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The night of glorious triumph that made Capello

He arrived in London yesterday with a reputation for old-fashioned bluntness in his dealings with famous footballers, but it would perhaps make more sense to view Fabio Capello Fabio Capello (born June 18, 1946 in San Canzian d'Isonzo, Gorizia) is an Italian football manager and former professional player who most recently coached Real Madrid.  as the first manager of the new era. Fifteen years ago, in his first spell as head coach of Milan, he found himself pioneering a concept now familiar, for better or worse, as rotation.

Back in November 1992, on the eve On the Eve (Накануне in Russian) is the third novel by famous Russian writer Ivan Turgenev, best known for his short stories and the novel Fathers and Sons.  of a European Cup tie against Gothenburg, Capello talked about how he coped with handling a squad from which he could have constructed two world-class teams. At the time he was the only manager in the world facing such a problem; in those days everyone could still name Manchester United's first-choice XI, or Juventus's, or Barcelona's. When Alex Ferguson lured Eric Cantona across the Pennines earlier that same month, for instance, he had not found it necessary to omit a star in order to accommodate his new acquisition.

Thanks to the ambition of Milan's owner, Silvio Berlusconi Silvio Berlusconi  (born September 29, 1936) is an Italian politician, entrepreneur, and media proprietor. , Capello's resources in midfield and attack included not only the three great Dutchmen Marco van Basten Marcel "Marco" van Basten (October 31, 1964 in Oog in Al, Utrecht) is a Dutch football manager, currently in charge of the Dutch national team. Previously, he was a football player who played for Ajax Amsterdam and A.C. Milan in the 1980s and early 1990s. , Ruud Gullit Ruud Gullit (born September 1, 1962 in Amsterdam) is a Dutch football coach and former player, who played professionally in the 1980s and 1990s. He was a member of the Netherlands national team at the Euro 88 and the 1990 World Cup.  and Frank Rijkaard Franklin Edmundo Rijkaard (born September 30, 1962 in Amsterdam) is a Dutch football manager and former player. Rijkaard has played for AFC Ajax, Real Zaragoza and AC Milan, and represented his national side 73 times, scoring 10 goals.  but also the newly arrived Dejan Savicevic, Zvonimir Boban Zvonimir Boban [ˈzʋɔnimir ˈbɔban] (born October 8, 1968) is a Croatian former football midfielder who played most of his professional career for Serie A club AC Milan and was a member of the Croatia  and Jean-Pierre Papin Jean-Pierre Papin (born November 5, 1963 in Boulogne-sur-Mer) is a French former football player and now manager. Between 2006 and 2007 he was the manager of French club RC Strasbourg, but despite leading the club to promotion to Ligue 1, he resigned, citing internal relationship . Then there was the Italian winger Gianluigi Lentini Gianluigi Lentini (born March 27, 1969 in Carmagnola) is a former Italian international winger who once held the distinction of being the world's most expensive footballer, when he moved from Torino to AC Milan for £13 million in 1992. , who had just cost Berlusconi a world-record fee of £13m. Capello's job was to select a winning team and to keep the rest happy. "It's very difficult for all these great players," he told me. "At most clubs, there's a squad of 15 or 16. Here we have 24."

How did he cope with leaving out someone like Savicevic, the Montenegrin playmaker play·mak·er  
n.
A player in a sport with goals, such as a guard in basketball, who initiates offensive plays.



play
 whose flickering talent he clearly distrusted, or Papin, struggling to meet the required standard after his arrival from Marseille? "They have to change their mentality," he said, "just like I've had to change mine. This is a different way of doing the job. It means they have to be prepared to work hard even when they aren't in the team. Work, work, work. That's the only way. It's not easy for them."

He made particularly effective use of two unsung Italian midfielders, Demetrio Albertini Demetrio Albertini (born August 23, 1971 in Besana in Brianza, province of Milan) is a former Italian football (soccer) midfielder, after playing for FC Barcelona of the Spanish Liga but spending most of his career with AC Milan of Serie A.  and Stefano Eranio, who had none of the reputation of the high-priced stars but provided the sort of cohesion that no serious team can do without. To create room for them he was quite prepared to drop one of the superstars, usually Savicevic, whom Berlusconi had nicknamed Il Genio

Against Gothenburg there would be no room for Savicevic, for Boban, or for Gullit. It was Van Basten's match, the great striker scoring all four of Milan's unanswered goals, two of them from Papin's passes. "I never give a player 10 out of 10," Capello said afterwards, "but Van Basten can have 9½."

Gullit and Rijkaard had gone, Van Basten's career had been hacked to a halt, Papin was out of favour and injuries and suspensions had cut a swath through the squad on the night, 18 months later, when they produced one of the great club performances of the modern era. Against Barcelona in the 1994 European Cup final Capello was without Marco Simone, his first-choice striker, and Lentini, recovering from a car crash. Franco Baresi and Alessandro Costacurta, his central defenders, were unavailable.

Paolo Maldini was moved from left-back to the heart of the defence, alongside Filippo Galli. Mauro Tassotti switched from right-back to left, and the young Christian Panucci filled Maldini's usual position. As a formula for repelling Romario and Hristo Stoichkov, it looked like a disaster waiting to happen.

In midfield, much against his instincts, Capello was forced to play Savicevic and Boban in tandem, with a newcomer, Marcel Desailly, behind them and the veteran Roberto Donadoni and the tyro Albertini in support. Up front in the 4-1-4-1 formation was the 32-year-old Daniele Massaro, hitherto thought of as a member of the supporting cast. Massaro scored twice in the first half, the second of them in stoppage-time at the end of a 13-pass move which began with Sebastiano Rossi, the Milan goalkeeper, and lasted 47 seconds, involving every Milan player except Desailly. "That has to go down as one of the best European Cup goals ever," Liam Brady, the BBC's summariser, remarked. I watched it yesterday, and it still is.

Savicevic, the man of the match, produced a magical lob from the edge of the penalty area shortly after the interval, and Barcelona's trauma was completed by Desailly, who burst through like a human threshing threshing or thrashing, separation of grain from the stalk on which it grows and from the chaff or pod that covers it. The first known method was by striking the reaped ears of grain with a flail.  machine before producing a delicate side-footed shot. A defence marshalled by Ronald Koeman, buttressed by Miguel Angel Nadal and patrolled by Pep Guardiola lay in ruins.

Capello's usual touchlne ranting was notable by its absence that night in Athens, and it is hard to say how much responsibility he bore for the nature of the victory. Someone had to select a team from Milan's depleted de·plete  
tr.v. de·plet·ed, de·plet·ing, de·pletes
To decrease the fullness of; use up or empty out.



[Latin d
 resources and to send them out in the right frame of mind, but the 4-0 win, like that against Gothenburg, seemed a product of the players' instincts rather than the coach's instructions.

His history suggests that Capello, more than any other top manager, will be unafraid to look a star player in the eye and tell him he is dropped. He has had more practice at it than anyone. And "Work, work, work" are the words that may soon be echoing around English football.
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Author:guardian.co.uk
Publication:guardian.co.uk
Date:Dec 13, 2007
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