REAL MADRID | FABIO CAPELLO
"I see this Real Madrid side with the 'Clutching at Straws' spirit"
Capello won one of the most memorable league titles for Madrid when they closed a five point gap on Barça in nine matches in the 'Clutching at Straws' campaign.
- On the last Liga title he won with Madrid.
It was something heroic!
- What was the turning point in that title success?
For me it was the Clásico at the Camp Nou, the 3-3 with the hat-trick from Messi. The third goal was scored right at the very end, in the last minute of injury time, but still, my players saw that they were much better than them and we all took encouragement from that.
- Did the team start to believe?
I spoke with the players there. After that game we know that there were 12 matches to go and we were five points behind. I said to them: “There are 12 finals. Are you able to endure that?” It was a plan to get them all together, we pulled five points back in nine matches and the ‘goalaverage’ favoured us because of the draw at the Camp Nou. They played all the matches with the feeling that each was a final.
- Was it an act of faith in that league?
You always have to believe in things. There must be fight, to have faith in your team and in your system. If you ensure that everyone is together you can achieve great things.
- Who was the leader in that dressing room?
Everyone in truth. I don’t want to differentiate one from another. The Spanish players in particular, as well as Van Nistelrooy and Roberto Carlos from the foreign players. I include Beckham, who played on even though he had signed his contract with LA Galaxy.
- And Ronaldo?
No, Ronaldo had to leave the club in the January transfer window. But look, all the players played superbly. They were absolutely superb, wanting it with faith and through their quality.
- Do you see comparisons between the Madrid team of this season and yours from back then in the fight for La Liga?
I’ve heard of ‘Operation 30 Points’. Yes…it’s the same goal that we set ourselves. To win every game. I think this Madrid also started to believe after they played in the Camp Nou, where they could take plenty of positives. They deserved it.
- How do you see the fightback?
Madrid has a very good, very intelligent coach. And I see the same team spirit there that we had.
- The spirit of the ‘Clutching at Straws' season?
Exactly. They are fighting together, with heart, and it shows, you can see it on the pitch.
- Can they win the league?
Everybody knows I’m a Real Madrid fan. But Barcelona are at a high level, look what they did to Bayern Munich. It was incredible. There is a hope that they will relax a little, like what happened in Seville. The match against Atlético could be good for that.
- And Madrid?
With the same mentality and same spirit they will never relax.
- What were the biggest moments for you when you won that Liga?
For me there were two matches. The one against Huelva, where we were 2-0 up and they levelled things before Roberto Carlos made it 3-2 in the last move of the match. That was key in winning the title. And after that the final match against Mallorca. We played the first half afraid and misplacing passes and went into the dressing room 1-0 down. Everyone looked very nervous…
- What happened next?
I always stood up when I spoke to the players. This time I sat with them, alongside Roberto Carlos. “Lads, you have to play without fear! We made up five points in nine games. It was fantastic! This is the last step. Play as you do in training, without tension, without tension.” And we pulled it around.
- As the coach, was it a difficult season for you?
Yes, I received some criticism, especially from this newspaper! (laughs).
- In that midfield you had Emerson and Diarra.
There was not the money that there is now at Madrid. As a coach I had to play with the players we had. So I think that we did great things.
Look at the team there now – what a difference! And also remember that I won my first league title playing with only one central midfielder in Redondo, and Seedorf, who was more attacking, alongside him. Raúl started on the left because I had nowhere else to put him with Suker and Mijatovic in attack.
- Speaking of the press, do you think they helped Madrid win the league? With the whole ‘Clutching at Straws’ campaign?
Yes, of course, I think it created a very favourable environment to help us a lot.
- Let’s talk about the match between Real Madrid and Juventus in the Champions League.
Yes, I won two Serie A titles with Juventus.
- True, and they were later revoked for ‘Moggigate’.
And Madrid were eliminated in the last-16 of the Champions League in 2004-05 (laughs).
- What did you think of the match in Turin?
It was a power game. At 2-1 it leaves everything open. But be wary, because Juventus has good players, they are very solid. You know what needs to be done. Madrid has a lot of quality but the absence of Modric is a blow.
- Did it seem good that Ramos played in the middle?
No, no, no…listen. Every coach knows what he has to do. He trains the players and talks to them every day.
- Madrid has many attack-minded players in the midfield.
Sure, they are running a lot and doing well. They have high quality and they are fighting, in defence and attack…I am with Carlo. The team he puts out on the pitch is perfect.
- Will Allegri put three centre-backs in at the Bernabéu?
They know very well how to play in different ways. I don’t know what they will got for. It depends on whether they fear the match of if they want to score a goal. The most important thing, for me, is that Pogba has to be there.
He’s a great player. He is strong, physical, has quality, a nice touch and a good finish…he has everything.