He has warned David Beckham that no privilege or sentiment will be extended even as the LA Galaxy midfielder yearns to win his 100th cap and become only the fifth England player, after Billy Wright, Sir Bobby Charlton, Bobby Moore and Peter Shilton to reach a century of appearances.
Capello had begun charting the path of England in the 2010 World Cup. In his first official duty, he traveled to Zagreb on Monday to arrange the fixture list for the qualifying campaign. After an intense eight-hour meeting, he was finally satisfied with the schedule as he gets his wish to have a September clash with their main Group 6 rivals Croatia.
The Italian believes England are in a strong position when they travel to Zagreb after a summer of rest following their no-show in Euro 2008, while Croatia will be stretched from their exertions in the competition.
“September is a good month for English footballers, so given the fact Croatia are our strongest opponents, to play them then is ideal,” said Capello.
With the fixtures confirmed, Capello will now turn his attention on arranging friendlies leading up to the qualifiers. It is believed that at least one of two planned May fixtures will take place at Wembley, with Scotland on the agenda.
Eastern European opponents can be expected at Wembley for the scheduled August friendly, while the close season tour has been put on the backburner as they prefer to stay closer to home.
When quizzed about the captain’s armband, Capello prefers to keep the cards close to his chest. He indicated that he will look at potential captains in the five friendlies before Andorra (their first competitive match), saying: “I am evaluating whether to decide on a definitive captain or to appoint a provisional captain.”
“But please don’t take this as indecision. I first want to know the candidates well because it is such an important decision.”
Capello also revealed the desired qualities he has in mind for a captain. He said: “The captaincy issue is very important for England. There are many things I have to evaluate and I must come up with the choice that is right. A captain must be a leader, someone who carries the team, somebody that in every moment is important for the team.”
Sweeping changes are on the way as he hinted that senior players should be role models for the young and must behave accordingly. There is no place for ill-disciplined players under Capello’s iron-fist reign and for several key players who appear in the news for the wrong reasons, they may be sidelined regardless of their impressive club form.
In normal circumstances, I would say that Terry is the first choice as he is a natural leader who can fulfill most criteria but his succession of injuries and indiscipline will be a great cause of concern. Whether he gets the armband against Andorra is uncertain.
In Terry’s absence, Beckham stands a high chance of leading England out against Switzerland but Capello offered no promises on Beckham. While at Real Madrid, Beckham had a stormy relationship with Capello and he was relegated largely to a secondary role with few cameo appearances.
However, in the second half of the Spanish La Liga, he eventually won the Italian over and played a vital role in securing the title. Now Capello has to ponder whether Beckham can be equally effective in the England set-up for him and if it is justified for the 32-year-old to hold off the challenge of younger, more dynamic players such as Chelsea’s Shaun Wright-Phillips and Blackburn Rovers star David Bentley.
“A manager has feelings but first and foremost he has to take decisions. Beckham is important for England and can still give a lot, but all the players are equally important to me. We still have time to decide on Beckham.”
I feel Capello is right to be cautious about picking his captain. He has to be someone who can fit into his plans and lead by example, not because of pressure from the press or the fans.
Beckham is playing his cards right with his recent move to Arsenal to maintain his fitness during the LA Galaxy lull period. They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but if he managed to pick up some extra skills from Wenger’s guidance and the batch of Arsenal players: keep the ball on the ground and improve his range of passing, besides a renewed fitness, there is no reason why he cannot be given a new lease of life.
It has been proven that Beckham is a player you just can’t ignore. No, I am not referring to his ability to attract cash like a magnet. He still possesses a charisma on the pitch, especially when the team is in times of troubles. Steve McClaren made a “clean” break with Golden Balls but found that he has to depend on him at the end. Capello is also guilty of owing a debt of gratitude to Beckham for his inspirational performances when it counted.
However, for the long-term future of the team, developing youngsters should be the main priority. While a dedicated Beckham is an asset to the England set-up, there are other players like Lennon, Bentley and Wright Phillips who are waiting impatiently in the wings and their time to shine has come.
Capello has to decide if he wants to usher in a fresh start for England or to give this golden generation a last hurrah. But in any case, if his track record is anything to go by, I am sure his final team will have a mental toughness and only the players who adapt to his system survive.