Russia coach Fabio Capello is confident that a dispute about his unpaid salary hasn’t unsettled his team and expects it to put in a good performance in Saturday’s European Championship qualifier against Austria.
The veteran Italian coach hasn’t been paid since June, and the Russian Football Union (RFU) admitted this week it can’t afford his salary of an estimated $11 million a year.
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Capello declined to address the issue ahead of the game against the Group G leaders, saying he only wanted to talk about the match.
”I am here, I am doing my job,” Capello said Friday through an interpreter. ”All players give their best. I am satisfied with the development of the team. I am satisfied with how they are playing. All other issues, all other questions, have no place here.”
Former England coach Capello took charge of the team in 2012. After qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil, the Italian’s contract was extended until the 2018 World Cup hosted by Russia.
However, Capello faced fierce criticism, not at least from several Russian lawmakers, after the team failed to win a game and got eliminated in the group stage in Brazil. From then on, his paychecks have gone missing.
Meanwhile, Russia has won only one of its last six competitive matches. In Euro 2016 qualifying, a 4-0 defeat of Liechtenstein was followed by 1-1 draws with both Sweden and Moldova.
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, who played a crucial role in attracting Capello in 2012, recently linked the disappointing results to the coach’s missing paychecks, saying the matter ”doesn’t give either the team or the coach any extra motivation.”
Capello suggested last month he was close to leaving his job because of the ongoing financial dispute.
”I’m getting close to the limit,” he told local Russian media. ”I’m somewhere near.”
To make things worse, Capello arrived in Austria this week without his long-term assistant coach Christian Panucci and fitness coach Massimo Neri for the first time.
Their contracts ran out last month and have not been renewed, apparently because the RFU couldn’t afford to pay them either, although the organization suggested it wanted to replace the foreign assistants with Russians.
At the team’s training camp in Austria, players were reluctant to give their opinion on the dispute, calling it ”not our business.”
”The coach isn’t showing any negative attitude,” Zenit St. Petersburg goalkeeper Yuri Lodigin said. ”He supports us and works with us as usual.”
Russia is now looking to shrug off the off-field distractions and to kick-start its Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.
”I am sure the team will play a good match,” Capello said. ”We will play to win.”
After three games, Austria leads the group, two points clear of Russia and Sweden. The two best teams will qualify for the tournament in France directly, along with the best third-place team among the nine groups. The other third-place teams will advance to the play-offs.
The Italian coach said his team’s five points from three games didn’t properly reflect its performances.
”We played well against Sweden,” he said. ”And we made one mistake against Moldova and we got punished for it. Nothing has been decided yet. And even after the Austria game we have six more matches coming up.”