Football Association executives were last night holding urgent talks on the future of Fabio Capello, the £6m-a-year manager of England, following the side’s early exit from the World Cup.
As recrimminations began into England’s 4-1 hammering by an inexperienced if talented Germany side, the Italian said he would seek talks with the FA’s hierarchy to see whether he enjoyed their confidence.
Asked whether he would resign in the post-match interview, he replied: “Absolutely not.”
Initial signs suggested the FA would stand by Capello, a successful player and club manager who guided England toward easy qualification for the tournament, but pundits said that he would have to take personal responsibility for the dismal displays that led to England flying home after four games.
FA executives, who made the former Real Madrid coach the highest paid manager in international football, will be braced for intense criticism in coming days for the national team’s failure to play with style and success. Its own record will also come under close scrutiny.
Last month following an expression of interest from Inter Milan, the FA contentiously removed a break clause in Capello’s contract that would have allowed him to be sacked after the World Cup.
Instead, the FA - who had to pay off Sven Goran Eriksson after the 2006 World Cup – extended it for another four years and now faces an embarrassing dilemma: whether to keep Capello despite England’s showing – or to start another long and costly search for a replacement.
Capello, 63, put a brave face in the aftermath of the drubbing, blaming the Uruguayan referee who wrongly disallowed a long-range shot from Frank Lampard.
“We played well. Germany is a big team. They played a good game. We made some mistakes when they played the counter-attack,” he said.
“The referee made bigger mistakes.”
He added: “I want to speak with the chairman and then decide my future.”
Pundits said that while the players had manifestly failed to perform, Capello would have to pay the price for what happened in Bloemfontein’s Mangaung stadium. Lee Dixon, the former Arsenal defencer and Independent columnist, said: “I think he will go.”
Alan Hansen, another player turned studio analyst, said: “Ultimately because they were so bad, he is under great pressure and, ultimately, I think he will go.”
Capello’s transformation from saviour of English football to disaster apologist has been remarkable for its swiftness. England qualified for South Africa having won nine out of 10 qualifying matches with a record tally of 34 goals in European groups.
Despite shaky pre-tournament friendly wins over Mexico and Japan, Capello was firm in his view that under his leadership England could lift the greatest trophy in world sport.
He maintained his belief despite a 1-1 draw with America and an abysmal 0-0 draw against Algeria, when the side looked out of sorts.
Critics complained that he made a tactical error by playing the misfiring Aston Villa striker Emile Heskey rather than the proven finishers Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch, and for omitting Joe Cole, the quicksilver Chelsea midfielder.
Signs of discord emerged in the camp ahead of the third group match against Slovenia, with the former captain John Terry – whom Capello sacked for having an affair with the ex-girlfriend of a squad member – saying the players would hold clear the air talks.
FA managers, whose chairman Lord Triesman resigned following an extra-marital affair, will be braced for a fresh onslaught of criticism. Under the spotlight will be Capello’s tactics and his treatment of players.
Capello was strict with his multi-millionaire players in comparison with the relaxed reigns of Steve McClaren and Eriksson. He addressed players by their surname and banned mobile phones and, to some extent, WAGS (wives and girlfriends) who made such a show of shopping at Baden Baden during England last disappointment, the 2006 World Cup.
However there was some concern that the tough regime may have stifled creativity and instilled a degree of fear.
Wayne Rooney, who was expected to be England’s best player but who never replicated his outstanding club form, publicly complained of boredom at the team’s lavish Rustenburg training base.
What or whoever was to blame, under Capello’s leadership, England failed to throw off the shackles of decades of under-performance from players who wow the Premier League but could not win on the world stage.Reuse content