As the Champions League re-opens this week, Laureus Ambassador Fabio Capello, one of football’s greatest managers, says he is looking forward to a classic battle of the coaches, as Real Madrid’s Zinedine Zidane takes on Manchester City’s Pep Guardiola.
In an interview with hcltjg.com, Capello, who won the Champions League with AC Milan, says Friday’s second leg match in Manchester will be ‘spectacular’, even though it will be played behind closed doors, though he fears the absence of Sergio Ramos may damage Real Madrid’s chances.
“It will be really interesting. The new team is Man City. The history is Real Madrid. Real Madrid's background is really strong and they are used to playing these games on their way to the final,” he said.
“When I managed Real Madrid, I understood when I arrived at the Bernabéu Stadium that I was breathing the history. All the people understand what happens when you play with Real Madrid. The shirt is really heavy. You have to be really good players with big personalities.”
Capello thinks Manchester City, under Guardiola, have the opportunity to become one of the top teams in the world.
“Man City is the new team. New history. Really important team in England, and I think they have a really important future if Guardiola stays with this team, like Ferguson with Manchester United.
“They play really good football, both the teams, but Guardiola is changing his style. When he was at Barcelona, he played the famous tiki-taka, but now it has changed a lot. When he recovers the ball, they go really quickly to create openings for the goal, with fantastic players like De Bruyne, Mahrez, Gabriel Jesus. It will be a spectacular game for me.”
Real Madrid are 2-1 behind on aggregate after the first leg at the Bernabeu and Capello thinks it will be very difficult for them to come back to win. He says Real’s finish at the end of the La Liga season was impressive, with 12 straight wins and a draw, but he fears they will badly miss captain Sergio Ramos who was sent off in the first match against Manchester City.
“Can Real win? It's possible because, for Real Madrid, it's normal to play this kind of game. The pressure will help Real Madrid. They finished the La Liga season brilliantly and they won the title. But I think they have one important problem.
“Without Sergio Ramos, when you have to defend, it will be really difficult. Sergio Ramos is the captain, is the leader in the dressing room, he's the leader on the pitch. The personality of this player is really important for all the players.
“But another really important leader is Zidane. Someone told me when he speaks, all the players stay quiet. They try to understand what he wants to say. This is really important. I think also Guardiola is the same. The personality of the manager is one of the most important things when you drive important teams like Man City or like Real Madrid.”
Who does Capello rate as the greatest manager today?
“The greatest manager…..I like Jurgen Klopp. I like Guardiola, because they make something new. Guardiola makes something new, the new style of football. A lot of ball possession. Klopp is strong, plays fast, plays immediately, when recovering the ball. Now, Guardiola is trying to do something faster.
“Real Madrid always have the same style. For Zidane, as the manager of Real Madrid, the style is ball possession, personality, quality of the players, that is really important. Benzema, after Ronaldo went to Juventus, is another leader. They score goals and they always make opportunities. Always, it’s good.”
So who does Capello think will go through to the quarter-finals of the Champions League?
“I thought in the last two games that they played before the end of the season, Manchester City were on the top of their form. They are really dangerous when they go forward. In the past I thought Guardiola has made some tactical faults in midfield, but now, when they lose the ball, they try to recover it. The problem when you play City is how well can you defend against them?
“So I think, for me, I prefer Man City, because without Sergio Ramos, when you have to defend against City going forward, it will be difficult for Real.”
As an ambassador for Laureus, Capello supports the work of Laureus Sport for Good. For 20 years, Laureus has been committed to bringing people together and building bridges between communities and individuals. Today there is more need for this than ever as the nations of the world co-operate to beat coronavirus.
Capello said: “For 54 years I played football and was a football manager. In that world I have had a widespread experience of life, of joy, happiness and sadness, but nothing can prepare you for the shock of coronavirus. My own country of Italy has been badly affected, it makes me very sad. And of course I was manager of Real Madrid, and Spain has also been a big victim. England as well. I am very close to these countries and to the people of Russia, where I was also manager.
“We all need to be united at this time and it is important for a big sport like football to show a good example and contribute to charity.”