FABIO CAPELLO EXCLUSIVE: Rice and Phillips are key for England

FABIO CAPELLO EXCLUSIVE: Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker have excelled against Germany but Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips are key for England… the Leeds man is the best modern midfielder I’ve seen (but he’s NOT the Yorkshire Pirlo!)

  • England beat Germany 2-0 to book their place in quarter-final of Euro 2020
  • Ex-Three Lions boss Fabio Capello has heaped praise on Leeds’ Kalvin Phillips
  • He says the England newbie is ‘the best modern midfielder I’ve seen’ but insists that he should not be compared to Italy legend Andrea Pirlo
  • Capello was also very complimentary about Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker 
  • Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here

In an exclusive interview for Sportsmail, legendary manager and former England boss Fabio Capello has reflected on the Three Lions’ success so far at Euro 2020, giving his typically strong verdict on the likes of Gareth Southgate, Harry Kane and Kalvin Phillips.

Capello’s own England career ended in misery after the flop at the 2010 World Cup, the nadir of which came with a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Germany, over who Southgate’s side finally gained sweet revenge in the last-16 on Tuesday night.

And Capello, whose all-conquering AC Milan of the 1990s remain one of club football’s greatest ever sides, has plenty of praise for the current England players, including some of the less celebrated among the group.

During the tournament he has been working as a pundit for Sky Sport Italia, and here he also talks about Italy’s superb form, their boss Roberto Mancini, Belgium and Inter Milan star Romelu Lukaku, and more. 

Alvise Cagnazzo, Sportsmail’s man in Italy, was asking the questions…

Kalvin Phillips (right) and Declan Rice (centre) have been the bedrock of England’s success

Fabio Capello managed England at the 2010 World Cup and has had his say on the current crop

‘Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice are two phenomenal players, very different from Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, who I coached: they are very functional in this England, they are two great midfielders who fight on every action. If England never concede a goal, they owe it to these two extraordinary guys, who even run into the locker room after every game! They are the secret of this great England. If the defense is iron, it is thanks to them because they protect their comrades.

Phillips and Rice are ‘phenomenal’, according to former England boss Capello

‘Against Germany I greatly admired Harry Maguire and a player I gave his debut to: Kyle Walker. They were magnificent, they played a beautiful game.’

Have you ever thought you would see Raheem Sterling as the leader and top scorer of the national team?

‘Sterling is amazing.

‘One of Southgate’s merits is to have considered Sterling, not a leading player at Manchester City this season, to be fundamental for England. This means knowing the players and understanding how important they can be. He has been the best in the European Championship so far.’

Who would you choose between Lukaku and Kane in your ideal team?

‘I always say Kane because he has more qualities than the Belgian but Lukaku is a very strong player. Let’s say I would have liked both but if I had to choose I would always say Kane. He has extraordinary quality. Also in his case we must underline Southgate’s skill in knowing how to wait patiently for Kane: now he’s unlocked’.

Capello says ‘extraordinary’ Harry Kane (pictured) is better than Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku

Phillips is nicknamed the Yorkshire Pirlo. What do you think of this comparison?

‘Phillips is not like Pirlo and he will never be. He is a much faster and more aggressive player, of good quality but he is not Andrea’s heir. He reflects a lot the tactical qualities of Marcelo Bielsa. 

‘At Leeds with Bielsa, Phillips has really grown a lot and today he is the best modern midfielder I have seen on the pitch – but no one should compare him to Pirlo.’

Are Southgate and Roberto Mancini alike?

‘Southgate and Mancini are two very similar coaches and I congratulate them: they have given identity to their team and they know how to read games well and they know how to make changes at the right moments. 

‘They are excellent coaches who have a rare quality: they are able to motivate all players, a very rare gift that must be preserved. Those who enter the field for a few minutes have the same desire as those who started the game.’

Gareth Southgate (pictured), like Italy’s Roberto Mancini, has the rare quality of being able to motivate all of his players – a gift that ‘must be preserved’

Have England have finally found a great goalkeeper?

‘I’ve been following Jordan Pickford with a lot of interest for a long time. He is a very strong goalkeeper, I like him a lot. England has found a reliable boy.’

What mistake should Italy not make against Belgium?

‘Lukaku is the No 1 danger for Italy. The Belgians will depend a lot on the presence or absence of Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard: it is difficult to predict the result without knowing if they will play despite their injuries. I say that the defence of Italy must never let Lukaku turn, he becomes a tank when he picks up speed. Belgium is first in the FIFA ranking, Italy must face them with great respect and you have to give 100 per cent to beat them.’    

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