Fabio Capello is sure that the Italian soccer team will do well in the European Championship. “He will reach the semifinals and, from there, anything can happen,” predicts the veteran former Milan and Real Madrid coach, who applauds the work of the ‘Azzurra’ coach, Roberto Mancini: “He has convinced us that Italy can achieve an optimal result ”. In an interview with this medium, he celebrates the return of his compatriot Carlo Ancelotti to the white bench and leaves words of admiration for Athletic Bilbao. “They have a spirit that no other team has,” he says. Although he is already retired, Capello is still at 74 years one of the most respected voices in international football.
-After staying out in the last World Cup, held in Russia in 2018, were you looking forward to seeing the ‘Azzurra’ again at a great international event, like this European Championship?
-Of course, there is a lot of desire. Mancini has done a great job with the national team, giving space to the youngsters and forming an important combination with other more veteran players. It is a team that has shown consistency in the games and has played well. I think it will reach the semifinals and from there, anything can happen. Will have to see.
-Do you think this is a winning team?
-It is a group that has its value. I’m not saying I’m going to win the Euro for sure, but I could. We must wait, see if he can arrive with the team in the best conditions, if the players are good and if we find someone who could unbalance. Italy’s potential is great.
-Mancini has given the alternative to several young players. Will your inexperience or your desire to succeed weigh more in the European Championship?
-Mancini has achieved a fair combination. There are young players, but also others with experience, such as Jorginho, Chiellini and others. I think it is a team that can do great things.
-Has Mancini given the national team the stability it needed?
-The best proof is that your contract has been renewed. It is not a question of sympathy or antipathy, but of his work, which has convinced us all that Italy can achieve an optimal result.
-Has Mancini built the base of his team also thinking about next year’s World Cup in Qatar?
-Italy has a selection whose base is thought for the medium term. It has great midfielders, high-level attackers and very good goalkeepers. Perhaps the only downside is that there is a lack of a guarantee replacement for the two starting central defenders, who are already very veteran. But in general we are talking about a group of players that inspires confidence.
-Mancini has said that Nicolò Barella can be the star of the Eurocup. Do you agree?
-In 2019, when Barella was playing for Cagliari, we gave him the Bulgarelli award, of which I was the president of the jury, as the best Italian midfielder. And about five or six months ago, during a television program and with Barella already at Inter, I said publicly that he is one of the three best midfielders in Europe right now. So I completely agree with Mancini. Hopefully it will be the Barella Eurocup. We are talking about one of the best in his position.
-Mancini has included Marco Verratti of Paris Saint-Germain on the list, although he is still not fully recovered from his injury. Do you think it will arrive on time?
-You have touched a delicate point. Verratti is a player with personality, experience and quality, and players like that are needed at the Euro Cup. If Mancini has included him in the list, it means that he considers it possible that he will recover in time to play in the Eurocup. If not, I would have left it out. Coaches are lucky to see the players train every day and we know whether or not they are here to play. It is absurd that from the outside we start speculating.
-The big surprise on Mancini’s list has been the inclusion of the young forward of Sassuolo Raspadori. What do you expect from him?
-He is an interesting and very valid player. It must be remembered that in the important tournaments, the Italian team has had great coaches who were able to discover the qualities of players who were already good, but who had not exploited until then. This is what happened, for example, with Paolo Rossi and Antonio Cabrini, who made history with the ‘Azzurra’. Raspadori is a young man with very good possibilities. If Mancini has included him in the list, it is because he has seen something important in him.
-Do you expect to see a good game from the Italian team?
-And why shouldn’t it be like that? It seems to me that your question is a bit sibylline. Don’t you think that Italians can play well?
-There were also Italian commentators who criticized Mancini for the ‘Azzurra’ game …
-Italians are always very critical of ourselves. But yes, I think the selection with Mancini has already shown a good game.
-The first official match for Italy in the Eurocup will be next Friday against Turkey. The meeting has a great political morbidity due to the harsh criticism that the Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi, has met with the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Will the political pique weigh on the grass?
-Politics is politics and football is something else, but there is no doubt that the footballers of both countries will have an added stimulus.
-Are you happy with the return of your compatriot Carlo Ancelotti to Real Madrid?
-Yes of course. Ancelotti is a highly qualified and experienced coach and I believe that Florentino Pérez has made a very appropriate decision when hiring him. He needed a coach like Carlo. Spanish football continues to be at the highest level, although everything is changing. Sergio Ramos has been the leader of Madrid for years, but now it seems that he will no longer be. We will see what the future holds.
-What memories do you keep of your matches against Athletic?
-Athletic has always been a difficult team to face. It has a spirit that no other team has, an identification and a connection with its land that you cannot find in other places in Spain, Italy or almost in the world.