LONDON — Fabio Capello’s last news conference in South Africa mirrored England’s World Cup debacle — it was too short and difficult to understand.
While I predicted a Germany win, no one foresaw the humiliation and embarrassment of the 4-1 defeat. Just about the only good news for England is that there were no positive drug tests.
Capello is perceived as a dead man walking . . . walking all the way to his bank with a big fat check for around £5 million in compensation.
In football, nothing succeeds like failure. Incredibly, he was asked if he was going to resign — in other words: “Fabio, are you going to give up millions in potential compensation and resign, thereby getting nothing?”
As surprising as night following day, Capello replied: “No. Absolutely.”
He also said he enjoyed the job. While being manager of England is undoubtedly a glamour post, when things go wrong — and they could hardly have gone worse in South Africa — the satisfaction level must surely be diluted by seeing yourself portrayed as a cartoon character (and a lot worse).
Then again I would happily be a figure of fun for a £5 million payoff.
Rarely has a manager gone from being the messiah to a mess in such a short time. A golden resume at club level now has the scar of England failure. The signs were always there but a successful qualifying campaign (which England usually achieves) papered over the cracks.
Capello became a figure of fun among the players because after 2 1/2 years on the job his English barely improved. Intriguingly his English becomes worse the tougher the questions at news conferences.
Don Fabio could not get his message across to players because they didn’t know what he was saying, or trying to say, most of the time. After the win over Slovenia a TV reporter said: “The shackles were off tonight . . . ” Capello probably thought the reporter was talking about the Israeli currency.
It was impossible for Capello to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with Wayne Rooney because the Manchester United striker would probably have ended up more confused than ever.
When a substitute comes on, a manager will say something like: “The left-back is right-footed so take him on the inside . . . cut in and knock the ball to Crouchy on the far post.” Capello just about gets names correct.
The Football Association wanted two weeks to make any decision about the manager’s future. The popular belief was that the F.A. power brokers had already made up their minds, but their legal eagles need time to go through Capello’s contract for a compensation offer.
The main F.A. suit is Sir Dave Richards, the chairman of Club England and, at the same time, the most powerful and anonymous man in English football. Sir Dave could walk into most football pubs and not be recognized. His profile is not so much low as subterranean.
If Sir Dave says Capello should go/stay he would expect the 11-man F.A. board to back him when it meets on July 15.
Despite the huge weight of public opinion against him, Capello may get his wish to carry on for two reasons.
Firstly, the F.A. would not want to pay him what would in effect be a £5 million check for ignominious failure. Secondly, the cupboard is bare when it comes to credible English candidates to succeed the Italian.
Fulham’s Roy Hodgson has just switched to Liverpool, while there are valid arguments against Harry Redknapp, Sam Allardyce and Stuart Pearce taking over. Maybe, almost by default, Capello might survive.
If that is the case, he and the England players who deserve as much stick as the manager have a huge task in rebuilding public confidence in the national team.
In the eyes of the nation the players are money grabbers who don’t particularly care about England.
Capello is not the first and won’t be the last England manager to experience a media postmortem after a World Cup. He tried to hide behind the over-the-line effort by Frank Lampard against Germany that was somehow disallowed, which would have made the score 2-2.
A valid point, but dismal England was outplayed in every respect by Germany. The only England player to come home with his reputation enhanced was goalkeeper David James, and he is almost 40.
The early alarm bells rang when, a month before the finals, Don Fabio announced the launch of the Capello Index, a player-ranking system that bit the dust a couple of days later.
He gambled on the fitness of Rio Ferdinand, Ledley King and Gareth Barry and it backfired.
Rooney was a pale shadow of the “world class match-winner” who was going to terrorize opponents. Whether this was fitness or that Rooney just didn’t like Capello’s 4-4-2 system — maybe both — but the United player never got out of the blocks.
Perhaps England is never quite as good as it thinks it is, but individually most of the team had successful seasons for their clubs.
Capello blamed tiredness yet Argentina’s Carlos Tevez, who also endured a demanding domestic season with Manchester City, has not look jaded. Neither have the Barcelona or Inter Milan players or. . . well nobody except Capello’s jaded jewels.
If Capello stays, he must ditch his beloved 4-4-2 formation and switch to 4-3-3, which most of the players are used to at club level. He should be instructed to do everything possible to improve his English, tell the players who will be in the team more than two hours before kickoff and just loosen up.
Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for theLondon Daily Telegraph.