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Saturday, Dec. 15, 2007

PREMIER REPORT

Capello brings impressive history of success to England


LONDON — After Sven Lite, England now has the real thing. Steve McClaren, the assistant and successor to Sven-Goran Eriksson, always looked out of his depth as England's head coach. But there can be no such accusations leveled at Fabio Capello.

Christopher Davies

While the Italian has no experience of international management, his CV is impeccable. He has the distinction of winning the domestic title with every team he has managed — AC Milan, Real Madrid, AS Roma and Juventus, even though the latter was stripped of its Serie A crown in the wake of the match-fixing scandal last year.

In an ideal world England would have an English head coach, but like English players, English managers are in the minority in the Premier League. Italy is the world champion and AC Milan is champion of Europe — the Football Association has this time gone for someone who's been there, seen it and won it.

There has been criticism that Capello's style of coaching is too defensive. Maybe under him England would not have conceded the decisive third goal at home to Croatia, which meant it will be a Euro 2008 spectator next summer.

Some have questioned the motives of a 61-year-old millionaire wanting to manage a country that is currently underachieving.

Capello does not need the money so let us give him the benefit of the doubt and say a coach who has proved himself at the club level in two countries wants to add international success to his triumphs.

Whereas when the F.A. appointed McClaren it was obvious to all but those running English football they could have done a lot better, this time England could have done a lot worse.

A disadvantage is that Capello's English is limited but he is fluent in the language of football.

Capello made his name as coach in the early 1990s at Milan, where a team including Ruud Gullit, Marco van Basten and Paolo Maldini won four Serie A titles in five years, remaining unbeaten for 58 games between May 19, 1991, and March 21, 1993

Milan demolished Barcelona 4-0 in the 1994 Champions League final and in 1996 Capello left the Rossoneri after winning the title for a fourth time.

He had a single season in charge of Real Madrid, leading it to the Primera Liga title before returning to Milan for a shorter and less successful spell.

Capello moved to Roma in 1999, winning the 2001 Scudetto — the club's first major honor in a decade.

His next stop was Juventus, where Capello had played as a midfielder in the '70s. Under Capello, Juventus won the Serie A in 2004-05 and 2005-06.

In July 2006, with Juventus in the center of the match fixing scandal, Capello resigned and returned to Madrid.

Despite winning the Spanish title again, Capello was sacked last summer after high-profile fallouts with several players, including David Beckham.

With Real's season seemingly going nowhere Capello recalled Beckham in January and a string of good results during the second half of the season saw it win its 30th league title on the final day by beating Real Mallorca 3-1, pipping Barcelona on better head-to-head results.

However, winning the title was not enough and Capello was sacked last June because of what was seen as the team's defensive and boring style of play.

Intriguingly, Capello will be reunited with Beckham again and the Italian will decide whether the midfielder, who currently has 99 caps will win his 100th in the February friendly against France.

As public opinion is firmly behind Becks reaching his century it would be a huge own-goal by Capello to deny the former England captain that distinction.

* * * * *

GRAND SLAM SUNDAY sees the top four of England's Super League meeting at Anfield and the Emirates Stadium with the results a clear pointer toward the eventual Champions.

Sunday's summit meetings between Arsenal and Chelsea plus Liverpool and Manchester United may bring the winners only the usual three points.

But crucially it means a loss of three points for the defeated side in the mini Super League. Indeed, the stakes in the games between the league's heavyweights have never been higher.

The team winning the most points in games between what is becoming the Premier League's elite quartet will almost certainly be Champions of England.

Christopher Davies writes about the Premier League for the London Daily Telegraph.


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