wsc302The lighthearted interview that prompted Fabio Capello's resignation seemed innocuous to viewers in Italy, writes Matthew Barker

Cinque Minuti di Recupero is one of those quick filler shows Italian state broadcaster RAI puts out after the main evening news bulletin. It is a no-frills feature, in which the presenter interviews a footballing personality for five minutes. The show has enjoyed a few decent exclusives in its time, possibly because of its tight format.

Fabio Capello, talking via a link from London, was a guest on the show last month. The conversation covered the Italian title race (he reckons Juventus will just pip Milan), before discussion turned to his future plans. Capello denied he was thinking of hooking up with Franco Baldini at former club Roma and flatly rejected the idea of working at Inter. Luciano Moggi, the disgraced former Juventus managing director, was praised as "absolutely the best" he had worked with.

The end credits had begun to roll when the question about John Terry was asked. Capello was pretty matter of fact in his reply. He did not raise his voice or show any anger: "I don't agree with the decision to take away the captain's armband. It can't be sanctioned until he has been judged by the courts." There then followed a quick question about whether he preferred games played in the afternoon or at night, before a cheery "arriverderci". And that was that.

Little fuss was made in the Italian papers the following day. Capello's subsequent resignation some 48 hours later was seen as a shock, but more for the timing than anything else. The initial decision to leave after Euro 2012 had been seen as proof that the coach felt himself increasingly isolated, more so now that his right-hand man Baldini had left to work for the new American owners at Roma. Gazzetta dello Sport claimed that Capello was "tired of the FA's Byzantism and fear of the press".

Italians have never particularly warmed to the former Juventus coach, but he has always been hugely respected. La Repubblica found it incredible that David Cameron's statement following the resignation referred to Capello by his first name. His fellow coaches were quick to defend his record with England, particularly qualifying for the World Cup. Plenty hinted that other factors must have been behind his decision to leave.

"I'm with Capello," Italy coach Cesare Prandelli told journalists. "If someone like him leaves a job three months before such an important competition, I would say something has gone wrong, something that goes beyond the captain's armband." Carlo Ancelotti agreed: "He did the right thing. The FA took a decision too quickly, without consulting the coach." Vincenzo Montella, who played for Capello at Roma and is now in charge at Catania, was equally sympathetic: "It was a surprise. Evidently he felt undermined, he didn't feel there was any faith in him."

The press portrayed a man keen to always be in control. "He's tough," noted Gazzetta. "Like the soil of his native Friuli. He isn't one for diplomacy." Having left London for St Moritz, Capello was tracked down by the satirical television show Striscia la Notizia (News Strips) who presented him with one of their infamous Tapiro d'Oro (Golden Tapir) statuettes, awarded to celebrities who have suffered public humiliation – Capello now has three such tapirs sitting in his trophy cabinet. Taking it all in relatively good heart, he explained: "I left because there had been a misunderstanding."

"Ah yes, a 'misunderstanding'," noted Corriere della Sera the next day: "One of the few English words he managed to learn in the court of the Three Lions. His defence of Terry, in a multicultural country highly sensitive to racist offence, certainly didn't help him." No it did not, but Capello was not defending Terry. Rather, he was angered at the thought of being undermined, that a decision had been made without his say-so. A principle was at stake. You get the sense that the personable Baldini, much-liked within the FA and a regular buffer between the manager and suits at Wembley, might have been able to defuse the situation and find some sort of a compromise.

Capello continues to insist he has no plans to go back to coaching, despite being linked constantly with the Inter job and the managerial vacancy at Russian club Anzhi, which has now been filled by Guus Hiddink. He is, however, expected to make an appearance at this summer's Euros. He will be back working with RAI as a pundit. Sadly, a clause in his severance deal prohibits him from working on England games.

From WSC 302 April 2012


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