International Football - Capello right to ditch Beckham

Eurosport - Thu, 12 Aug 09:05:00 2010

Fabio Capello managed to steal his own show last night by ending David Beckham's England career in a pre-recorded interview shown before kick-off.

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Today's papers are full of it. How dare he treat Becks so disrespectfully, booting him into retirement without telling him in advance. It's disgusting, and shows just how little he knows about the English game. And so on...

But hang on a minute. Isn't this precisely the kind of no-nonsense approach we so loved about the Italian?

His refusal to stand on ceremony, his disregard for reputations - even his ignorance of English football was viewed as a positive, allowing him a dispassionate, objective view.

And now he is getting slaughtered for ditching a 35-year-old at a time when the England team is crying out for new blood.

Although fans cheered the team out, there was certainly a mutinous air inside Wembley last night.

England were booed off after a goalless first half, so too Wayne Rooney when substituted - he responded not with a rant at the nearest cameraman but with a regal and rather sarky wave.

And when Hungary took the lead, the jeers rang out, loud and clear. Never mind that the whole ball was obviously not over the line; such is English football's current state of self-loathing that people actually wanted it to be a goal so they could have a good whinge.

There is an appetite for change, for freshness, and for England's coddled stars to learn a few harsh lessons.

And three months ago, that's exactly how this would have been portrayed: straight-talking Capello refusing to shy away from the tough decisions, and getting the job done without pandering to egos.

In an era of gold-plated Frank Lampard iPods, Capello was the man to whip these millionaire man-children into shape.

Now the iron manager has been replaced in the public consciousness by the bumbling Postino Pat, and this is just another PR gaffe.

It might have been nice to give England's most-capped outfield player a call in advance, but what sort of fool must Beckham be if he did not see the writing on the wall?

And this is the thing. Almost none of Capello's many critics actually believe Beckham can still be an asset to the England team as a player. It is perfectly obvious his time has been and gone.

It is the inelegant way Capello disposed of him that has riled people up. But honestly, what more do you want?

Beckham has been on a farewell tour for years now, coming off the bench 20 minutes from the end of every friendly to ping in a few corners and send a raking yet aimless 70-yard pass somewhere near the feet of Ashley Cole. And Capello even suggested he would pick him for one last game to 'say bye-bye'.

He's closer to 40 than 30, hasn't played for five months, may not play for the same time again, and has made only crowd-pleasing cameo appearances for England since returning from his first exile in 2007.

At a time when England are rebuilding for 2012 and 2014, ushering Beckham off into the sunset should not cause controversy - it is a no-brainer.

Beckham is usually described as a great 'servant' of the England team, and he is one of the few players who seems to enjoy international football more than the club game.

But even if he is not directly paid for them, it seems a bit much to call him a servant when his England performances have brought him so much fame and fortune.

He has been a superb player for England over 14 years - even though he never went beyond a quarter-final in any major tournament - but it is obviously time to move on.

Capello has a job to do, and organising David Beckham's leaving party is not part of it.

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People have been trying to pinpoint the precise moment at which Capello lost the plot; the Capello Index furore and the lamentable introduction of Emile Heskey against Germany are both strong contenders.

But how about the day England played Algeria at the World Cup? Not because of the eye-wateringly bad 0-0 draw in that game, but because it was Capello's 64th birthday.

If you believe The Beatles (and really, why wouldn't you?) 64 is an age for knitting sweaters by the fireside and bouncing grandchildren on your knee.

We forget that, underneath the suspiciously black barnet, Capello is actually quite an old man.

And managing a team at the World Cup is a taxing business, both physically and mentally.

We mock Capello's poor standard of English, but you imagine plucking a pensioner off the nearest park bench and trying to teach him Italian. Hardly surprising Don Fabio struggles.

Not every manager can be like Sir Alex Ferguson, who has made such an asset of his red-faced obstinacy that his march into old age may actually help.

But there surely comes a time in every boss's career when - like a 35-year-old David Beckham - he just doesn't have what it takes any more.

Has Capello reached that point? As always in football, time will tell.

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QUOTE OF THE DAY: "For your info, there has been no discussion of retirement. He will always be available for his country, when fit and if needed he will be there." David Beckham's agent insists there will be no Paul Robinson-style toys-out-the-pram moment.

WHO HAVE MANCHESTER UNITED JUST SIGNED? It's Bebe on board at Old Trafford.

United reached an agreement with Portuguese club Vitoria Guimaraes to buy striker Tiago Manuel Dias Correia, who represented Portugal at the Homeless World Cup.

Personal terms have been agreed with the 20-year-old, who is known as Bebe, and he will move to Old Trafford for an undisclosed fee "subject to a successful medical in Manchester later this week," United said.

He will cost the Reds £7.4 million.

COMING UP: Live blow-by-blow of the US PGA Championship starts this afternoon. Until then you'll have to make do with swimming.


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