Capello’s pragmatism continues as he quits England

Fabio Capello’s decision to quit as England coach might just be

another example of the pragmatism that has defined his managerial

career.

Publicly dismayed by the Football Association’s decision to fire

John Terry as captain without his agreement, Capello was facing the

possibility of taking an unhappy and unsettled squad to this year’s

European Championship.

He had already suffered widespread public criticism following

the 2010 World Cup, when his inflexible tactics and the England

players’ inability or unwillingness to implement them fully

contributed toward an embarrassing early exit.

Capello’s resignation now means there’s no chance of another

stain upon what was an almost flawless coaching record before he

took the England job in 2007.

On the assumption that one is innocent until proven otherwise,

Capello said Terry should have been allowed to lead the side until

the result of his criminal trial for racially abusing an opponent

was known. The FA decided on a more cautious approach, leaving

Terry available for selection but removing him as the team’s

figurehead.

Having expressed his unease at the FA’s decision and riled his

employer by doing so, Capello was left with the tricky task of

uniting a squad of various club backgrounds and ethnicities under a

new captain in time for the June 8-July 1 European

Championship.

There is no obvious candidate for the job and the question of

how to deal with Terry’s selection, or non-selection, remains.

It’s little wonder Capello felt compelled to stand down.

The veteran Italian coach won a domestic league title with every

club he has led, a roll of honor that includes the Spanish league

in each of his two single-season stints with Real Madrid.

He also turned the England squad that failed to reach the 2008

European Championship into impressive qualifiers for the subsequent

World Cup.

But his failure – arguably the first time that word had been

prominently attached to his name – at the tournament itself

prompted many commentators to suggest that his approach was alien

to English players or that it was simply better suited to the daily

work of club management.

Capello’s approach to football has long been described as

conservative but might more accurately be called pragmatic,

adapting his tactics to the means and players at his disposal.

A disciplinarian off the field – as evidenced by his ostracizing

of David Beckham at Madrid and treatment of the players at the

World Cup in South Africa – Capello has also drawn great beauty

from his teams at times.

Promoted from within the club to replace Arrigo Sacchi at AC

Milan in 1991, Capello followed his predecessor’s lead in spurning

the defensive football that defined Italian football – the

so-called ”Catenaccio” – and embraced an expansive approach more

reminiscent of the great Dutch sides,

Anchored by a defense featuring Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi

but boasting attacking flair such as Marco van Basten and Ruud

Gullit, Capello’s Milan won four Serie A titles in five years. That

run included an unprecedented 58-game unbeaten streak that spanned

the whole of the 1991-92 season.

His tenure also produced arguably the greatest ever performance

in a European Cup final, when his injury-hit Milan side demolished

Johan Cruyff’s heavily favored Barcelona 4-0 in the 1994 Champions

League.

He won the 1997 Spanish league with Madrid and, after a brief

second stint with Milan, moved to AS Roma and won Italy’s Serie A

title again in 2001.

Capello led Juventus to the 2005 and ’06 Serie A titles, which

were later stripped from the club over a fixing scandal. Capello

was not implicated.

He returned to Madrid, which was where his reputation as a dour

coach was cemented by the howls of protest from fanatical fans

demanding constant entertainment as well as success.

Capello broke Barcelona’s domination to win Madrid’s first title

in four years, but was fired at the end of a season during which he

exiled Beckham from the squad for announcing his agreement to join

the Los Angeles Galaxy.

Typically, however, Capello’s reason triumphed over his anger

and he recalled Beckham after seeing the former England captain’s

continued dedication in training.

His pragmatism, his track record and his proven ability to

inherit a squad and turn it around with only minor personnel

changes all appealed when the FA was searching for a successor to

Steve McClaren as England coach.

Most likely they will appeal to someone else before too long,

probably at a major club seeking an instant return to glory.