Chelsea have a big decision to make this summer, and the board can’t let sentiment get in their way when making their full-time managerial appointment.
Fabio Capello has thrown his hat into the ring over the past 48 hours, and should be seriously considered as a legitimate contender by Roman Abramovich and the hierarchy in west London.
Whilst England failed to shine at the World Cup in 2010, their record under the Italian in all matches was impressive. After replacing Steve McClaren, the Three Lions cruised to qualification for South Africa, dismantling Croatia home and away in the group stages.
He walked away from the job after John Terry was stripped of the captaincy, a decision he did not make and one was that made over his head by the FA. His record at international level reads: 42 games, 28 wins, 8 draws and just 6 defeats.
It’s Capello’s record in club football, which is the key factor though, winning domestic titles with four different teams during his two decades years in the game.
After taking charge of AC Milan for a handful of games at the end of the 1986/87 season, he returned as the manager on a permanent basis in 1991, and instantly brought success after three years without a Serie ‘A’ title.
He would win for Scudetto’s in three consecutive seasons, as well as a Champions League trophy, before claiming a final title for Milan in 1995/96 ahead of a summer switch to Spain.
Capello maintained his Midas touch in La Liga, winning the title ahead of Barcelona before returning to Italy after just one season with Los Blancos. He went back to the San Siro, but after an unsuccessful campaign moved on to Roma.
He fulfilled his obligation at the Stadio Olimpico, winning only the club’s third Serie ‘A’ title in the 2000/01 campaign. He spent five seasons with the Giallorossi before moving to Juventus.
Back-to-back titles followed, although the Bianconeri have since been stripped of these trophies for their involvement in the match-fixing scandal that rocked Italian football. Capello was not implicated.
He returned to Spain once again, with Madrid turning to ‘Don Fabio’ in an effort to bring success back to the Santiago Bernabeu. He again won the title, but was sacked in the summer because of the club’s uncharacteristic style-of-play.
England saw their opportunity, and appointed the 65-year-old in December 2007. He once again finds himself out of work, a rare situation for the relentlessly working Italian.
It’s not a position he likes to be in though, and with an apartment in Chelsea and a desire to manage in club football in England, the pieces of the puzzle already seem to be in place.
"England would be very interesting for me because I know very well the teams and the players and everything would be less difficult," he told The Times earlier in the month.
"I've refused some really good offers for a lot of money, from clubs in China and different places in the world. I want one more challenge.”
Chelsea would be the perfect place for that challenge, with financial assistance at the manager’s disposal and a track record of getting results instantly.
Whilst the majority of fans in west London will be clouded by the master tactician’s failure in Africa two summers ago, his loyalty to Terry should not be forgotten, and it would be an appointment well received by the powerful players in the Blues’ dressing room.
It would also show that Chelsea are about business, rather than sentiment, when it comes to winning football matches. Roberto Di Matteo has done a fantastic job in cup competitions, but the league remains the bread-and-butter for any team, and that is where this club has struggled most.
Rather than dispatching of the former midfielder completely though, Di Matteo should be kept at the club in a coaching capacity at the very least, and potentially as assistant to Capello if he’s interested.
That said, constraints can’t be put on the new appointment. If he wants his own backroom team, then he should get it. Capello must be given room to maneuver and bring in his own ideas – ideas that have won titles in two different countries and a Champions League trophy.
Should Chelsea beat Bayern Munich on Saturday night, the calls will be immediate for Di Matteo to be handed a lengthy new contract as the new manager at Stamford Bridge.
However, Abramovich must think carefully before making a rash move on the spur of the moment and, irrespective of potential success at the Allianz Arena, make the smart move for long-term success at the club.
Capello is the right choice for Chelsea.
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