All eyes are yet again on the England camp following their disappointing performance against Algeria, and Dave Cooper looks at one of the biggest talking points to emerge from Fabio Capello’s reign.
Now that the nation seems to have decided that Fabio is at best incompetent and at worst a mad foreigner intent on ruining our best squad since 2006, I think it appropriate to share with you an anecdote that describes why Capello only names his team two hours before kickoff. (I found this in Gabriele Marcotti’s excellent biography of Capello, and it would do no harm at all to have it plastered in poster form on the walls of every newspaper office in London)
The year is 1993. Capello’s AC Milan, Champions of Italy and Champion’s League runners up, are flying out to Tokyo to face Sao Paulo in the World Club Cup (Marseille, the team that beat them in the CL final have been banned under allegations of match fixing). On the plane is Dejan Savicevic, a Yugoslavian playmaker of ludicrous talent and non-existent work rate. Savicevic is under a two game FIFA ban after being sent off whilst playing for the national team. Before he boarded the plane Capello was informed that the ban would count for the World Club Cup, and that Il Genio would be unavailable for the competition.
So Capello informs the Yugoslavian of this, and while he is unhappy it is obviously no-one’s fault but his own. Capello then sits next to Florin Raducioiu, a 23 year old Romanian who has so far suffered quite a poor season, and tells him that he will be starting against Sao Paulo, a fact which is confirmed when the starting line up is announced the night before the game. However, the next morning, a message arrives from FIFA, who have decided that the ban applies only to the national team and that Savicevic is eligible to play, which surely, everyone assumes, means he will play. Instead, Capello keeps Raducioiu in the line up, something which infuriates Savicevic and provokes a backlash amongst both media and players and requires personal intervention from club owner Silvio Berlusconi to smooth relations. From then on Capello always waited until just a couple of hours before kickoff to name his starting lineup.
So, far from being an irrational lunatic, Capello has got the best of reasons for the way he names his starting lineup. During coverage of the Honduras vs Chile game earlier Marcel Desailly was complaining that Capello should inform the players at least a day before the game. This being the same Marcel Desailly who played under Capello between 1993 and 1996, winning two league titles and a Champions League in this time. I’d bet more than the 50p I put on North Korea winning against Brazil that he wasn’t complaining then.
It is all too easy to imagine a similar scenario to the one described above occurring in the England camp, given the state of Gareth Barry’s ankle and Ledley King’s groin, which could lead to a breakdown in team spirit when we need it most.