Fabio Capello has made a thinly veiled dig at Wayne Rooney's below-par form for England at Euro 2012 by joking that the striker must only understand "Scottish" because he "only plays well in Manchester".
The comment by the former England manager, understood to have been made on Italian television, was itself a reference to the criticism that Capello, and his Italian back-room staff, believe was directed at them from Rooney this month. The comment that Capello appears to have reacted to in particular was Rooney's observation that it was simpler now that the players were communicating with a native, English-speaking manager.
Capello said: "After seeing the latest game [against Italy], I think Rooney only understands Scottish. That's because he only plays well in Manchester, where Sir Alex Ferguson speaks Scottish."
The United striker said before his first game of the tournament against Ukraine that the fact that Capello's successor, Roy Hodgson, was English had made a difference. Rooney said then: "I think it helps everyone being English. There are no words lost in translation and we understand what the manager wants from us. The manager trusts his players, which is obviously a big help to the players."
Rooney did also thank Capello for the lengths he went to in order to get his three-match ban for the red card he received in qualifying against Montenegro reduced to two games at Euro 2012. The comment about Rooney understanding "Scottish" is fairly typical of the kind of jokes that Capello used to attempt, usually with only moderate success, when he was England manager.
The biggest-selling Italian sports newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport has been forced to apologise for a cartoon in which it depicted Mario Balotelli as King Kong, in a crass attempt at satire involving the striker climbing Big Ben rather than the Empire State Building. With sensitivities about racial abuse running high at Euro 2012, it was recognised by the paper as a crass decision and removed from its website.
The player himself and his family were understood to be very unhappy with the cartoon.