Gavin Hamilton
Tuesday December 18th, 2007

Fabio Capello is out to prove that the post of England national-team manager is not the impossible job so many people claim it to be.

The Italian made an impressive start, albeit through an interpreter at his first press conference, and won widespread approval from the English football community. I say widespread rather than universal because there have been dissenting voices, notably the English league managers association, which wanted an Englishman.

It still pains me that England hasn't appointed an Englishman as national coach. That's not for any jingoistic reasons, but simply because international soccer is in danger of being devalued by such appointments.

At club level, it's possible for owners to buy success. From Silvio Berlusconi to Roman Abramovich, Sergio Cragnotti to Thaksin Shinawatra, there is no shortage of rich men prepared to dig deep in their own pockets to secure success for their clubs.

The beauty­ and simplicity­ of international soccer is that you cannot buy success in the same way. You have to work with the resources available. There are no transfer window solutions for national-team coaches. But hiring a foreigner is one way for the likes of Russia, with the $4 million annual salary for Dutchman Guus Hiddink partly funded by Abramovich, to buy a shortcut to success.

However, Capello's appointment is a clever solution to a pressing short-term problem. He is a winner and he will produce a winning team. But his arrival in England will not deal with the fundamental problems facing the English game, problems which start with the soccer played by 8- and 9-year-old kids.

The one potential weakness in Capello's armor could be how he reacts to the English tabloid press. To say that he's used to dealing with intense media attention in Italy and Spain is to miss the point. In the past, all the media speculation has centered almost exclusively on his soccer decisions.

The English tabloid press is divided between sports reporters and news reporters. The sports reporters will pose no threat to Capello, but the news "rotters," as they are known, are a different matter. Capello has encountered nothing like them in Italy or Spain. Reporters who "doorstep" family members, such as his elderly mother, will be an entirely new experience.

How Capello responds to the more excessive habits of the tabloid press will be fascinating. He may be as clean as a whistle in private life, but it takes an exceptionally strong personality not to react when close relatives have their privacy invaded on a regular basis.

Capello could well have that strong personality. He is certainly at the right stage in his career to take on the England job. Some people have suggested that the job should have gone to a younger man, a high-profile, recently retired player, a Jürgen Klinsmann or a Marco van Basten.

But there is no right or wrong time to become a national-team coach. It all depends on the individual circumstances. Klinsmann was the right man for Germany, but another wet-behind-the-ears coach, Steve Staunton, was clearly the wrong man for the Republic of Ireland.

José Mourinho would have been the wrong choice for England because he clearly wants a high-profile club position in Italy or Spain. If had been appointed by England, the intense speculation about his future every time a big club position became available would have been unbearable.

Capello, then, is the right choice for England. But is England the right choice for Capello? The fun is just beginning.

Gavin Hamilton is the editor in chief of World Soccer Magazine. He contributes to on alternate Tuesdays.

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