Fabio Capello's expected appointment as England soccer coach was being held up Friday while the Football Association finalized the terms of his contract.
The former AC Milan, AS Roma, Juventus and Real Madrid coach, who has one of the best records in the game at club level, has been offered a reported 6-million-pounds (US$12.2 million; euro8.3 million) a year to try to bring long awaited success to England. Some members of the FA board, however, are not happy that Capello wants an all-Italian backup team and continued talks Friday about persuading him to accept an Englishman in the coaching setup.
The FA issued a statement Thursday saying the board had approved Capello's appointment, which would make him the highest paid coach in the game, subject to the conclusion of contract negotiations. Capello wants his regular backup team, including assistant Franco Baldini and goalkeeping coach Franco Tancredi, who played against Liverpool in the 1984 European Cup final in Rome. Facing criticism that the FA has not appointed an Englishman, some board members want to add a homegrown coach to the team, such as Under-21 coach Stuart Pearce or former Newcastle and England striker Alan Shearer.
The FA split the nation six years ago when it appointed a Swede, Sven-Goran Eriksson, as England's first foreign coach. But Eriksson had an English coach, Steve McClaren, as his assistant. When Eriksson failed to take England past the quarterfinals of the 2002 and 2006 World Cups and the Euro 2004 championship, he stepped down last year and McClaren was named as his replacement. But McClaren was even more of a failure and was fired three weeks ago after England lost 3-2 at home to Croatia and didn't qualify for the 2008 European Championship.
By offering the job to Capello four days after Portuguese Jose Mourinho decided not to apply the FA has clearly gone against the wishes of half the nation by appointing another non-English coach. Although Capello's record of nine domestic titles and triumphs in the Champions League is impressive, he will be under pressure immediately from England fans to create an impact. Because England failed to qualify for next year's Euros, the team has no competitive matches until European qualifying for the 2010 World Cup begins in September.
Until then, England has nothing but friendlies, including a Feb. 6 game against Switzerland at Wembley and a March 26 trip to Paris to face France.
A renowned disciplinarian, Capello won't hold back from dropping some of the biggest names on the team.
There is speculation that he will take the captaincy away from Chelsea's John Terry, who has had disciplinary problems on and off the field.
The only player Capello has firsthand experience of coaching is David Beckham, the Los Angeles Galaxy star who helped Capello win the Spanish title with Real Madrid last season. The former England captain has 99 caps and hopes that his 100th will come against Switzerland. Capello dropped Beckham from the Real Madrid side after his move to the Galaxy was announced last January. But Beckham's impressive performances in training forced the Italian to put him back into the lineup, and he was a key figure in the Spanish league title drive.
Although he has a standout record, Capello also has a reputation for producing pragmatic rather than attractive teams.
While that may upset those fans who want to see England playing fast-flowing passing moves, getting to the 2010 World Cup is the priority. The team faces Croatia again in its qualifying group, along with Andorra, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Ukraine. Only the group winner will be assured of qualifying.