After England’s typically lackluster performances against a fading Czech Republic side and an abysmal Andorra side, it may seem a bit of a stretch to call Fabio Capello one of the world’s managerial greats.
But I’m going to do it anyway. Fabio Capello is great. There is no denying his record.
His trophy case is packed full of accolades. Six Scudettos (although one was taken away), one Champion’s League (against Barcelona), one Super Cup (against Arsenal), four Supercoppa Italianas (with Milan and Roma), and one La Liga title with Real Madrid.
And that is just as a manager.
The titles don’t lie. Fabio Capello is good. Very, very good.
Which leads me to the question I have been asking week after week: why is this manager so good?
The answer with Don Fabio is perhaps the most ephemeral of all the attributes I have been exploring. Respect.
Capello’s gift to all the sides he manages is respect. Respect from manager to player, from player to manager, from player to player, and respect for oneself.
That may not seem like a big deal, but it goes a long way.
Consider this passage from Patrick Vieira’s Autobiography: “What surprised me the most about [Capello] was the way he handed out forfeits to anyone who stepped out of line, regardless of who they were. He would argue with Maldini or Panucci...because he’s got a really strong character.”
On the surface this might appear harsh, but it is the sort of “tough love” that breeds respect. If you are a young player like Patrick Vieira coming into the AC Milan side from Cannes, and you know that Paolo Maldini can sit out a game just like you, you will respect the coach, yourself and even Maldini more.
And we are seeing this play out in the England squad at the moment as Capello prepares to forfeit two goals to Joe Cole for his tactical indiscipline during the Andorra game.
A culture of respect may be just the thing needed to forge the raw material of England into a force to be reckoned with.
Capello’s demand for respect can also be seen in his attitude towards team rules.
“We are professionals," said Capello, addressing press concerns about his rules shortly after taking over the Three Lions. "We love this job and I believe that we also have some obligations towards fans and I think we need rules to work by and we need to work in an orderly fashion.”
The rules included strict punctuality, an insistence that the team breakfast and lunch together during international breaks, a ban on flip-flops and mobile phones, and that Capello himself would only use players’ last names.
All of these are clear attempts to build respect within the England side and, perhaps, control the egos that seem to eat away at England’s togetherness.
But this is nothing new for Capello. This is the way he has managed all his teams.
At AC Milan the rules at breakfast and lunch went so far that no player could leave the table before their Captain, thereby creating a clear hierarchy with respect as the focus.
It is this ability to command and create respect that makes Fabio Capello truly magnificent as a manager.
When players respect Capello they will adhere to his tactics—which are usually spot on —and this will allow them to do their jobs without a need for personal glory or individual accolades. This is the attitude of winners.
When players respect each other they will play for each other as a unit. This is also the attitude of winners.
And when players respect themselves, when they actually care about staying fit and playing for a cause, their respect will spill out into every facet of their career and life. This too is the attitude of winners.
For Fabio Capello respect = silverware. And his trophy cabinet proves that respect works. England are lucky to have him.
Next up: Arsene Wenger
On Deck: Guus Hiddink