Fabio Capello has made the bold claim that the Manchester United teenager Phil Jones has the potential to be as good as Franco Baresi and Fernando Hierro, two players who loomed large in the management career of the Italian.
It was in the aftermath of Tuesday's 1-0 win over Sweden in his customary press briefing away from the cameras at Wembley when Capello, usually fairly reticent when it comes to assessments of individual players, gave weight to his views on the 19-year-old. Having played Jones in a more advanced midfield role against Spain on Saturday, and in Scott Parker's customary holding position in the Sweden game, the England manager was effusive.
Although Jones had played higher up the pitch against Spain than against Sweden, it was in the second game he came closest to scoring after a run from deep through the Swedish defence.
Asked specifically about Jones, Capello said it is "difficult to find a player like him, really difficult.
"I have found in my career probably two players [of Jones' type]. He can play in different positions and always at the top level. He is a talent. He is so young. He is a big talent because when he receives the ball he plays always without fear. Good passes, good solutions. Every time, the best solution. I know something about football and the solution that he chooses every time when he receives the ball is always the best.
"For me, this [Sweden] game was really important, to see him play in front of the back four," Capello added. "Because if Parker will not be fit I will have a solution. I [was] not sure it will be okay to play this position. He can play every other position but for me it was really important test for him."
Capello was asked who the other two players were to compare with Jones. "It was Franco Baresi and Fernando Hierro. They played as midfielders and after they played centre-back. They were really good players."
Part of the Milan team which Capello inherited from Arrigo Sacchi, Baresi is a player to whom the England manager occasionally refers when he is discussing the best players he has coached. The last three years of Capello's playing career at Milan overlapped with the start of Baresi's. More than a decade later, Capello became manager and Baresi was part of the Milan team that won Capello's single Champions League trophy in 1994, although he was suspended for the final.
Hierro was in the Real Madrid team that won the Spanish title in 1997, in Capello's first spell at the club. Both Hierro and Baresi were capable, at their peak, of playing equally effectively in defence or midfield.
Capello was unwilling to write off the likes of Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard for next summer's European Championships but increasingly he has a larger pool of players to choose from than before last summer's World Cup.
Then, he had varying success persuading Jamie Carragher and Paul Scholes to come out of retirement. Now the likes of Jack Rodwell and Kyle Walker have chances, albeit slim, of making the squad.
Capello said: "For the World Cup we had the old players with the experience. Now we have got the young players. I think when we play the Euros it will be better than now. They can improve because they are young. They can get more experience. Play Champions League. Play important games."
It will be difficult for Rodwell to claim a central midfield place, with competition from Jack Wilshere, Steven Gerrard, Scott Parker, Gareth Barry, Frank Lampard for four squad places. However, the 20-year-old from Everton would appear to be ahead of the likes of Michael Carrick, Jordan Henderson and Tom Huddlestone.
As with Walker, another young player picked out for mention by Capello, it will, in all likelihood, probably be injuries that dictate whether he gets into the squad. "I have got a lot of players," Capello said. "I hope by the end of the season it will be tough for me to choose the best 23 players. Better to have this problem than no players."Reuse content