Fabio Capello: The state of the football nation

Will Ashley Cole go to the World Cup? Is Rooney better than Messi? England's manager answers the essential questions of the moment
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There are no English teams in the Champions League semi-finals. Is it a sign of decline?

Fabio Capello Compared to the previous season all the clubs have sold important players. They got obviously weaker. In my experience, if a club is at the top, it should buy one or two high-level players every year to remain at the top, given that the opposition is getting stronger.

Clubs which spent in the summer are now semi-finalists. Barcelona, Internazionale and Bayern only spent less than Real Madrid and Manchester City...

FC No surprises there. Investment is paramount, but it has to be right. You have to bring in players who adapt and blend into the team quickly and successfully. This is not always the case, some players find it difficult to adjust, even from a smaller to a bigger club.

Besides investment problems, what went wrong with Manchester United?

FC They were unlucky because they paid dearly for their mistakes. Like when they presented Bayern with the late second goal in Munich, and the first at Old Trafford when they were 3-0 up. But what really made the difference was Rafael's sending off and Wayne Rooney's injury. You cannot go through with such disadvantages.

What was your reaction in the stand at Old Trafford when you saw Rooney limping heavily again?

FC I perfectly understand Sir Alex Ferguson's decision to play Rooney because he knows how important he is psychologically for the team. I do not think he took an unnecessary risk. If Sir Alex played Rooney after the pre-match tests, clearly his conditions allowed him to do so.

What about Chelsea?

FC They played very well in Milan, they could have had a bigger result and Inter would have had to play a different game at Stamford Bridge. As it happened Inter played magnificently in the second leg, but on the whole it was an even tie.

And Arsenal?

FC They had to face a great side like Barcelona in their best form of the season. Only a few weeks earlier Barcelona had experienced some difficulties. Moreover Arsenal have been extremely unlucky, losing key players like Van Persie, Fabregas, Arshavin, Gallas, Ramsey. They would have needed them all to go through.

How do you see the future for English clubs?

FC It is obvious that the financial crisis has affected the English clubs in Europe after years when they were among the top spenders. Besides Manchester City, the main exceptions were Real Madrid and Inter. Florentino Perez had to bring Real back into the frame, Inter bought six new players.

As there are no English clubs involved in the final stages of the Champions League is that a bonus for you and the national team?

FC The only advantage is that all the players will be available for the start of our preparation in Austria. But it is only a relative advantage. When players win trophies they are happier, and I believe in positive psychology.

Are you happy with the state of your squad?

FC Too early to say, you can never be sure at this time of the season, many unexpected things can happen. I just hope the players who are out injured will recover by the end of the season.

Will you make exceptions to your rule of selecting only players who are playing? What about Ashley Cole?

FC If Ashley Cole comes back by the end of the season it means he's fit. He will need to play, but this is a better problem than having to get someone back to fitness.

Are you more anxious than usual these days? Do you keep your fingers crossed?

FC I just hope for the best, even crossing fingers does not seem to prevent injuries. I do not resort to this anyway. But the main thing would be, between the start of our preparation and the World Cup, for all the England players to recover form and freshness.

Do you worry for any particular player?

FC No, I follow them all, some play more, some less, but I keep an eye on everybody.

Do you check their conditions?

FC That is the responsibility of the England medical staff. Our doctor is in daily contact with the club doctors, we know the situation. It would not make sense for me to speak to club doctors, or to the players, we would not get the full picture. I speak to the players if I run into them at matches, but certainly not to assess their health.

Has any young English player caught your eye this season?

FC Adam Johnson – he has come up from the Championship, where he played in a different position, and he has done well with City. Now it is important he gets some international experience.

And the Wembley pitch?

FC I was surprised to see players sliding so much last Saturday. We had problems at the start of our World Cup campaign, but they had been sorted. Given that Wembley is not only used for football games, I expect all will be adjusted once again.

Happy with the training camp in South Africa?

FC At the start of May, Franco Baldini and other FA officials will go back for the final check, so we shall have a definite appraisal, but things are proceeding well in Rustenburg.

Will the England camp be an alcohol-free zone?

FC There is nothing new here, alcohol has always been banned from our HQs. And that goes for myself too. It means that we won't need to go to a health farm to detox, we will do it in-house (laughs).

Are you concerned about the risk of boredom for the players in South Africa?

FC We will try to come up with creative pastimes. But do not expect me to send the players to the Sun City casinos (laughs).

How do you see your opponents in South Africa?

FC Each has its problems, it is too early for any conclusions.

Rooney or Messi?

FC They are different but equally great. It's great to talk about them. And Cristiano Ronaldo. The three of them together! And to think Manchester United already had two...

Are you set to stay with England until the end of your contract in 2012, no matter what?

FC As far as I am concerned there is no problem.

This interview appears in today's 'La Gazzetta dello Sport'