Would triumph make Capello England's greatest?

If England win the World Cup will Fabio Capello be considered England’s greatest ever manager? We hear both sides of the argument...

Gabriele Marcotti - Author of Capello: Portrait of a Winner

If England win the World Cup they will become the first country to win the tournament with a foreign manager, the first to win a World Cup in Africa and the first European country to win it outside 
of their own continent. If you put all those ingredients together – and couple them with the uncertainty surrounding the make-up of the England team – then it would be hard not to consider him the greatest.

The fact is that winning the World Cup in the modern era is a lot harder than it was in ’66. There are more teams involved, there are more professional footballers than ever before and the World Cup is now far more representative.

You could obviously argue that Sir Alf Ramsey achieved so much with England beyond simply winning the World Cup, by reaching the semis of the 1968 European Championships and the quarter-finals of the 1970 World Cup. The counter argument would be that England were at home in 1966 and that a lot of people in Portugal and Germany would probably cast all sorts of shadows over that victory.

Capello is very mindful of his place in history. There was talk of him managing Italy after Marcello Lippi, but he turned it down because if he won the World Cup with Italy in 2010 he would only be equalling his predecessor’s achievement. If he does it with England he can really make history.

Jimmy Armfield - Member of England’s 1966 World Cup squad

There’s absolutely no doubt that Fabio Capello has done a fantastic job since he took over from Steve McClaren, but to consider him the greatest would be premature – he would have to go on and keep achieving.

In the period he has been involved, there’s no one in football who would doubt that he is a manager of the very highest class. He has experience both as a player and a manager in Italy and Spain, and you can’t dispute the fact that England qualified very well for the World Cup, which is something we haven’t always done in the past.

If England do win the World Cup for the first time since ’66, then it would be real achievement because it’s away from home and, of course, you now have to play more matches.

The simple truth is, though, that you can only do what you can at the time and back in ‘66 we were the best team in the tournament, which brought its own pressures. If win, then perhaps Capello would be viewed as the greatest ever, but I think at this stage he could only be classed alongside Alf [Ramsey] rather than be seen to have surpassed him.

It’s extremely difficult to compare players, teams and managers from different eras and Alf could only do what he had to do – and he did that very well. There was only one Alf Ramsey and English football has never come across anyone like him before or since.

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