Fabio Capello Refuses To Contemplate Life Without Out-of-Form Rio Ferdinand
The response from Fabio Capello could not have been more supportive or more pointed in defence of Rio Ferdinand after his aberration against the Ukraine which followed high-profile errors against Manchester City for his club and Holland for his country.
Capello, speaking after the match, said, “Rio made just one mistake, the ball bounced and he didn't judge the direction of the ball well, but afterwards he played a good game like the other players. Rio has made some mistakes, but you can't question his value.”
The implication is that despite his recent struggles, Ferdinand remains a key man for Capello. In truth, the erratic displays from Ferdinand have been as much about a lack of match sharpness than any diminishing of his abilities.
The errors have mainly been ones of judgement and mental lapses, a trait which has led some to hark back to Ferdinand's formative years where such mistakes were commonplace.
Yet, despite the costly nature of these mistakes, the argument in Ferdinand's favour is that he has played too few matches this season.
His continued injury struggles with his back will be monitored closely by both England and Manchester United, but thus far, he has missed nine out of 16 matches for both club and country this year, and in that event, his match readiness will suffer.
But despite his recent troubles with both form and injuries, Capello is clearly keen to maintain his support for his beleaguered centre half—as witnessed by his supportive comments in the immediate aftermath of Saturday's match.
Such support stems from Ferdinand's own abilities as a defender. No one needs question either Ferdinand's ability as a defender or his credentials as one of the finest in the world. On his day, there are few better in the world and his partnerships with Nemanja Vidic for club and John Terry for country will seldom be bettered.
Indeed, his international colleagues have been quick to leap to Ferdinand's defence. John Terry described Ferdinand as “one of the best defenders in the world,” while Wayne Rooney stated, “Rio's a top defender, he's just had a few injuries of late.”
But Capello's support will also stem from the simple fact that England cannot do without him. While the likes of Wayne Rooney and captain John Terry are considered indispensable, Ferdinand is certainly not far off. Regardless of form, should he be fit enough to play, then he will feature for England.
Were Ferdinand to be dispensed, a key point of consideration for Capello is that none of the contenders for his spot can make cast iron cases for inclusion.
In the current England squad are Bolton's Gary Cahill, who despite showing promise is still uncapped, Matthew Upson, who featured in Ferdinand's absence but was far from convincing, and Wes Brown, who has yet to force his way back into the Manchester United lineup.
Meanwhile, in total, Capello has called upon 12 centre backs in the total of 55 players he has called up since he took charge. The list includes a number of names, but few of whom offer credible alternatives.
The likes of Joleon Lescott and Phil Jagielka excel week in, week out domestically, but have looked shaky when asked to step up to international level.
Tottenham duo Jonathan Woodgate and Ledley King could offer credible alternatives were they not, sadly, once again cursed by the injury troubles which have plagued their careers.
The likes of Micah Richards, Curtis Davies, and David Wheater have dropped from the radar completely. Anyone who witnessed the under-21's 6-3 win over Macedonia will realise that the likes of James Tomkins and Michael Mancienne definitely remain works in progress.
For Capello, this lack of alternatives render any arguments over Ferdinand's international form moot.
Quality centre backs remain at a premium throughout England. Not so long ago, England had a large pool of world-class, internationally-experienced centre backs to call upon with the likes of Jamie Carragher, Sol Campbell, and Ledley King readily available should either Terry or Ferdinand be unavailable.
How times have changed. For Fabio Capello, there has been little to overly worry him throughout his time as England manager, but planning for life without Rio Ferdinand is something that he dare not contemplate just yet.
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