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How Capello got the job

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Mihir Bose | 17:57 UK time, Friday, 14 December 2007

The appointment of Fabio Capello shows that, despite the FA's reputation for being old-fashioned, they can act quickly and smoothly.

It also shows the FA, given the state of English football, is prey to short-termism and hasn't quite lived up to the bold statements it made when Steve McClaren was sacked.

The idea of getting a foreign manager really started around two weeks ago when lawyers skilled in football negotiation were alerted by the FA that their services might be required.

At that stage the focus was on Jose Mourinho, although he was never offered a deal. At one stage, FA chief executive Brian Barwick and director of football development Sir Trevor Brooking had a conference call with the Portuguese to suss him out.

But the FA was worried about the Scolari factor, having been embarrassed in their pursuit of the Brazilian two years ago.

When Mourinho pulled out on Monday, attention turned to Capello, with contact already having been established through English lawyers and the Italian's son, and lawyer, Pierfilippo.

From the start of this week the word from the FA was 'look to Italy'.

As for the other contenders, a lot was made of Barwick's liking for Martin O'Neill but the Aston Villa manager had been hacked off by his treatment when interviewed for the job last time round.

The FA was also limited because it could not make contact with O'Neill without first approaching the Villa board, which was never done.

By the time they were speaking to Mourinho, the FA had already made contact with the camps of Capello, Marcello Lippi and Jurgen Klinsmann.

The feeling on Klinsmann was that although he had done well with Germany at last year's World Cup, that had been on home soil and he remained relatively untried.

Italian Lippi, despite winning the World Cup and being highly recomended by Sir Alex Ferguson, had also not been tested outside his home nation, while Capello had been successful with Real Madrid in Spain.

There was one other factor in Capello's favour - a lot of FA people had met him at a Uefa coaching seminar held at Wembley last autumn and so had some form of personal relationship with the Italian.

Once Mourinho pulled out, the move for Capello accelerated.

The FA was keen to keep the whole thing water-tight and, while there was much talk in the media of Capello flying into London in secret on a private jet, he actually arrived undetected on a normal flight.

The initial meeting was so far under the radar that a number of FA representatives actually took the tube to meet him at Wembley.

When they finally got together over coffee and biscuits, the FA's people were impressed that Capello's English was a lot better than generally thought and he explained his ideas for transforming England very well.

Once the discussion with Capello on Wednesday went well, the decision was made around 2000 to have a conference call with the FA board of directors.


The 12-man board consists of five members from the national (grassroots) game, five from the professional game, and two non-voting members - Barwick and FA chairman Geoff Thompson.

Thompson had gone to Tokyo for a Fifa meeting this weekend and some others were elsewhere.

The expectation was that the decision would be made at the 1230 meeting on Thursday but not all board members were able to take part because of failure to get a secure line.

A second conference call began at 1700 and the decision was finally made at 1830. It was agreed that Capello would be offered a four-and-a-half year deal with an opt out after the 2010 World Cup.

Capello also wanted to bring his right-hand man Franco Baldini, which was a bit of a problem because he has the title of sporting director and some feared it might clash with Brooking's job.

Some FA directors felt they were being hustled into it and wondered why the decision could not wait.

The sticking points surrounded contracts for his backroom staff and how Capello would fit in with the fabric of the FA, which has numerous sponsorship deals that the manager must be involved in.

In the end, eight of the 10 eligible directors voted, with Lord Brian Mawhinney and Sir David Richards absent.

The speed of the decision came in part because the FA was driven by media pressure. Barwick was being followed from his home every morning by a press pack and the FA feared it would become a Christmas pantomime, and so pushed ahead with the decision.

The English component to Capello's backroom staff was also a problem as the FA is worried by the McClaren factor. They feel he was not helped by taking the top job having been number two to Sven-Goran Eriksson and was tainted by the time he took over.

They do not want to repeat that with any Englishmen joining Capello. Stuart Pearce is the most likely to do so but there may not be a decision on that until January.

What has been forgotten in all of this is the "root-and-branch review" promised by the FA when McClaren was sacked. Team England is not like a club - many of the staff are employed by the clubs - and there was lots of discussion about whether that situation should change.

There are also questions over the proposed national centre at Burton which have been put on the backburner. The high-profile coach has been brought in before the review has taken place and the phrase "world-class manager" has replaced "root-and-branch review" as the new FA mantra.

The FA deserves credit for the speed and dexterity with which it has landed Capello, while avoiding the media elephant traps, but some of its original ideas after sacking McClaren seem to have been forgotten.

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