Belfast Telegraph

Fabio Capello is keeping Wayne Rooney in firing line

By Sam Wallace

Coming rfrom Italy, Fabio Capello has a different attitude to the English media towards the private lives of its famous footballers and, at 64, he grew up as a player in a very different era.

But it would be wrong to say that the England manager spends most of his time complaining about the English — instead he treats it with weary resignation as another part of a difficult job.

Just like the politics of keeping his former boss Silvio Berlusconi at Milan happy or the volatile presidential elections of Real Madrid, the complicated private lives of some of his England team are another thing Capello has to manage.

Or, as he replied yesterday when it was put to him that this was one distraction he could do without, “It's England. It's the English newspapers. The other countries it's not the same.”

In many respects the Rooney scandal that has blow up around the allegations that he paid a prostitute for sex during his wife Coleen's pregnancy has taken the edge off the focus that has been on Capello since his team crumbled against Germany in Bloemfontein on 27 June.

Yesterday Capello could go back to being a manager protecting his star player on the eve of an important game which was not a task he seemed particularly to resent.

It was seven months to the day on Sunday that Capello sacked John Terry as captain of England as he found himself at the centre of a media firestorm over the Vanessa Perroncel affair.

But there was never any chance that Capello would take Rooney out the firing line for a crucial Euro 2012 qualifier against a decent Switzerland side once the player has reassured him he was ready to play.

Rooney made it easy for Capello by telling him on the flight to Switzerland that he was ready to play and from then on the decision was academic.

But Rooney's World Cup performances have demonstrated to the England manager that the man who scored nine goals in qualification for the World Cup finals is not infallible and, on the occasions he is completely off-key, arguably best left out the side.

In case anyone should forget, England have a big game tonight against the only side to beat the world champions Spain in South Africa this summer.

Capello knows Switzerland well, he has a home in Lugano, and should he fail to get results against Ottmar Hitzfeld's side tonight and at Wembley in June next year there is a good chance that he will be spending a lot more time there.

Capello will recognise that there is little he can do to ensure that Rooney plays at his very best tonight other than to cross his fingers and hope that this rare talent performs like a man unburdened.

The scale of the 4-0 win over Bulgaria on Friday and the subsequent heat on Rooney has deflected from the fact that Capello's England are still very much in recovery after their dismal World Cup.

Capello is now wedded to playing Rooney as a deep-lying striker with Jermain Defoe ahead of him which the England manager sees as a guarantee that the Manchester United man will be drawn into the game.

“Rooney played a lot of different positions. On Friday, I asked him to play just in front of their two central defenders,” Capello said. He touched the ball a lot there. He was free to move around the pitch, always in the middle, and when he had the ball at his feet he was really good.

“He's so technically strong and, passing the ball, he was excellent.”

Tonight against Switzerland could be, at the very least, a turning point in the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign should England win.

A victory would not resonate the same way as that 4-1 win over Croatia in Zagreb — two years ago to the day come Friday — which set the Capello regime on its way.

But it would demonstrate that England have the strength, not to mention the depth to their squad, to ensure that, at the very least, they qualify for Euro 2012.

Meanwhile, Wayne Rooney's sponsors Nike has confirmed it will continue the company's relationship with the Manchester United and England forward despite allegations about his private life. A spokesman for Nike said: “We have worked with Wayne for seven years and he continues to be a Nike athlete.

“This is a private matter for Wayne and his family and we have no further comment to make at this time.”

Nike have also stood by the golfer Tiger Woods.

Coca-Cola declined to comment on its sponsorship deal with Rooney.

Source: Independent

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