FABIO the IN­FERNO

Don’t mess with this man­ager or you re­ally will feel the fury of

Daily Mail - - Martin Samuel - MATT LAWTON Chief Foot­ball Cor­re­spon­dent re­ports from Rusten­burg

ONE prom­i­nent Ital­ian jour­nal­ist who knows Fabio Capello well says this of the man’s sin­gle-mind­ed­ness: ‘If Fabio dis­cov­ered a player was hav­ing an af­fair with his wife, he would still pick the player if it re­mained the best de­ci­sion for his team.’ Eng­land’s man­ager does pos­sess a cold pro­fes­sion­al­ism but it is ac­com­pa­nied, as we saw again on Mon­day at the Moru­leng Sta­dium, by a rag­ing in­ferno when his sub­jects dis­ap­point him.

The sto­ries are the stuff of leg­end. The moment when he con­fronted Ron­aldo as he emerged from a shower and barked: ‘Aren’t you ashamed of be­ing so fat?’ Or his punch-up with Paolo Di Canio, the ob­scene ges­ture to Real Madrid fans and an in­ci­dent, dur­ing his play­ing days, when he hid in a hedge to con­front a re­porter who had been giv­ing him a hard time.

Silvio Ber­lus­coni was struck by Capello’s re­fusal to com­pro­mise when he em­ployed him as AC Mi­lan man­ager. ‘Un­for­tu­nately, Fabio has one small fault,’ he said. ‘It is that di­a­logue forms no part of his ap­proach.’

This, how­ever, is not a man who is blinded by rage. He em­ploys pro­fes­sional in­dig­na­tion as a mo­ti­va­tional tool and care­fully chooses his mo­ments to ex­plode, as Eng­land’s play­ers have dis­cov­ered.

On Mon­day Capello was fu­ri­ous with their first-half ef­forts against the Plat­inum Stars, re­mind­ing them that it was ‘a foot­ball match’ and that they had ‘ bet­ter start treat­ing it as one’.

‘ I’ve not seen him like that be­fore,’ said John Terry. ‘That was the worst, the an­gri­est, I’ve seen him. But it sums him up. He’s a win­ner. Even in train­ing he can go like that from noth­ing.’

The play­ers first dis­cov­ered as much in Trinidad, when Capello sud­denly stopped a ses­sion. In­can­des­cent, he told them they were not tak­ing it se­ri­ously. ‘ We can ei­ther re­turn to the ho­tel and come back later or do it prop­erly now,’ he snarled. They wisely chose the sec­ond op­tion.

Capello is the son of a school­mas­ter, and dis­ci­pline is the key to him, which is why he im­posed a strict set of rules on the squad; why he stands with a red laser and zaps play­ers whose mis­takes he ex­poses when they ex­am­ine matches on DVD. He once sin­gled out Glen John­son for some se­ri­ous abuse be­cause of t he way he had de­liv­ered a throw-in.

Emile Heskey re­alised it was wrong to bring a mo­bile phone into a t eam meal when Capello re­sponded to the sight of him tex­ting by slam­ming his food tray on the ta­ble. Yes­ter­day there was fur­ther ev­i­dence of why the Ital­ians called him the Ser­gente di Ferro —the I r on Sergeant. No­body was ex­cused from at­tend­ing the sa­fari. From the play­ers to coach­ing staff and kit­men. ‘ They’re on a three­l­ion whip,’ some­one re­marked.

Capello has de­nied rul­ing with an iron fist, but those who have in­curred his wrath con­sider him pretty damn fear­some. Ap­par­ently he likes to use ‘why’ a lot for em­pha­sis.

Sit­ting with him over din­ner in Le­sotho last year, I asked him if the sto­ries of him or­der­ing his two grown-up sons to be in bed by a cer­tain t i me were t r ue. He an­swered im­me­di­ately that they were, be­fore in­form­ing me that any­one who lived un­der his roof lived by his rules. He is a man who re­fuses to tol­er­ate any low­er­ing of stan­dards and de­mands re­spect. When he was at Real Madrid he dropped An­to­nio Cas­sano and never played him again af­ter he caught the f or­ward do­ing im­pres­sions of him.

When at Roma, in 2004, Capello told younger play­ers not to view Francesco Totti as a role model, claim­ing he had a bad at­ti­tude. He ad­vised them in­stead to em­u­late the Brazil­ian Emer­son. ‘ I told Daniele De Rossi not to fol­low Totti’s ex­am­ple, but to live a healthy life and fol­low Emer­son’s lead if he wanted to achieve re­sults,’ he said.

Totti was not im­pressed. ‘ You want to know about Fabio Capello’s hu­man side? That’s easy. He doesn’t have one. To have a hu­man side, you need to be hu­man.’

Those clos­est to Capello dis­agree. The man who was in floods of tears when in­jury ended Marco van Bas­ten’s ca­reer has a softer side. He is de­voted to Laura, his wife for 40 years, and says noth­ing pleases him more than spend­ing time with his grand­chil­dren.

Italo Gal­biati, one of his as­sis­tants, has said Capello has two per­son­al­i­ties. ‘ The se­ri­ous Fabio at work, the fun Fabio away from work,’ he said. His pas­sion for art and trav­el­ling is well known, but he has also demon­strated an abil­ity to for­give. Hav­ing de­clared that David Beck­ham would never play for Real again af­ter an­nounc­ing his in­ten­tion to sign for LA Galaxy, Capello even­tu­ally in­vited him back into a side that won the ti­tle. And look how he now treats Beck­ham.

The Ital­ian un­der­stands that man­age­ment can be like par­ent­ing. If you scream all the time, you lose re­spect and the im­pact such tirades can achieve. But five days be­fore the start of the World Cup, af­ter three stut­ter­ing warm-up dis­plays, Capello thought it ap­pro­pri­ate to un­leash hell.

If half-time ex­plo­sions have be­come a com­mon theme since Capello took charge, so have sec­ond-half per­for­mances that have been an im­prove­ment on the first. ‘First half good, sec­ond half not so good,’ was some­thing Sven Go­ran Eriks­son said. But Capello, who has tin­kered with his side at the in­ter­val in all but seven of 24 matches, has a pos­i­tive ef­fect.

As Eng­land’s flight to South Africa was tak­ing off from Heathrow, the pi­lot marked the moment when the air­craft left the ground by declar­ing: ‘Let’s go play some foot­ball.’

The play­ers thought the pi­lot a buf­foon. When Capello tells them to go play some foot­ball, they re­spond rather dif­fer­ently.

m.lawton@dai­ly­mail.co.uk

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