Embattled coach Fabio Capello walked away from the English national soccer team Wednesday, leaving the program in chaos five months before the start of the European Championships.
Capello met with officials of England’s Football Assn. for more than an hour Wednesday, after which the FA issued a statement confirming Capello’s resignation.
The coach and the association have been locked in a bitter feud over the status of former team captain John Terry, whom the FA stripped of his leadership role for his alleged role in a racial incident during a Premier League match in October.
Terry, who plays for Chelsea, is facing a criminal trial this summer after being charged with abusing Queens Park Rangers defender Anton Ferdinand.
David Bernstein, FA’s general chairman, said last week that Capello’s opinion was not considered in the association’s decision about Terry’s captaincy, a move that undermined the Italian-born coach. Capello fired back by telling Italian television Bernstein was “absolutely” wrong and, according to the U.K.'s Sky News, telling Italpress that he was “gravely offended” by the move.
“After the weekend it was clear there was going to be some conflict,” Gareth Southgate, a former England captain and now the FA’s head of elite development, told reporters.
Capello’s only statement Wednesday said media reports from Italy claiming that he had criticized the FA were false.
“I haven’t said anything and I won’t say anything,” he told the Italian news agency ANSA.
Capello, 65,a strict disciplinarian who has coached at Milan and Real Madrid as well as with the Italian national team, replaced Steve McClaren as England’s coach after the country failed to qualify for the 2008 European Championships. Capello quickly turned the team around, going 28-8-6, the highest winning percentage of any English coach since World War II.
Yet, there were calls for his dismissal after a dismal performance in the last World Cup where England won just one of four games. His contract, which pays him more than $10 million a year, making him the highest-paid national team coach in the world, was due to expire after the European Championships. Speculation had already begun on who might be next in line.
The FA said nothing Wednesday about a possible replacement, but much was made in the British press that Capello’s meeting with the FA — the first face-to-face between the sides since Terry was disciplined — started just hours after longtime Premier League coach Harry Redknapp was cleared by a British jury of tax evasion.
Redknapp, 64, who has Tottenham in contention for its first league title since 1961, has long been considered the front-runner in the race to succeed Capello.
The FA, which has scheduled a news conference for Thursday afternoon, will have to move fast because England is scheduled to meet World Cup runner-up Holland in a friendly Feb. 29 ahead of its June 11 Euro opener with France.