Rio Ferdinand’s humiliation at the hands of Fabio Capello this week is not only total and deliberate but it should also lead to the 32-year-old defender’s international retirement. After all, Ferdinand’s pride at being made England captain in the wake of John Terry’s affair with Vanessa Perroncel has been shattered at the hand of Capello’s boorish mismanagement. Publicly defenestrated with no just cause, Ferdinand can now achieve little by remaining with the national team.
Capello’s decision to return the England captaincy to John Terry after “a year of punishment” – as the Italian put it – is not only deeply insensitive but threatens to split the England camp. Not every player under Capello’s management, it is said, shares the former AC Milan coach’s predilection for Terry’s peculiarly British form of captaincy.
“One year is enough punishment for anyone,” Capello said on Friday.
“In that time, Terry has come to understand the mistake he made. And I have come to understand the importance of the England captain in this country. Now is time to forgive. From the moment I came in, he was always my number one choice as captain.”
Yet, the crass manner in which the news was leaked to the media without so much as a phone call to the now former England captain is seemingly typical of Capello’s bumbling handling of the England team. That the manager first failed to inform each party of his decision before telling journalists – and as it turns out lying to Ferdinand over the permanent nature of the switch – is grounds for dismissal in itself. It can do little to foster a camp spirit that will take England beyond the severe technical limitations inherent in the squad.
It begs the question of what Ferdinand is likely to gain by adding to his 80 caps in a subservient position to Terry, and under Capello’s unique leadership. England, drawn in a favourable group for Euro 2014 qualification, will surely reach the tournament in Poland and Ukraine only to be knocked out of the tournament at the hands of the first decent outfit it faces. The truth of this predication was amply demonstrated last summer in South Africa – a tournament that Ferdinand was retrospectively fortunate to miss.
Even more importantly Ferdinand should now consider his place in the Manchester United squad as his priority. Indeed, Ferdinand’s position at Old Trafford is devalued by persistent injuries over the past two years. Now into his 30s and beset by ongoing physical problems, Ferdinand would surely do well to follow the lead set by Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Dimitar Berbatov and Park Ji-Sung in retiring from the international game. After all, retirement has prolonged the United careers of Scholes and Giggs, and prompted the best campaign of Berbatov’s time at Old Trafford.
Predictably, Sir Alex Ferguson refused to be drawn on the issue when meeting the media at Carrington on Thursday morning. Privately, it is seemingly inconceivable that the 69-year-old United manager will not have raised the spectre of international retirement with Ferdinand.
And while some elements of the nation’s media might position an early retirement as ‘throwing his toys out of the pram’ Ferdinand is well within the bounds of reason to no longer work with Capello on principal alone. Indeed, the former West Ham United player is reportedly deeply insulted with the Italian coaches actions – as he should be.
Yet, far from apologise for his handling of a delicate matter Capello has – quite unbelievably – chosen to lay the blame at Ferdinand’s door, accusing the United defender of not meeting his at Old Trafford following the Reds’ victory over Marseille last Tuesday. It was a meeting that was never formally arranged, according to the player. It’s not for the first time Capello has played fast and loose with the truth some might add.
This, of course, is Capello all over. The man who, under pressure during the World Cup, turned the England hotel into a monkish prison camp, heaping pressure on his players. Capello also chose the post World Cup period to launch another crass invention – the ‘Capello Index’ in which the Italian would publicly rate and slate his players. Then, in a crime perhaps on a par with his humiliation of Ferdinand this week, the coach ‘retired’ David Beckham to the nation’s media without consulting the player himself.
Ferguson would never treat a player in this matter – at least not one that mattered to him. And that is an important point. Capello is not blessed with a swathe of proven defenders in Ferdinand’s class. Indeed, Terry has been repeatedly exposed at international lever, no matter how forceful the British Bulldog bluster.
This fact offers Ferdinand the opportunity to leave the international game with his pride and dignity intact, head held high, self-esteem stronger than ever. The Londoner has fought to build his reputation both as a respected member of the footballing community and a campaigner. For his many faults and mistakes, Ferdinand is worth more than the lack of respect shown by Capello this week.