Capello admits ‘regret’ over second Milan spell and lifts lid on working with Ibrahimovic

Fabio Capello has reflected upon some of the highs and lows of his career as a manager, admitting that he regrets returning for a second spell at AC Milan.

Capello gave a long interview for GameInsight in which he touched on topics concerning the Rossoneri, beginning by describing his time at the club as his best period as a manager, with MilanNews relaying his comments.

“The longest and most positive was the one with 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 in it without ever losing, Champions League finals played, Champions League victories too,” he said.

“In all the other teams I have coached, however, it was I who gave that little bit 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 of not winning anything. I also won at Juve. The only regret is when I returned to Milan because I found a team that was not the team I had made. In every place I have worked I have given something, and this is a satisfaction.”

In his first five seasons as a 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 not favourites.

However, his second spell in charge was far from as successful with Milan winning just 11 games all season in 1997-98, finishing in 10th place and 30 points behind the 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 I care a lot about,” Capello revealed.

“He called me but when I returned after a year I told him that it did not seem like a team suitable to win and in fact it was. I was sorry 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 that I had planned. I felt a bit mine that Scudetto. I was happy to have paid a price for gratitude.”

One of the strikers that 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. I had heard of this guy. We played a match for Roma against Ajax in Berlin. When I got the list of players he was not among the starters. So, thinking that he would play in the second half, I stayed out at the end of the first half and didn’t go to the dressing room with the players to see him warm up,” he said.

“I immediately understood from how he dribbled that he had great technique. Then he played and I understood it even more. Based on the opponents in front of you, one can make evaluations. With poor opponents maybe it can be easy to show off, but I had a good team since we had won the title and I was impressed by Ibrahimovic.

“Then as I went to Juventus we only had one striker who was Trezeguet and I asked the managers at the time to buy Ibrahimovic. We bought Ibrahimovic making a great deal – 16 million payable in 4 years. Ajax had seen some qualities in the player but maybe they didn’t believe it completely, 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 he didn’t know how to shoot well and didn’t know how to play with his head. At the beginning he didn’t live for scoring. When you have a talent it takes little to improve, and in fact it quickly improved the weak points.

“But above all he understood that thing that he did not have inside, that is to go in front of the door. So one day I had a cassette prepared with all of Van Basten’s goals, I called him into my office and told him to watch that cassette. He put this thing into action by becoming an assistman and goalscorer.

“Knowing him, I thought he could go on for a long time. To reach the age of 40 still 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 dressing room man but not be a protagonist on the pitch. But he is the protagonist both on and off the field.

“Do I still speak to him? Yes, we talk every now and then. I was at the presentation of his latest book. He called me on stage with him because he is grateful. He knows that I was able to bring out the talent he had inside by showing his qualities on the pitch.”

Capello was asked if he preferred working with Andrea Pirlo or Gennaro Gattuso in his midfielders.

“They are different, but together they are perfect. That’s what every coach in midfield is looking for. One has a great direction and sees the game as others do not see, and the other supports it with an obscure work that is crucial.”

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