A touchline philosopher: the real Fabio Capello

The Italian poised to become the new England manager is an admirer of the Pope and Silvio Berlusconi and praised the 'order' left by General Franco. The FA may be hoping he learns to keep his opinions to himself. By Cahal Milmo

The blazerati of the Football Association are well known for their dislike of controversy. In the past, rampant publicity over the personal affairs of England managers has done little to endear them to the sport's mandarins.

So a disciplined, conservative Italian who attempts to shun the limelight, avoids late nights and socialises outside football circles would appear to be their man. Yesterday, Fabio Capello sat down for talks with FA bosses that are expected to result in him being awarded a multi-million pound contract before Christmas.

A perfect match? Well, possibly. There's just one thing. The conservatism that makes the61-year-old so appealing to some has for others, on occasion, gone just a little bit too far. Capello you see has a habit of spouting forth with opinions on public life. And those figures he admires most play their politics wide on the right.

Described variously as "uncompromising", "disciplinarian" and "impatient", Capello has recently expressed his support for those such as Pope Benedict XVI and Silvio Berlusconi. He has praised the organisational "skills" of General Franco.

In a sport derided for its navel-gazing insularity and fondness for talking in clichs, the would-be successor to Steve McClaren deliberately seeks his friends outside football, has an impressive modern art collection, travels to obscure locations and prefers to spend his evenings listening to classical music.

When asked recently about his testy attitude towards the media circus that surrounds the game, he said: "People say I'm impatient when it comes to football and they're right. I can't stand the crap that gets talked by everyone: players, fans, the media, club officials. Why should I waste my time listening to people who are clearly less intelligent than me?"

Arguably such iron-clad self-confidence is a minimal requirement if Capello, every bit as elegantly turned out as his compatriots, is to succeed Sven Goran Eriksson as only the second ever non-Englishman to lead the national side and face the unrelenting pressure for success and glory from fans and the media alike.

But while there can be little doubt about the footballing credentials and steely will of a man who has won nine national league titles in 15 seasons with four teams in Spain and Italy as well as the European Champions League, his penchant for dropping clangers and expressing robust political views have already generated headlines.

His most high-profile scrape came last year when he told the Rome-based La Repubblica newspaper that he admired the "legacy of order" left by General Franco, whose regime presided over the execution or murder of 200,000 people.

Speaking after he returned to Italy from managing Real Madrid, Capello said: "In Madrid, I breathed a sparkling atmosphere, the air of a country in Europe making the greatest progress. When I returned to Italy it seemed I had taken two steps back. Spain in two words? Latin warmth and creativity regulated by a rigorous order. The order which comes from Franco."

When it was pointed out to him that the general was a Fascist dictator, the manager, who has confirmed he has voted for Mr Berlusconi's Forza Italia and the Northern League, a party considered to be on the far right by its critics, added: "But he left a legacy of order. In Spain, everything works well, there is education, cleanliness, respect. We should follow their example."

After his remarks caused an outcry in Spain, the Italian sought to distance himself from his comments, explaining that he was not praising totalitarianism. He said: "I just wanted to say that Spain is better that Italy in some respects and provide a political context. I would never dream of praising dictatorships. My father conceived me after having been imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps." Born in 1946 in a village in the northern Italian province of Gorizia, near the border with the then Yugoslavia, Capello insists a hardworking upbringing and the encouragement of his father to pursue his footballing dreams are the roots of his success.

His father played for an Italian third division side and an uncle was so good that he played for the national side. Not only was football in the genes but it also provided an escape from the Cold War pressures in a part of Italy where there was constant fear that the borders could be redrawn and his family forced from their home. Citing the role of his father and uncle in forming his legendary work ethic, Capello said: "They taught me dedication, to always work hard with absolute stubbornness. Only hard work allows an athlete to make the most of his talents."

The result is a Stakhanovite philosophy under which Capello rewards the players he judges to have given their all under his instructions to win at all costs and ruthlessly freezes out those he believes do not fit his gameplan. As his fellow Italian manager Arrigo Sacchi put it: "For Capello, football is all about wining. He does not see beauty in the game." The list of stars who have fallen foul of Capello's steely will is suitably impressive Alessandro Del Piero, David Beckham, Paolo Di Canio, Edgar Davids and Ronaldo have all found themselves kicking sand on the sidelines.

In a famous confrontation with Di Canio, the maverick Italian striker who played for Milan, Juventus, Celtic and West Ham, Capello took exception to his player's questioning of why he was trying so hard to win a friendly match during a tour of China. The two men squared up to each other, with Capello reportedly shouting at Di Canio: "You are an ugly c*** and your face looks like a penis." Di Canio, at the time employed by Milan, never played for the team again.

Such unabashed low regard for some of the biggest reputations and salaries in football has been a defining feature of Capello's lengthy career, which ended as a player in 1979 after respectable spells with Roma, Juventus and the national side.

Despite immersing himself in management he spent 15 years running the youth sides of Milan before being plucked from relative obscurity in 1991 to run the first team by the club's owner, Silvio Berlusconi the Armani-clad coach has deliberately eschewed its social scene and has virtually no friends in football.

He once explained: "I made it a rule early in my career. I like my job but not all the things that go on around it." The bespectacled manager did little to dull his image as an accomplished but largely detached technocrat by refusing to follow the example of his predecessors as coach at Juventus by giving his mobile phone number to Turin's sports writers.

Instead, the urbane Capello spends his free time in more rarefied circles with a circle of friends recruited from the ranks of his passions for art, literature and travel. The Capello art collection, reputed to be one of the best in private hands in northern Italy, features works by Mark Chagall, the Expressionist Wassily Kandinsky and leading Italian artist Piero Pizzi Cannella, who is also a close friend.

Capello also has a wanderlust for exotic and remote destinations. Among his recent visits are the pre-Colombian ruins in Mexico, Angkor Wat in Cambodia and hiking in Tibet. He has plans to travel more extensively in China and the Far East when he retires.

Critics of Capello suggest that his high-mindedness is the flip-side of his unsentimental approach to his professional life. He spent five years as manager of Roma, steering the club to the Italian league title while engaged in frequent clashes with the management of its Turin-based rivals, Juventus.

It was to general astonishment, therefore, that Capello walked out on Roma overnight in 2004 to join Juventus. In response, Roma fans issued a sort of footballing fatwa against their former manager and hero, meaning that, for several years, he could only return to the Italian capital to visit his dentist while accompanied by bodyguards.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Capello put his ability to weather such crises down to his faith. A devout Catholic, his liking for strong doctrine was revealed earlier this year when he disclosed his support of the conservative Pope Benedict XVI and his opposition to Italy's laws allowing abortion.

He told an Italian magazine: "I'm very Catholic and I am not all in favour of the current law on abortion. I like the Pope for me now the Church needs a traditionalist turn. I am someone who prays twice a day, in the morning and evening, wherever I find myself."

Capello's habit of seeking divine inspiration will doubtless be a comfort to the millions of England fans who got into a similar routine every time the national side took to the field during the dismal qualification campaign for next year's European Championships which resulted in an ignominious failure that it will probably be the Italian's job to erase from collective memory.

But anyone hoping that Fabio Capello will bring emotional attachment to his considerable managerial and motivational talents should maybe consider what he said when asked for the single greatest achievement of his career: "The best moment of my career? Scoring against England at Wembley in 1973."

That, combined with the complete absence of any attempts to make friends in the media, should make for an interesting start if Capello is indeed chosen as the man to lead the England team in the next World Cup campaign.

If results go their way, his brusque, disciplinarian manner would be hailed as a strength. The merest hint of failure, however, could see some of his more forthright views of the world recast in tabloid headlines.

Should Fabio Capello be confirmed as the England manager, there will be no shortage of advice on how he should turn the national team into winners. He'll probably ignore much of it. However, other people will probably gently remind him that in England sport and politics and religion don't mix too well. And that's advice he would do well to heed.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone