Fabio Capello has reflected on some of the ups and downs of his managerial career, admitting he regrets returning to AC Milan for the second time.
Capello gave a lengthy interview to GameInsight in which he addressed topics related to the Rossoneri, beginning by describing his time at the club as his best period as manager, and MilanNews carried his comments.
“The longest and most positive was that of Milan because after Sacchi it was said that the team no longer wanted to work. I took over this team and it became the ‘Invincibles’ team. We went 58 games without ever losing, we played Champions League finals, Champions League victories too,” he said.
“However, in all the other teams I have coached, it was me who gave that little extra. In Rome, after 20 years of not winning the Scudetto after Liedholm, in two years I managed to win the league.
“I went to Real Madrid and we won after 3 years without winning anything. I also won at Juve. My only regret is when I came back to Milan because I found a team that wasn’t the team I had made. In each place where I have worked I have given something, and this is a satisfaction”.
In his first five seasons as manager, Capello won four Serie A titles with Milan and also the 1993-94 UEFA Champions League, defeating Barcelona 4-0 in a memorable final in which the Rossoneri were underdogs.
However, his second spell in charge was far from as successful with Milan winning just 11 games in the entire season in 1997–98, finishing in 10th place and 30 points behind eventual champions Juventus.
“I regret having returned to Milan. I had won the championship at Real Madrid and I asked the president to return to Milan because Berlusconi told me. I owe everything to Berlusconi. My career started thanks to Berlusconi. Gratitude is something that matters a lot to me,” Capello revealed.
“He called me but when I came back after a year I told him that it didn’t seem like a team to win and in fact it was. I was sad when they fired me because then the following year they made a team to win the league. Thanks to coach Zaccheroni, but it was a team he had planned. I felt a little mine that Scudetto. I was happy to have paid a price for gratitude.”
One of the strikers Capello worked with was Zlatan Ibrahimovic during his time as Juventus manager, and he has revealed some of the things he taught the Swede.
“Ibrahimovic’s story is very beautiful. He had heard of this guy. We played a Roma match against Ajax in Berlin. When they gave me the list of players, I wasn’t among the starters. So thinking he would play in the second half, I stayed out at the end of the first and didn’t go to the locker room with the players to watch him warm up,” he said.
“I immediately understood from how he dribbled that he had great technique. Then he played and I understood him even more. Based on the opponents in front of you, one can make evaluations. With bad opponents, maybe it’s easy to brag, but I had a good team since we won the title and Ibrahimovic impressed me.
“Then when I went to Juventus we only had one striker who was Trezeguet and I asked the coaches at the time to buy Ibrahimovic. We bought Ibrahimovic by making a great offer: 16 million to be paid over 4 years. Ajax had seen some qualities in the player but perhaps they did not fully believe it, otherwise they would have asked for 16 million immediately and not in 4 years.
“He came to us and I started working with him. I worked a lot because I didn’t know how to shoot well and I didn’t know how to play with my head. At first he did not live to score. When you have a talent it takes little to improve, and in fact he quickly improved the weak points.
“But above all he understood what he did not have inside, which is to go in front of the door. So one day I had a cassette ready with all of Van Basten’s goals, I called him into my office and told him to look at that cassette. He put this into action by becoming an assistant and goalscorer.
“Knowing him, I thought it could go on for a long time. Reaching 40 years old even with that desire, deserves credit. He deserves credit because he is attached to this profession because for him being a footballer is a profession.
“He always wants to be the protagonist by being a leader. But they are two different things because you can be a locker room man but not be a protagonist on the field. But he is the protagonist both on and off the field.
“Am I still talking to him? Yes, we talk from time to time. I was at the presentation of her latest book. He called me on stage with him because he’s grateful. He knows that I was able to bring out the talent that he had within him by showing the qualities of him on the pitch.”
Capello was asked if he preferred to work with Andrea Pirlo or Gennaro Gattuso in his midfielders.
“They are different, but together they are perfect. That is what every coach is looking for in midfield. One has great direction and sees the game as others don’t, and the other supports it with dark work that is crucial.”