Fabio Capello's handling of the England captaincy crisis reached new levels of farce last night when he failed to meet up with Rio Ferdinand to explain his position on the situation during Manchester United's 2-1 Champions League win over Marseilles at Old Trafford last night.
Capello said on Monday that his plan was to meet Ferdinand to explain his intentions for the England captaincy after his revelation that he was planning to give it back to John Terry on a permanent basis. Having agreed to meet informally in the Old Trafford directors' box before last night's game, Ferdinand was not among the non-playing United squad members who came up to the box to watch the game.
The United defender, currently injured, watched the game in person although it appears he did so from an executive box. Having failed to find Ferdinand in the directors' box, where Capello sat with his general manager Franco Baldini, the England manager did not make any subsequent attempt to track down the player. That compounded the renewed sense of confusion yesterday over whether Capello has actually resolved to give John Terry the captaincy on a permanent basis. The Capello camp insist the manager will not make a final decision until after the Wales game a week on Saturday.
Barring injury, Terry will be captain in the Euro 2012 qualifier against Wales in the absence of Ferdinand and the injured vice-captain Steven Gerrard. However, the Capello camp say that regardless of what Capello said in a press briefing on Monday there are no long-term plans for the captaincy beyond Terry's latest audition in Cardiff.
Capello is said to be waiting to see what the reaction of the team to Terry is like in the Wales game – as well as the performance of the player – before he makes a final call. Overall, it points to a chronic lack of decisiveness on the part of the England manager.
Asked about the situation with the England captaincy, Sir Alex Ferguson, whose team won with two goals from Javier Hernandez, declined to comment. "I'm not getting involved with that," he said. "It has got nothing to do with me."
Unfortunately for Capello, the whole saga has been a mess for him since the story broke on Saturday morning that Terry was being reconsidered for the captaincy for the first time since his sacking 13 months ago. The England manager seems loath to break the bad news to Ferdinand, whose injury problems are the reason that Capello first thought about bringing Terry in from the cold.
Three days after the Wales game, England play Ghana in a friendly at Wembley, a match in which Terry can also be expected to be captain, fitness permitting. As well as Ferdinand and Gerrard being passed over, there is also Frank Lampard, captain against Denmark last month, who has been overlooked. It would seem that Capello no longer regards him as a fixture in the team.
It also appears that the England manager's poor grasp of English, even after three years in the job, is also partly responsible for more headlines yesterday which proclaimed him having given the captaincy to Terry permanently. The Capello camp is already saying that he was misinterpreted and that fatigue may have been at play.
While there have been widespread reports that Ferdinand is unhappy at the decision, he is – as is always the case with England footballers – extremely unlikely to criticise Capello publicly. The same goes for the rest of the squad regardless of any misgivings they might have about the imminent return of Terry to the captaincy.
Carlo Ancelotti, Terry's manager at Chelsea, said yesterday that his player would have no problems being given the captain's job for the third time – having been appointed on two separate occasions already by Steve McClaren and then Capello – but refused to be drawn into the debate.
Ancelotti said: "I can say nothing. I didn't say anything when the England team took away his armband. And now I won't say anything. He will be happy with this. It's not my job. John Terry is our captain. He's been here a long time, he's a Chelsea man and a Chelsea player. He has fantastic ability and personality."
Equally unsure as to the confusing situation emerging in the England squad, Terry's team-mate Branislav Ivanovic would only discuss Terry's track record as Chelsea captain. "In football, when you're captain, you have to have the trust of your team-mates and have to have a lot of things to be a leader, a man, to make everything OK," he said. "I think, at Chelsea, he will be the captain and is the captain."