DAVID Beckham looks a good bet to win the 100th cap he craves but Fabio Capello’s appointment as England manager may not be good news for some of the other big names in the national squad.
Capello, who was expected to be co
nfirmed as Steve McClaren’s successor yesterday following “extremely positive” talks with the English Football Association, has earned the opportunity to become the best-paid coach in world football over the course of 16 years in charge of four of the world’s biggest clubs.
In that time, the Italian has earned a reputation for displaying steel-plated stubborness when it comes to putting the needs of his team ahead of superstar egos.
Beckham and Ronaldo at Real Madrid, Alessandro del Piero at Juventus, Edgar Davids at Milan and Francesco Totti at AS Roma: you could put together a formidable team of players that have found themselves sitting on the bench after lighting Capello’s notoriously short fuse.
Among England’s current crop of allegedly world-class performers, Frank Lampard would appear to be the most vulnerable to the Capello chop.
Ever since Marcel Desailly anchored AC Milan to their famous 4-0 demolition of Barcelona in the 1994 Champions League final, all of the 61-year-old’s club teams have been constructed around a midfield player deployed essentially as a shield for the back four.
High-tempo pressing has also been a recurring theme in Capello’s tactics, so it would appear highly unlikely that he will persist with the dysfunctional Lampard-Steven Gerrard partnership that England have been struggling with for the last five years.
There are also rumours that Capello is no great fan of the current England captain, John Terry, while a player like Shaun Wright-Phillips, championed for his pace under the old regime, may find himself a victim of the new manager’s insistence that the ability to retain possession is the primary qualification for international football.
That should play in favour of Beckham. The former England captain was axed by Capello after he agreed to leave Real Madrid for LA Galaxy last season, but he won the Italian’s admiration for refusing to sulk, fighting his way back into the side and playing a key role in helping to secure the Spanish league title.
Barring injury, Beckham, who won his 99th cap as a substitute in the 3-2 defeat by Croatia that ensured England missed out on Euro 2008, is certain to be in Capello’s first squad, which will be assembled for a friendly against Switzerland at Wembley in February.
But Claudio Ranieri believes his compatriot will not shy away from axing some big names if he believes it necessary to construct a team capable of challenging for glory in South Africa.
“Capello picks players who play together well. It sounds easy and obvious but not everyone can do it,” the Italian former Chelsea boss said.
“He goes for the best blend, not necessarily the best individuals. The team is more important than any individual. And his teams work together so well and are very difficult to score against. And sooner or later, they will score against you.”
Having won league titles with all of his clubs, Capello has the kind of pedigree that McClaren conspicuously lacked and Ranieri expects England’s fans, who jeered as often as they cheered during the unsuccessful Euro 2008 qualifying campaign, to rally behind him.
“The fans will love Capello when he wins. And Fabio Capello is a winner,” he said. “I think he can win the World Cup with England and make them into a team feared and respected throughout the world.”
To achieve that goal, Capello believes he has to get England’s best players to overcome what he sees as a “mental block” preventing them from reproducing their club form on the international stage.
“How can players of the level of Beckham or (Michael) Owen have performances so different when they play for their national team?” Capello said recently.
“It’s clear the shirt is very heavy even for those great champions. The manager has a fundamental role to play in this situation. He has to be more of a psychologist than a tactician or a technician. It’s clear there is a mental block — otherwise how can you explain their elimination from Euro 2008?” — AFP.