Fabio Capello's tenure as England manager appeared to be at an end last night after he was put through the indignity of the Football Association's announcement that the governing body will take two weeks to decide whether it intends to retain him.
The FA believe that there is little point in Capello continuing after England's 4-1 defeat to Germany in the second round of the World Cup finals but attempted to buy themselves time yesterday in the hope that in the interim Capello will be approached by a club – which would mean that the FA were spared paying him £10m compensation to leave.
Sir Dave Richards, chairman of the FA's newly-formed Club England body, did not appear to announce the decision after meeting with Capello in South Africa yesterday. Instead it fell to Adrian Bevington, the Club England managing director and long-serving FA employee, to explain the organisation's stance.
Sanctioning the sacking of Capello would involve another major payout on the last two years of his contract. It would require approval from the FA main board which includes figures such as the Manchester United chief executive, David Gill, and former Ipswich Town chairman David Sheepshanks.
On Sunday Capello said he wanted to know whether Richards, "has confidence in me or not" and yesterday he did not secure the assurances he was looking for. Instead he was pitched into an inconclusive press conference at England's Royal Bafokeng base in which he said that he "respected" the decision to delay on his future.
Capello was advised that he had to say he wanted to continue as England manager in order to be in a position to get the full payout in the event of the FA finally sacking him. His key aide, general manager Franco Baldini, is also thought to be on his way out and is wanted by a number of clubs.
Capello's uncertain future is mirrored by that of the England players, with several senior members of the squad now left to weigh up whether to continue at international level. John Terry appears to be ready to go on, though he feels the need for a break, during which he will weigh up his future.
The England players are understood to want the uncertainty over the manager's position resolved with not all of them keen for him to stay. Frank Lampard and the captain, Steven Gerrard, said after the defeat to Germany that they wanted Capello to stay on.
There are understood to be grave reservations among some within the squad about Capello sticking to a 4-4-2 formation that looked static and one-paced against the Germans. The players preferred a 4-5-1 formation, with Joe Cole on the left side.
Capello's own uncertainty was compounded by contradictory messages about the time-frame involved. Having first said that Richards "told me that he has to take two weeks to make the decision," Bevington later said in Capello's presence that he was "not putting a time-limit" on the decision, which would be reached "in a few weeks".
Richards' deliberations are complicated by his own decision, announced on the day England flew out to South Africa, to remove the break clause in Capello's contract, which enabled them to part company with him after the tournament. This means that the FA would have to pay out at least £10m to terminate a deal which runs until the 2012 European Championship.
Capello can now leave Richards to sweat on the decision. "I received a lot of offers to be a manager at other clubs," Capello said. "I said that when I spoke with Lord Triesman [who hired him] and I decided to stay here because I like being England manager and also I will accept whatever the FA decides." Bevington said the two-week hiatus was needed to prevent the FA "snapping and knee-jerking into decisions within 24 hours of the [Germany] game concluding".
Capello revealed that he had also discussed with Richards the problem of taking forward an ageing England side – the second oldest in the tournament after Italy – which was in need of "two to three new players" now. He defended himself when asked whether he was worth his large salary given England's inept performance at the World Cup. "When they decide to pick me as manager, I spoke with the people who give me this money," he said. "But it is not the money, but the value of the man."
"Yes, I have the appetite [to still do the job]," Capello added. 'But I understand one thing which is really important and why England did not win before. The England players arrived at the end of the season tired. I never saw the players that I see in the autumn, before the heavy Christmas spell."