Bulgaria v England: Fabio Capello On Tactics, Beer And Penelope Cruz

The England manager reveals his personal philosophy on management, tactics and players, faith, travel, art and life itself.
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The England manager reveals his personal philosophy on management, tactics and players, faith, travel, art and life itself.

It's only a few hours now until Bulgaria v England kicks off in Sofia. But who would have thought that Fabio Capello was a beer drinker with an eye for the ladies?

The England manager doesn't usually give much away. Nicknamed the Surveyor in Italy, he was known for seeing everything around him on the pitch as a midfielder for Juventus. These powers of observation are evident as he talks with refreshing candour about management, tactics and players as well as his opinions on faith, art and life itself. This is as far from being the usual gaffer platitudes as you can possibly get. This is Fabio Capello.

Management
“My job is to try and understand everyone as individuals, not to behave in the same way with everyone. When I was a manager I studied psychology and it really helped me. When you deal with people, you need to know many things. For example, the origins of everybody: [Antonio] Cassano comes from Bari and is different from [Zlatan] Ibrahimovic, who is Swedish, with Slav blood. Genealogy counts, I also studied this.”

“The important thing is to affirm a culture of work. The esprit de corps doesn’t interest me, only those who respect laws and rules. And since that doesn’t happen anymore, I am old fashioned. Not a problem.”

“First of all I ask my players to always be sincere. I don’t want yes men around me and in team meetings I ask for clear and frank answers to my questions.”

“The coach I have the most respect for is Marcello Lippi. [Jose] Mourinho and Lippi are two excellent coaches. There are huge differences between the two, but they are both winners. But don’t ask me to choose between them.”

Tactics
“In football nothing is ever consigned to history. There are revivals, little modifications. In the European championships, in reality, all the teams played a kind of 9-1 formation. This is modern football, nine that defend and one centre forward. Everybody plays in their half of the pitch, even the attacking midfielders. But it’s all about quick breaking up the field, counter-attacking.”

“The biggest difference between English and Italian football is in terms of mentality; of a style of play which is more physical and competitive, more athletic. It’s something Italian sides lack at the moment. If you look back to when Milan beat Manchester United in the Champions League, it was because they managed to combine technique with strength. Italian clubs in Europe have to learn how to do that again.”

Players
“The best I’ve ever worked with is Van Basten. For talent, his capacity to train and the way he conducted himself off the pitch. Straight after him, Maldini.”

“The best player in the world today is Lionel Messi. There’s 30 million Euros of difference between Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo? I would say no, I don’t believe there is. Clearly the directors of Manchester United were smarter than those of Milan.”

“David Beckham is a pure star, but like all champions, he demonstrates humility and intelligence. The first qualities of a great footballer.”

Travel
“I’m not the type of person who travels like a tourist. I’m fascinated by ancient civilisation. It will sound banal, but the Pyramids, which I visited 35 years ago, left me breathless. And the Machu Picchu, fantastic. Or Cambodia, which I saw on my way home from the World Cup in Japan and South Korea. But the ultimate, for me, was Tikal; you travel there by plane, which lands on a strip of earth in the middle of the jungle. It was very emotional.”

Art
“Art moves me. All of it, from African sculpture to the music of Bach.”

“I’ve visited half the museums of the world – and my favourite is Tate Modern – and dozens and dozens of archaeological sites, but contemporary art has this ability to tell us something about the times we live in. If I was a painter? I would be very geometric, I would say like Mondrian.”

Life
“All my friends are outside football. Football’s only a job. Could I give it up? Yes, absolutely. To have a house, a family and to travel are the three things which I could never give up.”

“I adore silence. I live in the middle of all this traffic and noise. It’s like when you’re in Venice, when you get away from the bustle of St Mark’s and suddenly find yourself in this quiet side street. It’s a magical sensation.”

Faith
I grew up in a very religious family. With prayer you can resolve any type of crisis. I follow only my conscience and try to put into practise the teachings of the Church. I believe that the success of a marriage is based on the closeness, spiritually and physically, between a man and wife."

Taking The Italy Job
“No, my work finishes with the England job. Why? Because I’m an old man. I want to finish my career by taking England to the top three in the world, that would be perfect.”

The Demand For Italian Coaches
“I’m really happy that all these Italians are working abroad now, it’s an honour for Italian football. Choices aren’t just made because of money. You want to experience new things, to try something different. And hopefully it works both ways, you bring new ideas to the game, but you also learn just as much. It can only be good for Italian football, it will open it up to different approaches. The Premier League is the most fascinating football in the world. I really like it in England, it’s not like Jose Mourinho who clearly doesn’t like Italy.”

Jose Mourinho
“The coach I have the most respect for is Marcello Lippi. Mourinho and Lippi are two excellent coaches. There are huge differences between the two, but they are both winners. But don’t ask me to choose between them.”

The Difference Between the Premier League and Serie A
“I would say that there’s a big difference in terms of mentality; of a style of play which is more physical and competitive, more athletic. It’s something Italian sides lack at the moment. If you look back to when Milan beat Manchester United in the Champions League, it was because they managed to combine technique with strength. Italian clubs in Europe have to learn how to do that again.”

The Death of Catenaccio
“In football nothing is ever consigned to history. There are revivals, little modifications. In the European championships, in reality, all the teams played a kind of 9-1 formation. This is modern football, nine that defend and one centre forward. Everybody plays in their half of the pitch, even the attacking midfielders. But it’s all about quick breaking up the field, counter-attacking. Italians struggle to do that. And then there’s another problem. In the Italian championship there are so many interruptions, often because someone’s gone to ground looking for a free kick or a booking, which doesn’t allow the game to really flow. The referees in Italy have to let play go on, to allow the games to be more fluid and fast; more like the game in England.”

Hooliganism
“The biggest problem is that, whereas in Spain or England you go to the game with your children, you can have a meal at the stadium, in Italy you go to the game accompanied by a police escort. In Italy the fans, and in particular the organised supporter groups, the ultras, have too much power. Everyone knows that the stadiums in Italy are obsolete, they have no comforts. There are some possibilities of change, but there has to really be the desire within the game in Italy to do something and I’m not sure there is. The football authorities there say that offensive banners and flares will be banned from the stadiums, but it never actually happens.”

The World’s Best Player
“Lionel Messi. There’s 30 million Euros of difference between Kaka and Cristiano Ronaldo? I would say no, I don’t believe there is. Clearly the directors of Manchester United were smarter than those of Milan.”

Creativity in England
“If you’re talking about music, London is still very creative. If you’re talking about football, I would say that England is beginning to really grow, above all in the past couple of years. Here, the stadiums are always full and the people still believe in football with a passion.”

The Beatles or the Stones
“The Beatles.”

Beer or wine?
“Both. I learnt that in Spain: beer as an apperitivo and wine with your dinner.”

Moncia Bellucci or Penelope Cruz?
Both... I like them both.”

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