The Best Managers of all time: #21 Fabio Capello
#21 Fabio Capello
Fabio Capello hasn’t had the best of times with his national team management spells but his pedigree remains in no doubt. When the recently turned 70-year-old Italian was first appointed as head coach at AC Milan, experts and fans were thoroughly skeptical. Succeeding the legendary Arrigo Sacchi was an impossible task, and more so for a manager who didn’t have any experience as a head coach (apart from a brief caretaker spell at Milan itself).
Capello was largely considered as a ‘Yes Man’ to the Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi but he went on to defy his critics and continue the Rossoneri’s success in the most stunning era of dominance club football has ever seen.
Capello would win 4 Serie A titles in 5 years, in what was a fiercely competitive Italian league, full of the best players in the world distributed at numerous clubs. His Milan side was full of global superstars and they would reach 3 consecutive Champions League finals in Capello’s tenure as well.
Milan set a 58 league games unbeaten record between 19 May 1991 and 21 March 1993, which included an entire season in the league. Their defensive setup of Mauro Tassotti, Franco Baresi, Alessandro Costacurta and Paolo Maldini was and still is one of the greatest defences of all time.
Capello would also mastermind a 4-0 rout of Johan Cruyff’s ‘Dream Team’ in the 1994 Champions League final. The way Milan dismantled a star-studded Barcelona without players like Marco Van Basten and Franco Baresi (who were out injured) is still stunning to recall.
Capello would next find himself managing Real Madrid, and he would win the League title with them as well, but ended up leaving the club after falling out with the chairman of the club. Madrid’s power structure isn’t easy for anyone to navigate through and Capello was no different, but he was later credited for bringing through players like Clarence Seedorf and Roberto Carlos who would become global superstars.
A second spell at Milan wasn’t successful and Capello then took a short break from management before taking up the head coach role at Roma. He won Serie A with the Romans in the 2000-01 season, sending the city into delirium. It was only their 3rd Scudetto ever and Capello was hailed as the mastermind behind their storming win. He had setup a 3-4-1-2 formation with Gabriel Batistuta and Francesco Totti plundering defenses to wrestle the title from Juve’s grasp.
Amidst the rumours of Sir Alex Ferguson’s retirement from Manchester United, it was believed that Capello had been contacted to be his successor at Old Trafford. Sir Alex abandoned his plans to retire and Capello carried on with Roma.
The Italian would later infuriate Roma fans by joining their rivals Juventus, and he would carry on his incredible success, winning two Scudetti in Turin (although they would be later revoked due to Calciopoli).
Capello would return to Real Madrid, and win another La Liga title with the Blancos although he would be sacked again because his style of football was considered too pragmatic.
Capello will always be remembered as one of the most astute and brilliant tacticians, and always imposed a training rigour on his teams that showed in their performances and tenacity on the pitch. His incredible success in club football could have placed him even higher in our illustrious list, but his inconsistent forays into international management mean that he finds himself just out of the top 20.
Capello’s spells with England and Russia were both ultimately underwhelming, although England’s consistent failures at international tournaments would point out that their managers can’t always be the people to blame. Fabio has been away from club football for about 9 years now, and the 70-year-old still might have the stamina to add more silverware to his impressive collection.
The Italian’s man-management has often been criticized - he’s not like Carlo Ancelotti or even Jose Mourinho in gaining the admiration of his players - but he knows how to get the job done and has always considered discipline and work ethic as one of the important aspects as a manager. His impressive success points out that it’s worked more often than not.