Capello on the work of Pioli & Maldini, why he is not surprised by Ibrahimović, the mistake Real Madrid did with Theo Hernández, Milanello and more…

Fabio Capello during Milan-Lazio af Stadio San Siro on April 13, 2019. (

Fabio Capello spoke to, and suggested Zlatan Ibrahimović has nothing to envy Messi and Ronaldo.

The 74-year-old Capello is considered one of the best Italian coaches of time, having won with Milan alone 4 Scudetti, 3 Supercoppa Italiana, 1 Champions League and 1 European Super Cup.

Capello, who was also a player of Milan, spoke to on Friday and you can find the full interview below:

Pioli and his work is now what everyone is talking about, when his fate – almost a year ago – seemed sealed. In your opinion, was he better on a mental or on a tactical level by insisting on the 4-2-3-1?
“I believe the tactics come from the mind. It is necessary to enter the minds of the players who have understood and liked that system of play, considering that it made them all perform at their best. This is a very important thing. I’m very happy that Pioli remained, above all because some decisions had been taken too hastily. Maldini’s skill and determination to maintain continuity in the work he has done and the results prove him right.”

You rightly mentioned Maldini who is now an appreciated Milan director. Did you expect such a performance in this role and how do you rate his work so far?
“I have a relationship of great esteem and affection with Paolo, having had a great friendship first with Cesare and then with the whole family. The fact that he could do things well was understandable because he is an intelligent and modest guy. The fact that he could do so well in such a short time was amazing. He managed to approach this role with the talent and precociousness with which he made his debut on the pitch, making himself ready immediately. I coached him at 16 in the Primavera and I know something about it. I’m very happy that he’s been recognized as the strongest left-back in history. Finally there has been some recognition for defenders, even though I think Baresi is missing an award. It is not possible to understand the value of these players and how much Franco and Paolo were above all the defenders in terms of value, technical skills and professionalism.”

Fabio Capello Stefano Pioli and Arrigo Sacchi during Milan’s 120th anniversary party on December 16, 2019. (

Among Maldini’s choices, together with Boban and the Rossoneri management, was the desire to buy Ibrahimović. Were you surprised by his performance?
“No, it absolutely did not surprise me. He’s a proud professional and he always wants to show that he is the strongest of al and that he’s capable of standing the test of time. He can do it because he is an absolute Champion and he has the mind to be able to continue. He still has the incentives to stay on the field, to sacrifice himself and to work and in this sense he is an example for everyone and for the entire team. He is a player capable of making a difference and we often forget about him when we talk about the greatest of all time. We often talk about Messi and Ronaldo but he has nothing to envy these players. He has technique, strength and with the stature he has – he is capable of doing incredible things. The mobility he has is impressive, the agility he still retains at his age despite having been through some serious injuries.”

You have a special relationship with the Swede, who has always spoken of you as the coach who passed on a great work ethic to him. What was the Ibrahimović of before like?
“We had seen in him a great potential and also everything he needed to improve. I made him work hard to grow and improve, day after day. He immediately understood that with daily you improve, that qualities emerge and grow with effort, and he understood that that was the way to go. He proved to be an intelligent man and he was capable of understanding that certain requests were not obligations but advice to improve.”

Fabio Capello talking to the media at Stadio San Siro on April 30, 1996. (Allsport UK /Allsport)

In your career you’ve coached incredible left-backs like Maldini and Roberto Carlos. Milan now have a very strong fullback like Theo Hernández. What amazes you about this player and do you remember a player with similar explosiveness?
“This time Real Madrid made the mistake that Inter had made with Roberto Carlos when I’d bought him during my experience with Los Blancos. I took Roberto Carlos to Madrid – surprised that Inter wanted to sell him – and I think that it was the fastest signing in history: in less than 24 hours I’d bought him and he’d signed the contract. Real Madrid made the same mistake that Inter made with the Brazilian at the time; that is, they thought that Theo Hernández did not know how to mark. They didn’t take into account the speed and quickness of the player as well as his ability to improve. Theo is a very strong player.”

In your career you’ve coached incredible players like the three Dutchmen and Savićević, the front men of that Milan team. How important, in the building the success, were those secondary but incredibly talented players like Albertini or Donadoni?
“They were very important. Milan had a great strength – mainly that of having a hard core that lasted for many years. Several coaches passed but the dressing room mentality was transferred to all who arrived. That was the strength of the team. Maybe not the front men but men of value who knew how to pass on the Rossoneri DNA.”

Fabio Capello during Milan-Napoli at Stadio San Siro on January 26, 2019. (

With these man you achieved the very important in Athens with the conquest of the Champions League. This final was preceded by the certainty of Barcelona winning that trophy. At what point did you realize there was a strong chance of winning and what words, in your opinion, convinced the players to succeed?
“We were coming off a final we lost undeservedly against Marseille and the anger and the feeling of revenge were still strong in us. I remember that I’d sent Italo Galbiati to watch Barcelona’s training session and Italo, as a great connoisseur of football and men, told me: ‘Fabio, the players were all lying on the pitch joking and laughing. Cruyff had the ball under his head and was lying down’. I took the message back to the team and told them: ‘Guys, they are so sure of winning that they come out relaxed and we have to take advantage of this because we are strong and compact’. I remember that the key to success was the lost match against Fiorentina, before the final. There I perfectly understood which team to field because I’d tried Desailly as a central player and instead I understood that I had to move him to midfield. At the end of the game I remember the amazement of the journalists when I told them I was happy. But how could I be happy after losing a game? Yes, because I understood what to do against Barcelona – that is, to play Panucci, Filippo Galli centrally with Maldini and Desailly in a new midfield.”

From a happy moment to a slightly sadder one. On August 17, 1995 – Marco Van Basten retired. Beyond the rhetoric, what were your feelings on the day of Marco’s retirement?
“I’ve always maintained an excellent relationship with Marco, and I had the great misfortune that Marco played very little with me. With Van Basten in good shape we would have won even more. The biggest sadness is due to his due to his stubbornness, his stubbornness in maintaining his opinion that he pushed to have an operation. I remember Doctor Monti telling him to wait but instead he had surgery by a surgeon who destroyed him. Seeing him leave the field knowing his ‘mea culpa’ moved me and it still moves me now because at that age a player like that can’t stop. When something beautiful and important leaves the field it is impossible to remain indifferent.”

Zvonimir Boban, Frederic Massara, Fabio Capello and Ivan Gazidis during training at Milanello. (

Van Basten and many Champions have walked through the fields of Milanello, which is defined by coaches and former players as a magical place. You’ve coached in great sporting centers, but what makes Milanello so special?
“Milanello is a center that was born many years ago, it has been renovated and all the great Milan players have passed through there and when you enter you breathe a fantastic air. Almost magical. There are few places where I have experienced this history. In Madrid and in Milan. In Madrid you breathe a glorious air more when you enter the offices or the Bernabéu than in Valdedebas, which is a new and renovated sports center. Milanello is different and in its construction you have to give great credit to Berlusconi, Galliani and those who worked there. Berlusconi was a visionary and he brought Milan to these levels and made sure that this center was at the forefront and continues to be so. A place where nothing is missing to work well.”

Notify of
1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
17 days ago

One of the best coach of all time in Milan history…Mr Capello u hv do d best chemistry in this our belove milan