an ounce of knowledge of the game has given this tip of the hat to Fabio for this achievement. Not to mention being unlucky in not getting out of an extremely tough group. Russia overachieved and Fabio deserves credit for making them tough to beat.
However you cannot sideline Gazprom favourites like Andrey Arshavin and Aleksandr Kerzhakov, as well as elected party officials like Roman Pavlyuchenko, no matter how bad their form. In this and other points, Fabio failed. He didn’t politic and dance to the tune, hence he was intermittently paid and ultimately shafted. It will not be a huge surprise if Arshavin appears back in the National team with his highly paid government salary down in Kuban Krasnodar. While the other players will go unpaid and the local salary remain a pittance, he will draw down on large government funds in his semi-retirement.
The local leagues re-started last weekend and some of the executives of the RFS and business community arrived back from their foreign summer homes to take a decision at the Super Cup in St. Petersburg. While they were still distracted with thoughts of sunny Med weather and missing mistresses, the vote to pay off the devotee of Russia’s greatest modern artist was taken. And he has 2 more years of salary to receive, whenever that happens.
It would be tastily ironic if Don Fabio were to use some of his Golden Handshake to pick up another piece of Russian history and stick it on the wall of his home in Italy. Our radio host finished our 20 minute discussion on Capello and League of Ireland clubs in Europe with the following – Russia has a big man syndrome.
By size alone we expect greatness, however in football we are big of body but small of deeds. I stuck in that I hope the opposite would be true of LOI clubs this week in Europe.