Capello triumphs in adversity in Spain


Madrid : Five months ago the chances of Fabio Capello being paraded around the Estadio Bernabeu on the shoulders of his triumphant players were about as thin as the chances of Real Madrid changing their famous white outfit for an all-green strip.

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But this is exactly what happened Sunday night, after a 3-1 win over Mallorca gave Real the Spanish league title in the most dramatic fashion.

Back in February, Real were fourth in the Spanish "Liga", six points behind leaders Barcelona – and looking at the prospect of a fourth successive trophy-less season.

Capello had become a figure of hate to the Real fans, not only for the ugly style of play he had imposed but also for having sold Ronaldo off to AC Milan and for having consigned David Beckham and Antonio Cassano to the stands.

Capello would have been sacked had Real president Ramon Calderon been able to pay him and his assistants – all under contract until 2009 – off.

Five months later Capello guided Real to their 30th league title, culminating in one of the most remarkable turnarounds in Spanish football history.

So what changed?

The principal factor allowing Capello to turn disaster into triumph, it should not be forgotten, has been the slip-ups of Barcelona, who threw away crucial points by conceding sloppy late goals.

Had Barca been just a bit tighter at the back, then Capello would not have been able to pull off this footballing "miracle".

But the Italian taskmaster deserves credit for having forgiven Beckham for announcing his move to Los Angeles Galaxy – but above all for imbuing a fighting spirit in his charges.

"To have a good spirit, to never give up fighting, that is very important in football," said Capello last week, when asked to explain Real's many last-gasp wins.

"Some people say it is luck," added Capello, "but it is not really that… it is really determination and attitude."

He might also have added supreme fitness, which is the main reason he sent the overweight Ronaldo back to Milan.

Real have stunned Barca – and also third-placed Sevilla – by winning 10 out of their last 12 matches, most of them with late goals.

And it happened again Sunday, having to come from behind against Mallorca – with both top scorer Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Beckham off the field injured.

"In order to win," said Capello afterwards, "you have to suffer."

But will this unlikely triumph be enough to keep him on the Real bench?

Amazingly, Calderon has still not decided who will be his coach next season.

When asked about his future Sunday Capello said, "It doesn't depend on me, you should ask the president."

It seems that, back in the bleak midwinter, Calderon offered the job to Getafe coach Bernd Schuster.

Now he has to decide whether to stick by Capello – despite all their midseason conflicts – and break his promise to Schuster, or take the now unpopular, and expensive, decision of sacking him.