Capello: Does anyone ever win when the take on the tabloids?

Being England football manager is never an easy task.

I read today the views of a major football agent, talking last year, about the difference in footballers today compared to those who played even 15 years ago.

Forget the fact that football is now such a hugely international game, with English Premier League teams regularly fielding teams without more than one or two English players.

No, as the agent pointed out and I have witnessed first hand over the last decade or so, footballers have become more and more detached from the fans who support then and live like pop stars now.

At the top level, drinking in the same pubs as the fans who have just been cheering you and wandering around their local town has given way to blacked out car windows, gated houses and minders. No wonder they are so popular with the paparazzi.

With managers now earning almost as much as players, and the ‘England Expects’ moniker dished out ahead of any international competition, the focus on England and its manager is equally unrelenting.

Fabio Capello, the austere dictatorial Italian, needed to get off to a good start as England coach not just because of the pressure on his job but because as an Italian without a huge profile over here, he needed to set a marker for the type of success he would instil.

Eight consecutive wins in World Cup qualification has done just that, and Capello has had a deservedly easy ride from the media for his managerial skills.

The first foreigner to manage England, Sven Goran Eriksson, enjoyed a colourful personal life, something that was never going to be the case with the less flamboyant Capello.

I met Capello a few years ago when working in Italy and he was without doubt the most single-minded, professional coach I have ever encountered. Salacious gossip and misbehaviour is just not his style.

Apparently, the FA wrote to every newspaper editor last year explaining Capello’s wish for privacy and while he would provide ample England-related interviews, there would be no such co-operation with lifestyle magazines wanting to get to know the personal aspect of his life.

So when photos of he and his wife covered in medicinal mud while on holiday appeared in the News of the World and the Daily Mail last weekend, I was more than a little surprised.

The Press Complaints Commission, so often criticised for a lack of teeth, upheld Capello’s complaint about the pictures being published this week and both newspapers have paid out substantial sums to charity as compensation.

It’s a big step-change for the PCC, who have refused privacy claims in the past.

It means that high profile figures are now permitted to enjoy their privacy – and in the case of Capello there almost certainly will never be any misdemeanour that might compromise that.

The irony is that during the summer, Capello seemed to have no problem with some staged photos being taken of him while on holiday, which you can see here.

The media will note the double standard but if things start to go wrong for Capello and his players start to falter, don’t be surprised if the tabloids go after him just that little bit more aggressively than even they might have done so anyway.