Exasperated Capello can't control Rooney
Manager admits when it comes to Wayne's world, you have to take the bad with the good
And to think that Fabio Capello is the manager Wayne Rooney once said scares him the most. "He is fearsome," the errant striker said of his new Italian mentor a little more than two years ago, explaining that habit of always being on his shoulder and his case in training sessions.
Well, Capello evidently doesn't put the fear of God into Rooney any more. The morning after a night of tempestuous weather and emotions in Podgorica, England's manager declared that he is powerless to affectthe temperament of the player whose third red card of 2011, his career eighth, suggests that the Stereophonics album name tattooed on to his forearm – Just Enough Education To Perform – will always be the appropriate one where he is concerned.
"You can't read everything," Capello said. "If he scores a goal what do you think about what happened in 45 minutes, 60 minutes before? The player is difficult to understand. When you have one player so good, so important it is difficult to read everything he will do in a game. He can do something fantastic and he can make a silly mistake."
Once and always a flawed genius, the conclusion seemed to be, and that Capello has accepted, that the best player by a mile might combust at any moment. If the Uefa disciplinary commission which, the FA have already been advised, may sit to consider Rooney's dismissal to extend the statutory one-game ban to two, it is quite possible England's tournament will be on the rocks.
In a 16-team tournament, very few teams are a pushover and – based on an assumption that the most successful nations in qualifying will win the play-offs – the "easiest" nations England could face without Rooney are Denmark, Estonia, Croatia or Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The upside of his ban, if one exists, is that he would be fresh to unleash on the Continent's elite if England do progress towards the second phase without him.
The friendlies against Spain and Portugal must be occasions for Capello to do away with Rooney and focus on those who can serve him from the start next summer.
"[It will be] a minimum one [game ban]. I hope one," Capello said. "But I need to find a solution. I selected five forwards, and two forwards like [Jermain] Defoe and like [Daniel] Sturridge [were not here.] They are really good players and for that reason I have the solution for the games Rooney can't play."
Danny Welbeck is the more exciting prospect; perhaps the greatest beneficiary of Rooney's madness, whose involvement could see the core of Capello's side being a Manchester United contingent, with Chris Smalling, Tom Cleverley and Phil Jones all under the age of 22.
Jones is a name on which to linger. His debut was neither flawless nor peerless but a source of huge satisfaction to Capello. "You can't speak only about Rooney," Capello said. "I think today I saw a really good player.Number two. Phil Jones. Oh, guys, this is really good news for me. The news is not about Rooney. The news is about a really good young player who played really well, without fear, with personality, going forward, defending well. I think it will be inter-esting in the next game we play to see some players: whether Phil Jones can play central defence for example."
The story is Rooney, though, and how his temperament will always deter from an aim he expressed two years ago, to graduate from the ranks of the great players to be "one of the greats". Internationally, he is inneither category. He has not scored a goal in such a gathering of nations since 2004.
Capello has learned to read his mind as best he can, bringing Frank Lampard into play after little more than an hour on Friday, for example, when he saw Rooney's game descending into frustration. "I felt the position would bring more solutions [for Rooney]. He could have more one-on-ones and attack the space, I thought it was a solution but, OK, probably it would have been better leaving him as a forward," Capello reflected.
But it is a unmistakable leap of faith that he must take. "Why I trust him? Because he's a really good player, a really important player. Because he makes the difference when he is at the top," he concluded.
"For a long time he has been the best player of the national team and I'm sure he will be really important at the Euros. He will be really important because he is very proud."
How Arshavin excelled after ban
Andrey Arshavin was in a similar situation to Wayne Rooney before the last European Championship finals and appeared to benefit from it.
Banned for the first two group matches after retaliating against an Andorra player in the final qualifying game, he returned fresh against Sweden and was man of the match in a 2-0 win. That put the Russians into the quarter-finals, in which he was outstanding again in a 3-1 win over Holland, making two goals and scoring the third.
After Russia lost their semi-final to the eventual winners, Spain, Arshavin and his striking partner Roman Pavlyuchenko secured moves to the Premier League with Arsenal and Spurs respectively.
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