Fabio Capello is number 16 in 90min’s Top 50 Great Managers of All Time series. Follow the rest of the series over the course of the next three weeks.
For fans of a certain generation, Fabio Capello is little more than an underwhelming England manager who never returned to the highest level following his stint with the Three Lions.
But the 73-year-old’s work in this millennium is largely dwarfed by what he achieved in the last, taking over a generation-defining team of Italian Calcio and bringing more success to AC Milan than even the iconic Arrigo Sacchi.
Sacchi’s Milan did bring global attention to Italy’s doorstep, with the likes of Marco van Basten, Ruud Gullit, Paolo Maldini and Franco Baresi helping to establish the Rossoneri not only as a force in Serie A, but also across Europe.
They won back-to-back European Cups under Sacchi’s tutelage, as well as a handful of domestic honours too, but it was Milan’s style which immortalised them as one of the biggest teams on the planet still to this day.
It was, therefore, somewhat mission impossible for Capello to try and build a legacy at San Siro when he took over in 1991, but Sacchi’s former assistant was only interested in results, and actually brought even more success to the club during a trophy-laden five-year spell in the ’90s.
|Serie A (1991/92, 1992/93, 1993/94, 1995/96, 2000/01)|
|Supercoppa Italiana (1992/93, 1993/94, 1994/95, 2001/02)|
|La Liga (1996/97, 2006/07)|
|Champions League (1993/94)|
Capello’s first year in management didn’t just bring silverware, it also saw Milan go through the entire season unbeaten – a first for Italian football and something which has only since been matched by Juventus – with their total run eventually spanning 58 games.
The Rossoneri actually went on to win three consecutive Serie A titles during Capello’s first three years at the club, as well as the respective Super Cups (or Supercoppa Italiana) following their success in the league.
But it was Milan’s success in the renamed Champions League that truly was the jewel in Capello’s crown during his double-winning season in 1993/94.
His side progressed into the group stages without conceding a single goal, while only Werder Bremen could find a way past Milan’s iconic defence ahead of the knockout stages.
The Rossoneri cruised passed Monaco to book their place in the final, where they would be met in Athens by Johan Cruyff’s Barcelona.
Barça ended up with two of the Champions League’s top goalscorers in their side – Ronald Koeman (8) and Hristo Stoichkov (7) – but they were actually on the end of a four-goal hammering by Milan when the two sides met on May 18, 1994.
A first-half brace from Daniele Massaro set the tone for Milan before the game was put out of sight by Dejan Savićević and Marcel Desailly, landing manager Capello his first and only European trophy.
The Italian would go on to win another Serie A title before leaving the club in 1996, following a confrontation with Paolo Di Canio where Capello apparently claimed the forward’s “face looks like a penis” whilst on tour in China.
He went on to join Real Madrid for one season and one season only, winning Spain’s La Liga title before returning to Milan in 1997.
There wasn’t any more silverware waiting for Capello when he went back to San Siro, but that changed the following season when he swapped Milan for the Italian capital with AS Roma.
He lifted his fifth and final Serie A title with the Giallorossi, and would go on to win a second league title with Real Madrid when he returned to La Liga for the duration of the 2006/07 season – via a brief stint with Juventus during the Calciopoli scandal – but then Capello turned his attention to international management.
Capello spent a total of eight years with England and Russia, appearing at back-to-back World Cups before spending one final season in club management with Chinese Super League side Jiangsu Suning, going on to announce his retirement in 2017.
While Capello might be remembered by a certain generation for the latter stages of his career, the Italian was a pioneer for Calcio fans across the world and one of the first managers to come out of Bel Paese to taste success wherever he went.