Fabio Capello quit as coach of the England soccer team last night, opening the way for the possible appointment of Tottenham coach Harry Redknapp four months before the start of Euro 2012.
Capello’s resignation was accepted late yesterday by executives from the Football Association hours after Redknapp, the bookmakers’ favorite to replace him, was cleared of tax evasion in a trial in London. Capello left after the F.A. removed John Terry as team captain without consulting him.
“It’s regrettable when a manager leaves like this,” F.A. Chairman David Bernstein said in a news conference today at Wembley Stadium. “Fabio had a great record.”
Terry, a Chelsea defender, faces criminal charges of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand of Queens Park Rangers in a Premier League match in October. The delay of his hearing until after June’s European Championship prompted the F.A.’s move.
Redknapp escaped a possible jail term yesterday when a jury decided his use of a Monaco bank to keep $295,000 paid to him by Sheffield Wednesday owner Milan Mandaric when they were both at Portsmouth didn’t amount to tax evasion.
“I’ve not even though at it, I’ve got a job to do,” Redknapp told Sky Sports today when asked about the England post. “Tottenham is my focus.”
Bernstein today refused to identify any candidates to replace Capello, but did acknowledge the new manager wouldn’t have to be English, one of the criticisms of Capello.
“Clearly there is a preference for an Englishman,” he said. “The position has not changed. There’s a preference for an English person or a British person but in the end we want the best person. So I’m not prepared to rule out anything at this stage.”
Yesterday’s meeting with Bernstein and General Secretary Alex Horne was the first face-to-face encounter between Capello and England officials since Terry was stripped of the captaincy.
“We had a very frank meeting with Fabio and at the end of it, he decided he had to go,” Bernstein said. “He offered his resignation and I, on behalf of the board, agreed this was the right decision for the F.A.”
Bernstein said Stuart Pearce, who’s served as Capello’s assistant and is the manager of the England Under-21 team, will coach the national team in its exhibition match against the Netherlands on Feb. 29.
“He has huge experience inside and outside this organization,” Bernstein said. “He has been working with the Under-21 team and has been working with Fabio for some time and knows the players.”
Capello reinstated Terry as captain last year after taking away the post in 2010 over allegations of the player’s marital infidelity with the ex-girlfriend of former teammate Wayne Bridge. Terry denies the charges that he verbally abused Ferdinand.
The 65-year-old Italian said in an interview in his native language with Italpress that he was “gravely offended” by the F.A.’s decision to remove Terry, the U.K.’s Sky News reported. Capello’s son and agent Pierfilippo Capello said the report was “not accurate and not true.”
The Daily Mail ran a headline saying, “Quit Now” a day after Capello criticized the F.A.’s decision over Terry in an interview with Italian broadcaster Rai.
“Gutted Capello has quit,” striker Wayne Rooney said on the Twitter social media site. “Good guy and top coach. Got to be English to replace him. Harry Redknapp for me.”
Capello, who was hired in 2007, was to step down after the regional championship in Poland and the Ukraine.
Bookmaker Coral said it’s stopped taking bets on 64-year-old Redknapp after listing him as the 2-1 favorite before the end of his trial. That would mean a successful $1 bet would bring in $2 plus the original stake.
Sports data company Opta released figures saying Capello had the best record of any England coach since World War II. He won more than two-thirds of his matches, 5.6 percent more than Alf Ramsey, who coached England to its only World Cup triumph in 1966.
Capello, who won league titles with Real Madrid, Roma, Juventus and AC Milan, guided England to the 2010 World Cup. He signed a new contract days before the start of the tournament in South Africa and the F.A. then resisted calls to fire him following a 4-1 defeat to Germany in the second round of the event. England topped its group in qualifying for Euro 2012.
Capello may be headed back to Juventus for a managerial position or to Inter Milan, Italian daily la Repubblica reported today, without saying where it got the information.
U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron said he was sorry to see Capello resign.
“I’m sorry to see Fabio go,” he said in Stockholm today. “He was a good coach and a good man. I don’t think he was right about the John Terry issue. You can’t be captain with that question mark that needs to be answered.”