Fabio Capello yesterday denied that his fragile grasp of English affected his ability to communicate with England's players, insisting after the furore over his treatment of the deposed captain Rio Ferdinand that he only needed "maximum 100 words" to deliver his messages to players.
The England manager admitted during a prickly exchange about his command of English that he watched subtitled TV programmes but insisted that tactical discussions did not require much elaboration.
"I don't know," he said when asked if his command of English was as good as it should be, more than three years after his appointment on a £6m-a-year contract. "I think when I speak with the players they understand everything. I think in this job, it's important when you speak with the players. If I need to speak about the economy or other things, I can't speak. But when you speak about tactics, you don't use a lot of words. I don't have to speak about a lot of different things. Maximum 100 words."
Capello, who is likely to give Liverpool's Andy Carroll his second England start in the friendly against Ghana tonight in a side with seven changes from the one that beat Wales 2-0 in Cardiff, needed the question about his English to be translated by his interpreter Christian Lattanzio and was not happy to be pressed on it.
"Do you understand me?" he shot back. "Why this question? How many languages do you speak?" But the question of his ability to communicate is reasonable, given that he has still not explained to Ferdinand why John Terry has replaced him as captain.
As usual, Capello was disinclined to wait for Lattanzio to complete his simultaneous translation of the question about his English – an impatience shared by Manchester City's Roberto Mancini, who also uses Lattanzio, until City asked him to hear the translator out – and it made for another interview which bore no resemblance to the articulate and detailed delivery for which Capello is known in front of the Italian media.
Capello could have done without Jose Mourinho telling L'Equipe yesterday that he had been offered the job of succeeding Steve McClaren before Capello in 2007. "I was hours away. I almost signed up for the English national side but at the last moment I began thinking ... it wasn't for me," the Real Madrid manager said.
The Football Association rushed out a statement declaring their first choice had always been Capello, who added: "I don't know. This is a question for the chairman that chose me [former chief executive Brian Barwick], not a question for me. Every time a club or a different national team decides to choose a manager, they decide to speak with a lot of managers. It's normal. It's not different."
While Mourinho's communication skills are not in question, Capello's ability to leave his players baffled was written in the face of Gareth Barry, who has been named captain for tonight's game at Wembley against Ghana, despite failing even to command a place on the bench at the Millennium Stadium.
Capello has agreed with West Ham United to keep Scott Parker on the bench tonight and not risk his injured shoulder, so will probably start with Jack Wilshere alongside James Milner and Barry in what the manager said would be another three-man midfield. He cleared up the contradiction of having claimed he did not want to break news of Ferdinand's demotion over the telephone, despite having called Steven Gerrard to inform him of Terry's reinstatement as captain. "Yes, I phoned [Gerrard]. I spoke with him," Capello said. "[But not Rio] because Rio was captain. Steve was the vice-captain. With Rio, I would prefer to speak personally. Face to face."
The impeccable English of Capello's assistant Franco Baldini, who does 95 per cent of player liaison, means that communication with players may well not be an issue. However, reports in Italy last night suggested Baldini may be heading back to a new role at his old club Roma, with a takeover of the club by wealthy American businessman Thomas di Benedetto imminent.
The crises Capello is creating for himself and the FA off the field are minimising the credit he is granted for results on it which, after all, have England top of their Euro 2012 qualification group. Former England captain Gary Neville observed at the weekend that "if you use up your credits off the pitch and you get a bad result, the tide is difficult to turn".
Thus, Capello found himself fielding questions yesterday about which soap operas he watched to improve his English. He neither understood nor answered that question. He seemed to get a joke about the difficulties grasping Alan Hansen's accent. "I understand when you come from the north, one from London, I study very well."
Capello was at his most vociferous defending the decision to send home five players whose clubs have Champions League commitments and sending out virtually an England B side before a capacity crowd who have paid up to £40. "It will be interesting for the fans, but more for me to see the value of the players when they play here," he said.
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